Few people are more delighted that Skype cofounders Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis finally settled their lawsuit with eBay (EBAY) on November 6 than Marc Andreessen. The venture capital firm he cofounded last summer is one of a group of investment outfits that will now take control of the Internet communications company in a planned $2 billion deal. I caught up with him just after the settlement was announced to ask a few questions:
Q: What does this mean for the company?
A: Everything is settled—all the lawsuit and intellectual property issues are resolved. Skype now owns all the intellectual property. The deal continues to move forward as planned. The company is able to focus 100% on its opportunity, which we think is very large.
Skype added 40 million new registered users in the last three months. It has entered a whole new phase of growth. These things grow and grow for the first few years and then they punch through and become mainstream and everybody starts to use them—like Facebook a couple years ago. It’s happening at Skype right now.
Q: What’s the opportunity ahead?
A: We think Skype is one of the most important companies in the industry. A small number of companies are critical to how the Internet works and this is one of those. It has been extremely successful, but it still occupies only a small percentage of the global telecommunications market. It has the been the main way that people make use of video for communcation.
In the old days, the purpose of networks was to do voice. It’s why networks got built out. In the new world networks fundamentally do data. When you have highspeed data, it makes sense for voice and video to be a software application top of it. All kinds of things become possible because you have moved into software. As one example, you can do free calls all over the world.
Q: How involved will you be with the company?
A: As an investor I will be a board member. But I won’t be a manager.
Q: How will the Skype team build out the business?
A: Skype did $185 million in revenue last quarter. Right now, it charges to connect calls into and out of the phone system. The global market for international long distance is $40 billion right now and Skype has only a small percentage of that.
Skype is increasingly used in businesses so I think there is a real opportunity for business applications. Skype also has a new presence in mobile with the iPhone application.