Bubbly, a mobile social network for voice which has over 30 million users, is in discussions with more than one suitor over a possible acquisition, according to CEO Thomas Clayton.
Clayton tells TNW that the company — which has raised $50 million in funding from the likes of Sequoia Capital and SingTel — is in talks with multiple interested partners, including one gaming company, though he declined to provide specific details of the suitors or potential prices.
“There’s quite a bit of interest right now,” Clayton says, “much of which centers around our high-quality engineering team and the strong mobile presence that we have across Asia.”
Clayton, who built Bubbly’s development team by luring talent from Silicon Valley to take up senior positions at its Singapore-based headquarters, says that Bubbly’s connections and deals with carriers in markets like Japan, India and others have attracted the attention of “larger players” who appreciate the value of buying a quality engineering team that comes with ready-to-go partnerships with influential operators, which could save years of business development.
Bubbly monetizes its service using revenue share deals with operators and selling premium features, part of which is access to more than 1,000 celebrity accounts. Most of which are located in Asia, but they do include English football star Rio Ferdinand, who has over 250,000 Bubbly followers.
Clayton says roughly 30 percent of registered users are active each month and, of those, 80 percent pay for the premium version of the service.
There’s no immediate indication that Bubbly will be sold, but speaking to TNW in August of last year, Clayton admitted that Jafco Asia‘s $5 million investment into the company would be its final fundraising activity before an exit — either via an IPO or acquisition. Earlier this year, the company made a push in the US and UK but, so far, it is yet to see any tangible progress in either market — which may also be motivation behind a potential sale.
News of a possible acquisition comes as Bubbly further strengthens its position in Japan after agreeing to a tie-in with Yahoo Japan, the country’s top Internet content player.
Yahoo Japan is integrating Bubbly as its default recording player across a number of its media properties, including Quora-like Yahoo Answers Japan — which boasts 110 million active users per month, of which 65 million are from mobile devices.
The Yahoo Japan partnership sees Bubbly take a cut of advertising revenue, but it will also create a major user acquisition channel in one of the world’s most smartphone-centric Internet markets.
“The deal means we’re in bed with a major provider in Japan, and there are a bunch of other partnerships that will be announced soon in Japan,” Clayton says.
Clayton hints that the Bubbly service could pivot towards gaming and messaging features if it is acquired, but that eventuality is still playing out.
Note: Bubbly CEO Tom Clayton is a regular contributor to TNW’s Enterpreneur content channel.
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