Whizz-kid grabs web funding

Television viewers are accustomed to product placement. Whether it's Coca Cola, Nike trainers or Britney Spears's perfume range, the consumer psyche has long been under assault. But imagine a world where those trainers or that coke was available at the click of a mouse during a programme. That's the concept behind UK-based Quick.tv, a firm providing online video publishing software which allows viewers to order products while they watch programmes online.

Quick.tv – co-founded by Nick Bell, an entrepreneur who made his first million in the 1990s aged just 16 when he sold magazine website teenfront.com, and music industry mogul Tod Yeadon – has just received £335,000 (€378,000; $507,000) in Series B funding from Newcastle, UK-based venture firm North Star Equity Investors and seven business angels.

North Star provided £60,000 in seed capital for the firm in December 2006 from its Proof of Concept fund. It seems the concept proved itself – as a year later, in November 2007, the firm invested £500,000 from its Co-Investment Fund as part of a £900,000 Series A round. The latest funding was described by the firm as a “top-up round”.

“We found Nick and Tod quite compelling as individuals. They combine both experience and youth,” says North Star investment manager Michelle Cooper.

The firm's technology is still in “beta” or “test” form but it has attracted interest from a number of digital production agencies and “e-tailers”.

“We are not selling advertising but it is easy to see that you can generate sponsorship using the tools,” Yeadon says. Users can publish their own content and edit it themselves using Quick.tv's internet-based software, so if Reebok has sponsored your film you can add clickable links for a fee – and without the need for a design team.

“Online video has gone from being a consumer-driven entertainment experience to a fundamental feature of any website,” Bell says. And North Star is looking to cash in.

The chart (right) shows Canada's venture capital market continuing to slow down in the first quarter of this year – a trend that was evident throughout 2008. Q1 saw $275 million invested, down 25 percent from the $367 million committed in the same period a year ago. The first quarter also represented the lowest level of activity in dollar terms since the $255 million total recorded in the second quarter of 2003. The “financing gap…means Canada's ability to drive innovation will weaken and we will see the overall economy suffer,” predicts Gregory Smith, president of the Canadian Venture Capital Association.