Sunday, April 27, 2008

Today's Globe column: From IMO to EMO

Today's Globe column digs into the story of a start-up, IMO, that was once heralded as bringing a revolution to the way mobile phones are sold. IMO quietly disappeared earlier this year; its founder, Mort Rosenthal, is now building a new company (Enterprise Mobile -- which we might call EMO) with a big financial assist from Microsoft.

Here's the opening:

    Successful start-ups have 100 fathers, someone almost said. But flameouts are orphans.

    IMO was an idea that seemed to click from the start: bring together in one retail outlet a vast selection of mobile phones and service plans - and help consumers compare them.

    But after four years and about $10 million in funding, IMO quietly closed its two stores - in Framingham and Columbus, Ohio - earlier this year. No one issued a press release, and the company's name vanished from the website of its single backer, Highland Capital Partners of Lexington. Tom Stemberg, the founder of Staples, scrubbed the company's name from his bio. (He'd served on the board.) And IMO founder Mort Rosenthal moved on to a new business - this one supported by a $20 million allowance from Microsoft Corp.

Here's the video, in which Rosenthal talks about the difference between raising money from a VC firm (IMO was backed by Highland Capital) and a strategic investor like Microsoft:

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