January 19, 2010 / 4:03 PM / 10 years ago

TopTenReviews raises $1.5 million

SAN FRANCISCO (Private Equity Week) - TopTenReviews, fresh off acquiring Space.com http://www.Space.com, LiveScience.com http://www.livescience.com and Newsarama.com http://www.newsarama.com to add to its network of product review websites, last week raised $1.5 million in Series A-1 funding.

Existing investors - Highway 12 Ventures and Village Ventures - fueled the recent funding, which brings the Series A round total to $7.5 million, including a $6 million investment in 2008.

The Ogden, Utah-based company said the latest infusion will propel growth of its product review websites.

“Providing quality content and the content that our users are looking for is how we plan to stay ahead of the competition,” said founder and CEO Jerry Ropelato. “We see strong potential for growth in traffic and revenue as a result of the synergy between the sites.”

TopTenReviews claims to offer millions of reviews in more than 350 categories, including software, Web services, consumer electronics and entertainment. The company ranks as the fourth-largest technology news site, according to recent comScore Media Metrix data. The company is currently seeing around 10 million page views per month, according to stats on its site.

The company is similar to New York-based Waterfront Media that operates online health property Everyday Health Network, which raised more than $55 million from Village Ventures and other investors.

Bo Peabody, managing general partner of Village Ventures, said TopTenReviews is also being built from the ground up - through acquisitions - to become a large Internet property.

“We’re applying the same business model principles to the tech vertical with TopTenReviews,” Peabody said. “When you have the playbook, all you need are good players and Jerry and the crew provide that and more.”

Ropelato, who founded the company in 2003, takes pride in helping everyday users make a decision about the right product or service. As he explained, consumers don’t buy products in isolation. They want to make the right choice based on function and value, he said.

“I was at a New Year’s Eve party and throughout the night I was quizzed on a variety of basic tech questions,” Ropelato said. “They weren’t looking to become techies. They just wanted answers to basic technology without feeling dumb. This is who we write for - people who want technology to compliment their lives, but not consume it.”

Many of the reviews in the company’s network of sites are user generated, as TopTenReviews offers the opportunity for qualified users to write reviews and earn cash. New writers can earn up to $1,200 for their first year of writing.

“This past year was a great year for us, and we see fantastic opportunities for growth in the coming 18 months,” Ropelato said. “The funding will help us accelerate our growth as we pursue the opportunities ahead.”

Although Ropelato sounds aggressive, investors described both he and the rest of his management team as being as cool as the other side of the pillow.

“They kind of remind me of the way Joe Montana ran the two-minute drill. They’re cool, calm and collected,” said Mark Solon, managing partner of Highway 12 and a TopTenReviews board member.

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