Friday, February 13, 2009 3:45 AM
This was one of the weirdest incoming pitches I've received in a while. Finnish startup Comeks, which I'd never heard of before, contacts us to tout its product, a nifty application that lets you generate funny cartoons based on the pictures on your phone and enables you to push them out to social networking services, and then casually lets us know they're up for sale.
I got in touch with co-founder and CEO Arto Viitanen, who told me the startup simply ran out of money, after raising ?400,000 from Accel Partners about two years ago when the outlook for internet and mobile startups was way better than in the current economy. With the seed funding, the company produced a tool called Comeks Shorts, which lets you send visual SMS messages for the price of a normal SMS message.
Last week, they added to that service "Fun Photo Blogger", a tool that lets you create funny cartoons with available artwork (speech bubbles, add-on stickers etc.) in combination with your own pictures, both on the web and from your mobile device (with the help of custom applications for J2ME, the iPhone and Android).
I tested Comeks on my iPhone (App Store link) and actually liked playing around with it. It's pretty fun to mess with pictures from your photo gallery, and you can easily share cartoonized images to other sites like Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and Tumblr, which basically turns it into a (free) visual microblogging application. You can see a bunch of examples of that on Viitanen's Tumblr blog.
I have the feeling that the company was a bit too early for this type of thing, and that the story would have been different had they only started out now, even though it would have been virtually impossible to raise venture capital for it in the current climate.
The startup attracted about 170,000 registered users to date, but Viitanen admits that many of them are not active.
The team has been taking on other projects for the past 6 months to be able to keep paying the bills, but has no intention of pulling the plug out of the Comeks service just yet.
They'll keep the servers running for the thousands of users that still make use of the application, and meanwhile they're looking for a buyer to step in and pick up development where they stopped.
Hope springs eternal.