UK tech sector's seal of approval as Carlos Slim buys into Shazam

Gideon Spanier
Monday 08 July 2013 04:28

The Mexican telecoms billionaire Carlos Slim, the world's richest man, has spent $40m (£26m) on a stake in the British mobile app company Shazam, in a major vote of confidence in the UK's technology industry.

America Movil, the telecoms firm controlled by Mr Slim, is taking an undisclosed stake believed to be around 10 per cent, which would value Shazam at close to £260m.

Shazam, which describes itself as a media engagement company, uses audio technology to identify songs, TV shows and adverts in real time, and lets people find more information on their smartphone or tablet instantly.

Advertisers, broadcasters and music labels have embraced Shazam, which has 70 million monthly users – a threefold rise in two years. ITV and the consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble are among the many companies that have already used the service.

Mr Slim, who topped this year's Forbes magazine Rich List with an estimated $73bn fortune, said: "Shazam is defining a new category of media en-gagement that combines the power of mobile with traditional broadcast media and advertising to create compelling value-added experiences for consumers, content providers and brands."

America Movil's investment follows Shazam's last fundraising in 2011, when the US venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins, famed for making early investments in tech giants such as Google, Amazon and eBay, took a stake.

Andrew Fisher, executive chairman of Shazam, said the backing of these firms was proof that Britain can produce world-leading tech companies.

"UK entrepreneurs can succeed on the global stage and we can attract some of the biggest investors who are backing the biggest opportunities," Mr Fisher told The Independent.

Recent acquisitions of British tech companies include Yahoo's purchase of the news app Summly for around £20m and Twitter's estimated £25m deal for TweetDeck.

Shazam was founded in 2002 as a service to help users identify pieces of music that they liked, but it has only taken off in the past few years with the advent of the smartphone and tablet. Around 350 million people have used it at least once and it operates in a string of countries including America, France, Germany, Spain and Italy. Shazam's technology works by creating what Mr Fisher calls a unique "fingerprint" to identify every piece of audio.

Mr Fisher said TV was a big opportunity, with global advertising revenues of $300bn a year.

"We're trying to stimulate people to watch the shows in real time," he said, explaining how Shazam was tapping into the desire of viewers to use a second screen, like a smartphone or tablet, while watching TV.

"In North America you can 'Shazam' any TV show on 160 channels. You can engage with the ads on 250 campaigns with major brands like Procter & Gamble and Unilever.

"We're working with the brands to extend their engagement – to turn a 30-second spot into three minutes," he added, explaining how Sony Pictures promoted its new Men in Black movie to consumers by using Shazam. "They can watch the whole trailer, they can buy tickets for the cinema then and there, they can start looking at additional information around the film. It's all about convenience."

There is even the potential for brands to use Shazam in multiple locations. If a user engages with an advert on TV and then goes into a supermarket, the advertiser could send an in-store promotion in real time to the app.

"It's about not being intrusive but adding value to someone who is [already] genuinely interested in your product," said Mr Fisher, who insisted Shazam took great care in protecting users' privacy. "You have to opt in. We are hugely sensitive to privacy."

Shazam does not sell music or other products direct to users but the app links to online retailers such as iTunes and Amazon.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments