Instant-message startup Meebo is closing a round that will value it at between $175 million and $200 million, according to a Techcrunch rumor, which says the company has only made $1 million since launching in 2005. And the company’s announcement today that it’s hired a veteran advertising executive, Carter Brokaw, to be its chief revenue officer seems to lend credence to that rumor.
A few weeks ago, we reported that Mountain View, Calif.-based Meebo was aiming to raise $20 million to $30 million at a valuation somewhere between $200 million and $250 million, with the assistance of investment bank Montgomery & Co.
Meebo’s site lets you chat with friends across competing IM services like AIM and Yahoo Messenger. It more recently launched a chat room feature, where you can embed a group chat widget on other sites around the web. The site has nearly 30 million monthly users, between its various services.
We’d heard that Facebook and MySpace had both looked at buying Meebo, and passed. Techcrunch adds that eBay and AOL also thought about buying it, although MySpace owner Fox and AOL may be participating in this round as strategic investors.
The explanation for Meebo’s low revenue is that it has been focused on rolling out new products that have allowed it to keep growing.
ReadWriteWeb has an interesting interview with the company that examines how it plans to start making money. Next month, it will begin introducing ads into its services that are essentially invites to sponsored media — videos, polls, quizzes, etc. — targeted according to a user’s demographic information and behavior. There will even be a leaderboard displaying the most popular ads. The company says that in tests, it is experiencing engagement rates of up to four percent, which is much higher than what an un-targeted banner ad might see.
Enter Brokaw, a long-time ad exec at CNET, and more recently Warner. Meebo is hoping to go as far as offering consulting services to top ad agencies. Brokaw, who will be based in New York, will be leading Meebo’s charge into Madison Avenue — he has the opportunity to prove that IM can be a big business.
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