Ning raises $60 mln from institutional investors

SAN FRANCISCO, April 19 Sat Apr 19, 2008 7:48pm EDT

SAN FRANCISCO, April 19 (Reuters) - Ning, the startup co-founded by Netscape founder Marc Andreessen that lets people create their own social networks, has raised $60 million from institutional investors, valuing the company at $500 million.

In a Friday post on his personal blog, Andreessen said investment bank Allen & Co helped orchestrate the latest round of financing.

"We raised the money to enable us to keep scaling given our accelerating growth... and to make sure we have plenty of firepower to survive the oncoming nuclear winter," Andreessen wrote.

"Having lived through the last crunch, it's good to be conservative with these things," he said.

The pre-money valuation is $500 million, making the post-money valuation $560 million, Andreessen said.

Founded in 2004, Ning provides the platform for 230,000 social networks and is growing at 1,000 new networks per day, he wrote.

Ning is a free service that lets people build niche social networks based on their interests.

Andreessen did not name the institutional investors, saying they were "not particularly looking for publicity."

Web 2.0 startups, which typically seek funding from the venture capital community, have elicited recent interest from large institutional investors.

In January, Slide Inc, a startup built by PayPal co-founder Max Levchin that lets people create their own photo slide shows for social networks, raised $50 million from T.Rowe Price (TROW.O) and Fidelity Investments, which valued the company in excess of $500 million.

Ning earlier raised $44 million from several sources, including institutional investor Legg Mason.

But the median venture capital investment in Web 2.0 companies -- an umbrella term for social networks, blogs and other startups that encourage interactive applications -- continues to be much smaller. Last year, the median investment round in Web 2.0 startups was $5 million, according to data from Dow Jones. (Reporting by Anupreeta Das; Editing by Eric Walsh)

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