selectminds.bmpSelectMinds, a New York company that provides companies with their own social networks, has raised a $5.5 million round of financing from Bessemer Venture Partners.

SelectMinds is just one of at some 34 companies that are letting companies or other groups build their own networks, and it’s hard to see how each of them will survive.

On the other hand, if you are going to play, now is the time to grab customers. Big businesses have only recently grasped the significance of social networking but now that they have, they’re eager to find products that work. These corporations compete with each other for talent, and younger employees are looking for ways to collaborate more closely with each other, having come to expect document sharing and IM-like features.

Select Minds launched in 2000, and is only now taking its first round of capital. This is similar to Jive Software, another company that has been around for years, but which is seeing large demand. Last week, it cited the onslaught of demand as the reason for raising its first round of capital (see our coverage last week).

Select Minds Chief Marketing Officer Diane Pardee tells VentureBeat her company hopes to differentiate itself by offering networks appealing to key “affinity” groups. For example, one product (called WomenConnect) helps companies track female employees who have may have left the company and then lure them back. Another lets company alumni employees stay in touch with each other, helping the company tap their extended network, or rehire from the alumni pool. Another product serves new hires (NewHireConnect).

Bessemer has invested in several companies with social networking components to them, including LinkedIn (business contacts), Wikia (resource material), Revver (music), and Zopa (lending).

Select Minds says customers include JPMorgan Chase, The Dow Chemical Company, Ernst & Young, Lockheed Martin, Latham & Watkins, Schlumberger, and Deloitte.

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