[FEBRUARY 21] TEL AVIV – Valis, a wireless entertainment company, received $7 million in first round financing from AOL-Time Warner Investments in the U.S. and Polaris Venture Capital, an Israeli firm.
Valis is the developer of CellmaZe, a youth-oriented application that provides users with an interactive cellular community featuring a variety of interactive activities.
Features include an “instant locator” for finding friends and such features as instant messaging, chat, games and a dating system.
In addition, the Valis platform is geared towards revenue-generators such as m-commerce and enhanced brand marketing. The application is suited for existing handsets and do not require WAP or any developing technologies.
CEO and co-founder of Valis Ronny Golan says the company’s focus is unique.
“Our specialty is understanding teenagers,” he said. The company employs five “hand-picked” teens from differing socioeconomic backgrounds who work with the management to develop a product teens will use.
“Creating concepts is a full-time profession,” Golan says. “Most companies have teens come in to test a product after it is already developed. We thought it made more sense to have them come in from the beginning.”
According to Golan, the five teens recently addressed a WAP conference in Sweden.
The cellmaZe platform has already been offered on an experimental basis in two markets. In December 2000, Swisscom Mobile, Switzerland’s leading mobile operator, launched the system in Europe. Despite the limited scope of the trial offering, Swisscom reported that “the service has been very well received.”
In Israel, MIRS communications, which is jointly owned by Motorola Israel Communications, is also offering cellmaZe services on a test-run basis. Under their agreement, MIRS has a three-year option to acquire 10 percent of the company’s shares at a 30 percent discount.
The company is working on developing strategic partnerships with other cellular carriers in American, European, and Asian markets. In January 2000, the company received $1 million in funding from Britain’s MCV group and developed a strategic alliance that it hopes will expose it to high-end markets.
Valis was founded by Ariel Napchi, Golan, and Oded Napchi in December 1999. In addition to the five youths, the company has 35 employees.