FON and the art of nuances

It started with a juicy announcement for FON, Martin Varsavsky new venture: “FON can now count Google, Skype, Sequoia Capital and Index Ventures as investors and backers” (for almost $22-million). Good news for any company. He continues the announcement as follows:

Also I am pleased to announced today that we have obtained the support of two significant ISPs for FON. In America Speakeasy has said that they welcome FON and in Europe, Glocalnet and FON have signed an agreement so Glocalnet sells its services FON ready and the Swedish foneros will soon be able move around Stockholm and other cities with their WiFi enabled gadgets.
from @ Feb 5

So the terms are “support” and “welcome“. That does not sounds as a signed contract but more like a “OK, we won’t make life hard for one another”.
In an interview with Reuters, Martin changes the wording:

Toward that end, Fon has signed up GlocoNet, the second largest ISP in Sweden, and U.S.-based Speakeasy of Seattle.
Varsavsky said he also holds out hope of convincing potential adversaries among established ISPs such as Telefonica, Deutsche Telekom AG, AT&T Inc. and Time Warner Inc. of working with his “foneros.”
from @ Feb 5

Now it’s “signed up”. That’s a different issue, it means that there should be a bunch of papers with signatures. Onfortunately, Speakeasy does not recall signing anything:

Speakeasy is the only national ISP I am aware of in the U.S. that encourages sharing their connections. (Update: Speakeasy says there�s no deal.)
from @ Feb 5

With a follow-up story the next day:

On the other hand, he mentions several times in his blog and in news stories the word agreement, support, bargain, revenue sharing. Speakeasy has no agreement of any kind with Fon, which would tend to contradict any sense that Fon was sharing revenue with them (unilaterally?) and thus argues that Varsavsky was trying to broaden his appeal by mentioning a U.S. ISP.
Question for Google, Skype, Sequoia, and Index: Did Varsavsky claim a Speakeasy contract? If so, did you do due diligence? If not, will he disclaim his statements?
from @ Feb 6

Which leads Om Malik to comment the following:

Seems to me that FoN made a bone-headed move on day one of their very public life.

and Mark Evans to something along the same lines:

In fact, Speakeasy claims FON is replicating its strategy called NetShare in which individuals could generate revenue by sharing their wireless connections. Looks like a big P.R. fiasco for FON.

So, in the first week of being a solidly funded company, supported by some really big names, FON can start to explain that they claimed something that was not really there. I can only hope that the SpeakEasy ‘deal’ did not play a role in the FON valuation process.

I think Martin needs a good PR/Communications manager sitting next to him in interviews, to avoid him of getting carried away.


💬 wifi