Pikum has closed its virtual doors

Pikum, an online social gambling startup which had GBP 3.98 million ($5.92 million) in investment from Virgin USA and First Round Capital has closed its virtual doors, apparently as a result of financial woes.

The brainchild of a 28-year old South African born entrepreneur from America, Sean Glass, who previously co-founded higher education-focused online financial services company Higher One, Pikum was a new kind of betting game created and played between friends online.

By riding the social networking wave, Glass hoped to gain an advantage over major online gambling companies whom he saw as potential competitors such as Party Gaming, 888, Betafir and Tradesports reports Tech Crunch this week.

The Pikum website featured an all too relevant graphic – a padlock and chain - this week.

Backed by Virgin USA and the San Francisco venture capital firm First Round Capital, the company started out on the right track, seeking credible licensing from Alderney and commencing operations in the UK with technical facilities in South Africa. There was also a significant spend on marketing with appropriately clad models, websites, newsletters and a regular YouTube video program.

Despite this, Pikum failed to gain traction with punters, and was reportedly seeking a second round of financing after Virgin USA changed focus.

Tech Crunch quotes one source who disclosed that despite spending GBP 5 000 on an Adwords campaign the yield, literally, was zero.

The company also splashed out on a weekly 10 minute-long video webcast "Mega Football TV" on YouTube featuring Setanta Sports presenter Charlotte Jackson. The studio-shot show ran for 14 videos until ending two weeks ago, but never garnered more than 1 000 views an episode.

"Pikum Girls" had their own dedicated web site - young women who were clearly targeting the younger male demographic of the betting marketplace.

Other initiatives involved Twitter initiatives that were not updated

Glass is reportedly on his way back to the States, having posted a comment at Tech Crunch that read in part: "I definitely have learned a lot from the experience with Pikum that differed from our success in building Higher One (and it's continued success).

"It is very disappointing, however I believe that the right thing to do when something doesn't work is to examine it closely, learn what one can, and focus on building from there. I can't comment directly on Pikum here …but I do want to share that I really have enjoyed being part of the London tech scene."

Glass is down but not out, seemingly having a true entrepreneurial spirit. He is an active angel investor through Top Floor Capital, and in September 1999, he helped co-found the Yale Entrepreneurial Society, starting a culture shift at the prestigious college that has had far-reaching implications.

He has also safeguarded his players, who must now withdraw any remaining balance and any bonuses due. Any remaining balance not withdrawn by February 13th will be sent by cheque to each player's registered address.

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