Why Leonardo DiCaprio and World’s 2nd Richest Man Are Backing Instagram Rival

Photographer: Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for Mobli 2.0
Actor Leonardo DiCaprio and CEO of Mobli 2.0 Moshiko Hogeg attend Mobli 2.0 Launch Party at Kenichi on March 10, 2012 in Austin, Texas.

Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim thinks he knows something about photo-sharing apps that Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t.

Slim’s America Movil was among the investors in a $60 million financing round in Mobli, an application for iPhone and Android that lets users decorate pictures and videos with colorful filters similar to Instagram. Ido Sadeh, Mobli’s chief operating officer, said the Mexican phone company’s investment was “significant,” but declined to disclose the price.

“Mobile access is significantly enriching our daily lives and is opening the door to completely new experiences for users around the world," Slim said in a statement. "The Mobli team has shown extraordinary skills in creating a powerful and innovative product for its users.”

Actor Leonardo DiCaprio is among the investors who had kicked in a total of $28 million in the startup’s previous financing rounds. Mobli, which was founded in 2011, is based in Tel Aviv and New York.

Slim should be able to bring in a certain fan base that DiCaprio can't. Slim, the world’s second-richest man, has deep business connections in Latin America. As part of the deal, America Movil has agreed to provide strategic assistance to Mobli in its expansion throughout the region.

Since Facebook paid about $1 billion for Instagram last year, the app has surpassed 150 million users globally. That’s less than the population of Brazil. South America is full of emerging markets, where smartphone usage is expected to skyrocket as more people can afford them.

Mobli is already seeing success in Latin America. Brazil is the app’s biggest market, followed by Mexico, the U.S. and Israel. America Movil’s top two markets are Mexico and Brazil.

The pairing could be as perfect as Jack and Rose from “Titanic,” if they can avoid Zuck’s iceberg.

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