(Updated, rumor that Backfence is shutting down is wrong, see fresh post here)
Roelof Botha is one of the hotter venture capitalists these days. The Sequoia Capital venture capitalist led that firm’s investment into video-sharing site YouTube — and saw that company sold within a year to Google for $1.65 billion.
Now he’s apparently reviewing the progress of his companies. Palo Alto’s Meebo, the site that lets people use integrate their instant messaging service online, has been out raising money for a while. One investor told us he was shut out from investing, suggesting Meebo is doing fine. Not hearing anything, we looked up chief executive Seth Sternberg. He says Meebo will raise the second round this quarter. So apparently Meebo is being given more time to figure out how to make cash — a nice counter-story to the current pain.
Botha also invested in Redwood City, Calif.’s Insider Pages, a site where users can go and share local reviews on everything from restaurants to doctors. Rumors are that it has laid off two-third of its staff, and we’ve messaged the company to see if it is true. Insider Pages competes with a growing number of community review oriented sites, including Yelp, Judy’s Book, Smalltown and BackFence.
The company has raised $10 million from Sequoia, Softbank and Idealab, and only last year moved to Redwood City from Pasadena.
Here’s a a graphic (scroll to bottom) showing a market matrix of local sites, including Insider Pages (with Smalltown putting itself at the sweet-spot, since it is Smalltown’s graphic). In reality, they all overlap significantly.
[Update II: We hear from a source that Backfence CEO is resigning and 12 of 18 people have been laid off, and the company is closing. We’ve put in calls to the company. No one answered when we called their Virginia office, 11am their time. Until confirmation, we’ll keep this in rumor category. Update III: Something is definitely up. Even someone we know well there is declining comment. Update IV: Layoffs confirmed, but it is staying open. Fresh post coming shortly ]
In other Web 2.0 news, Tagworld doesn’t appear to be doing too well. The Los Angeles social networking company has taken down its management page. We’ve messaged the company, to find out more. Draper Fisher Jurvetson invested $7.5 million into the company. [Update II: On the contrary, someone very close to the company tells VentureBeat the company got a “huge investment” last month from a well-known company]
[In other Sequoia news, the firm has taken down the picture of Elon Musk, a co-founder of Pay Pal from its homepage, where the firm showcases some of its successes. This is apparently a response to Valleywag, which pointed out how Musk was the only one of the PayPal founders pictured — and noting how other early players such as Max Levchin and Peter Thiel weren’t represented. There are big differences among the founders about who should take credit for PayPal’s early years, and so Sequoia — prudently perhaps — decided to dodge the issue, rather than further endanger its already frosty relationship with Thiel.]
See our earlier Q&A with Botha here.
VB's research team is studying web-personalization... Chime in here, and we’ll share the results.