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Boxee raises $16.5 million to beat Apple TV

Large third round raised from Pitango, Softbank, General Catalyst, Spark Capital and Union Square

Financial trends and news by Ronny Kerr
March 1, 2011
Short URL: http://vator.tv/n/179b

Boxee, creator of a box that streams videos from the Internet to your TV, announced Tuesday that it has closed a $16.5 million third round of financing from new investors Pitango Venture Capital and Softbank, with participation by prior investors General Catalyst, Spark Capital and Union Square Ventures. The latter three contributed to Boxee’s $6 million raised in August 2009.
 
Isaac Hillel, managing general partner at Pitango, will be joining the company’s board of directors.
 
Anyone who has ever wanted to watch Internet video on their TV should take a serious look at Boxee. The startup sells a Box, built by D-Link, that plugs into your TV with an HDMI cable and connects to the Internet wirelessly. TV shows, media from social sites, apps from Pandora and much more are made instantly available.

It’s like Apple TV but without the focus on iTunes. In fact, perhaps Boxee's biggest challenge in 2011 will be its battle against that more well-known device. Apple TV has the benefit of price ($99 versus $299 for Boxee Box) and of name (everyone loves Apple, right?). Where Boxee TV has an advantage is its ecosystem, which isn't locked down by the needs of iTunes. It's more open.
 
Additionally, the Boxee Box isn't the only way to use Boxee. Cash-strapped TV lovers can make their own Boxee by plugging their computer into the TV (with an appropriate cable) and downloading the free software. The only time any Boxee user pays to use the service is for premium streaming channels.
 
Boxee plans to use its new funding to improve the product, expand content and add more partners. The first is obvious, as there are always bugs and kinks to iron out. The new cash will accelerate recruiting for the already quickly growing company.

As for content, Boxee just added two different services for streaming TV and movies, Netflix (subscription-based) and Vudu (not subscription-based).

Finally, in forming partnerships, Boxee seeks to rapidly increase adoption of its Box. The company already has on board D-Link, shipping Boxee Boxes, Iomega, designing a network-attached storage (NAS) version of the Box, and ViewSonic, building TVs based on Boxee.
 
Back in August 2009, when Boxee last raised institutional funding, the company was run by 12 employees, its software was in alpha and the Boxee Box did not yet exist. Now the Boxee Box is available in over 30 countries, the software has hit version 1.0 and the 30-employee company is still hiring in both New York City and Tel Aviv.
 
If you’d like to learn more about Boxee, be sure to watch a video we posted recently of co-founder and CEO Avner Ronen offering his personal lessons learned at Vator Splash NY.

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