AOL acquires Userplane to expand AIM network

Userplane AOL A brief interruption of my holiday schedule to announce a great news: portfolio co Userplane has been acquired by AOL LLC a couple of weeks ago, and I just heard that the official press release is now up there. I started working with the three founders of the company, Mike Jones, Nate Thelen and Jave Hall, over a year ago, and it is really with delight that I am congratulating them, and the whole team, for such a great outcome (that I will not give any detail about, as AOL has elected not to disclose any financial information about the deal). So let’s just say: a great outcome for all involved.

Userplane is in the business of powering online communities with a suite of communication tools: Instant Messaging, Chat rooms, A/V Recorder – on a white label basis. The original model was to license these tools to very large social networking and dating sites (MySpace, Friendster,,…), to which a free ad-supported version was added in June 2005. Now, about 120,000 communities use this suite of zero-install, zero-download communication products reaching millions of users in 25+ countries. The ad-supported version recently broke the billion monthly ad impressions, adding meaningful revenues to the bottom line of the company which had been profitable for a long time. A lot has happened indeed since that initial TechCrunch profile.

Userplane staffUserplane is joining the AIM group, inside the AOL Audience Business Unit, and will be overseen by Marcien Jenckes – the head of the AIM team, and Tina Sharkey – who runs IM and Social Media at AOL. Tina and Marcien are both based on the East Coast, but the whole team of 12 – and the 6 or 7 additional resources they will need to hire in the short term to build the business to a new scale, will remain in Los Angeles.

Ever since I met Mike Jones at BlogOn 2004, Userplane’s founders had earned my respect for having built a sustainable business purely on cashflows, without ever taking outside investment capital. They had been approached numerous times by potential acquirers and VCs, and decided to stay the course until the right offer came: a great termsheet, from the right firm, a Tier 1 VC from Sand Hill Road that could really help the business grow. But it just so happens that someone “high up” at AOL had decided that Userplane was a strategic asset, and pushed for an acquisition to happen swiftly. This was a very smart move.

It is always a moment of mixed feeling to have one of your companies acquired. On one side, it is a tremendous achievement for the team, and the just reward for the hard work the founders have put in over the past 5 years. On the other hand, I really had a blast working with these guys – and there is always the question of what (and how much ) could have been achieved by building the company further. I am however really happy for my friends Mike, Nate and Jave – and have to thank Marcien, Tina, Tom, John U, Christine, Stephen, Laura, Mark, Jorge, Jim and Jon – and all the AOL people I have not mentioned – for all their efforts in making this happen. As I said – a very smart move.

  • Narendra

    congrats jeff!

  • Dave

    awwwright jeff… now we know what you’ve been up to the past few months.
    time to go our for drinks — you’re buying! (or selling, as the case may be 😉
    congrats & here’s to the next win real soon,

  • Scott Rafer

    congrats. big summer for you.

  • VC Ratings

    AOL beats VCs to the punch with Userplane acquisition

    Sometimes, the best path to growth for startups is skipping venture capital altogether and selling out to a larger company. Userplane’s founders saw the wisdom in this path and said today that they had sold to AOL for an undisclosed amount. The instan…

  • Alexander Muse

    WOW! Are you on a roll or what? We need to figure out how to work with you more! :)

  • 21talks

    With the Userplane buyout, AOL is heading towards MySpace

    Hot news ― AOL just closed the acquisition of Userplane, a platform for online communities that provides IM, one-to-one live audio and video calls.
    Userplane, founded in 2001 and based in Los Angeles, has signed an agreement with AOL since July 28, …

  • susan mernit

    wonderful news for a great company and a good investment–congrats, Jeff.

  • Rodrigo A. Sepúlveda Schulz

    and our friend Jeff Clavier scores again: Userplane acquired by AOL

    Our French buddy Jeff Clavier whos been investing in very early stage companies for the past few years is seeing some exits now. As far as we know, earlier this year, one of his portfolio companies got acquired by AOL,

  • The Social Networking Weblog

    UserPlane Acquired by AOL. Bootstrapped Flawlessly to an Exit!

    I dont want to rehash the news that youve read on 10 other blogs already. Suffice to say that Michael Jones UserPlane has been purchased by AOL. Tech Crunch, GigaOM, Download Squad and angel investor, Jeff Clavier have covered it…

  • Nik Cubrilovic

    Congrats again Jeff and to the userplane team, they are a company worthy of the outcome they achieved.
    SoftTechVC has a hotter portfolio and produces better results than even the tier-1 firms 😉 your hard work is paying off Jeff

  • Dennis Howlett

    Congratulations Jeff – another one to add to your reputation bag.

  • Somewhat Frank

    AOL Acquires Userplane

    AOL continued its torrid announcement frenzy today by releasing details of its acquisition of Userplane for an undisclosed amount. Userplane, a Los Angeles-based company, offers a suite of online communication tools which include chat, audio and video …

  • Neville Hobson

    Congrats, Jeff. Now you can *really* enjoy that holiday.

  • Blake P

    Maybe it should be called “Jeff 2.0″………….

  • Online Dating Insider

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    I just got off the phone with Userplane CEO Mike Jones after taking a few much-needed days off the grid in Vermont. I met Mike a few years ago in San Francisco and have always liked the way we…

  • Online Community Report

    AOL Acquires Userplane

    AOL has acquired Userplane, the maker video chat, messaging, and other online community tools white-labeled by more than 100,000 sites. The financials of the deal were not disclosed.
    Userplane CEO Mike Jones noted that Userplane will continue to supp

  • Fergus Burns

    Congrats Jeff on the news – the midas touch at work.
    A partical make up for the World Cup !!
    Talk Soon

  • EricMarcoullier

    Congrats on acquisition — great stuff!

  • EricMarcoullier

    Congrats on acquisition — great stuff!

  • Joseph Hunkins

    Congratulations Jeff. Now … you can afford some really good wine and pizza.