Web directory company Looksmart has just completed a $60 million private equity placement, which is one of the largest ever funding rounds for a private Internet company.
Evan Thornley, Looksmart?s chief executive, said the firm had now raised a total of $79.3 million in capital, which would be used to finance its ecommerce strategy and to launch an aggressive consumer branding and marketing campaign targeted particularly at women.
It would also be used to fund strategic acquisitions and international expansion, but Thornley said the new funding would not put the company off from going public by the end of the year. "We're moving towards that with reasonable haste," he attested.
To date, Looksmart has focused on distributing its Web content through licensing agreements, partnerships with ISPs, and virtual marketing deals, and it makes money via advertising and licensing sales and by syndicating its directory of Web and ecommerce sites. But Thornley claimed the site has also attracted a lucrative audience that it calls New Media Familys, which is 61 per cent female in make up - one of the highest percentages in the industry.
He added the company had also just signed a deal with Blue Mountain Arts, a greeting card Web site, whose audience was also 75 per cent women. "A natural partner for LookSmart, given our focus. As more women use the Web, we see tremendous opportunities to grow this audience," he said.
Next month, Looksmart plans to launch a new user interface for Looksmart.com, which will include a personal investor channel and other loyalty building applications. It also intends to expand its ecommerce capabilities by growing its existing shopping area and by strategic acquisitions.
Thornley said: "Since refinancing the company last May, we have had the opportunity to start building a great media company by focusing on the enduring characteristics of the business that will not be reliant on the day to day changes in technology platforms, distribution economics or corporate shenanigans."
"This additional financing enables us to accelerate that growth with the committed support of longterm media and financial investors," he added.
Investors include Amerindo Investment Advisors, Citicorp Equity Capital ahd Cox Interactive Media. Looksmart made $6 million in 1998 and hopes to add another $40 million this year.
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