Friendster Inc was first of the block in the social networking space, but had lost out after MySpace and Facebook made their entry into the networking scene. The company, however, has managed to attract a top Google exec as its CEO and IDG Ventures as one of the investors. The company has appointed Richard Kimber, South Asia regional managing director of Google, as its new CEO and a member of its board of directors. His appointment seems to be company’s strategy to boost its Asia presence.
The company has also raised $20 million in a new round of funding led by IDG Ventures, and also participated by past backers such as Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB), Benchmark Capital, DAG Ventures and Founders Fund. In 2006, the company had raised $10 million from DAG Ventures who was joined by KPCB and Benchmark. This round takes the total amount raised by the firm to $45 million.
“With the addition of Richard, Butch and the new funding, Friendster will continue to expand its worldwide footprint and take advantage of its leadership position in Asia Pacific,” said Russ Siegelman, partner at KPCB and chairman of the board for Friendster. With this round of funding the firm plans to hire more employees and set up offices in Asia. Friendster has made a strong base in Asia by extending its product offering in Vietnamese and Indonesian. The company also plans to expand its operations by forming local partnerships with internet and telecom companies.
Facebook and MySpace are also expanding their operations in Asia by launching new websites in the region. Friendster is strongest in Asia and with over 55 million registered users and 33 million monthly unique visitors from Asia, claims to be the top social networking website in the country.
The new chief executive Kimber was instrumental in increasing Google’s revenue in the Asia Pacific region, opening offices in Singapore and Auckland, and growing Google’s Australian and Korean businesses. Prior to Google, Kimber was the CEO for FirstDirect Bank in the UK, a subsidiary of HSBC Holdings plc. He has also held various positions in HSBC’s online banking operations. “With more than 75 million users, it is clear that Friendster has already made a dramatic impact. I look forward to growing our business further as we continue our global growth and strong focus on Asia,” said Kimber. Friendster also has a growing portfolio of patents granted to the company on social networking, with more expected over the next several months.
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