Video e-commerce firm Kingmaker Inc. has been acquired by San Francisco’s Joyus Inc., one of its largest competitors.

Financial terms of the all-stock deal, which closed in early September, were not disclosed, though Guy Gal, Kingmaker’s chief executive, said his employees and investors have taken a significant stake in Joyus.

Venice’s Kingmaker was a graduate of accelerator Amplify.LA, also in Venice, and had been building an online video business modeled on the success of Santa Monica direct television marketer Guthy-Renker. That is, the company would pair with YouTube channels and build a portal through which it could sell custom-made products related to the content.

An example would be a cooking video channel, where people who came to watch the food preparation could buy the special pans and knives featured in the show.

Kingmaker would take the lion’s share of the revenue, with the YouTube channels getting a licensing fee.

The company was founded in 2011 and scored its first big partnership with the hit YouTube channel “Epic Meal Time.” Gal said the company had since struck deals with two other channels in the beauty and style space.

The long-term goal was for Kingmaker to itself become a maker of original content, but when its $1.7 million in seed money, led by Santa Monica’s New World Ventures, started to run dry, the company was in a bind.

“The question became, ‘Do we have enough capital to scale?’” Gal said. “By the time we got to the half point of our burn we were still somewhat removed from a point where I thought we were series-A ready.”

Kingmaker did seek more money, and Gal said the company was on its way to a $4 million round led by a prominent Silicon Valley venture firm.

However, during the fundraising process discussions with Joyus, its well-funded Bay Area competitor, began to get serious. Eventually, Gal and his team of six decided the terms of the Joyus acquisition were better than those of an A round.

Gal, who’s originally from Toronto, has moved his team to San Francisco to work with Joyus. Though he’s satisfied with his choice of being bought out rather than accepting further investments, it doesn’t stop him from wondering what Kingmaker could have been.

“This is base success, no doubt,” Gal said. “But I don’t think it’s success with capital letters.”

Whisper Loudly

Whisper Inc. has been reporting a boom in activity for its self-titled anonymous confessions app. Now it’s turned that growth into a new round of funding.

The Santa Monica app-maker, which spun out of secure text-messaging platform Tiger Text, announced a $21 million B round of financing, led by Menlo Park uber-fund Sequoia Capital. Previous investors Lightspeed Capital and Trinity Capital also participated in the round, which brought Whisper’s total money raised to $24 million.

Whisper lets users post highly personal confessions onto a message board and has been a big hit on college campuses. When the company last revealed metrics in March it was claiming 1 billion page views a month; that’s since jumped to 2.5 billion in July.

What may be more interesting is the growth of in-app messaging, in which a Whisper user can start a private conversation with another poster. It costs 99 cents to start a conversation thread or $5.99 for a month of unlimited messaging. Michael Heyward, Whisper’s co-founder and chief executive, has called paid messaging a way to deter spam in the conversations, but it’s now turned into a revenue stream. A release from the company said 80 million messages are sent monthly through the app, though they did not break out the revenue those messages have generated.

As the company grows with the new influx of capital, it may also look to introduce in-app advertising. Whisper boasts that users are spending an average of 30 minutes a day looking at the app, a valuable metric for enticing brands and advertisers.

Vivo Pools

Monrovia’s VivoPools has rolled out an Android app that aims to keep its legion of pool maintenance workers in perfect balance.

Vivo Valet is essentially a one-stop organizing tool for the workers. They use the app to log water conditions – pH, chlorine levels, etc. The information is then automatically e-mailed to the homeowners.

Vivo, which services commercial and residential pools, is captained by Willan Johnson, whose background in high tech includes a stint at Pasadena’s Overture Inc., a paid search engine acquired by Yahoo Inc. in 2003.

When Johnson jumped into the pool world about three years ago, he found an industry that was sorely behind the times in tech.

“Pool services are running like they’re in the 1970s,” he said. “The equipment around the pool has changed, but the service professionals that are taking care of it haven’t.”

Staff reporter Tom Dotan can be reached at or (323) 549-5225, ext. 263.

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