Velocity Sews Up Twine


Last Friday, I had lunch with Ross Levinsohn and Roland Van der Meer, in preparation for a story I was writing on Velocity Interactive Group. Ross mentioned that Velocity had just closed on a new deal of interest, but that he wasn’t quite ready to talk yet. I mentioned this in the daily email, but for some reason didn’t in the actual story. Apologies.

Anyway, peHUB has since learned that the deal is for Radar Networks, a semantic Web company run by EarthWeb co-founder Nova Spivack. No details yet on the dollar amount or Velocity’s co-lead, other than that it’s a brand-name Valley firm. Series A investor Vulcan returned, although Leapfrog Ventures did not (the partner who did the deal is now elsewhere). I’d also assume Ron Conway returned, although that’s based on intuition rather than research. A formal announcement is scheduled for Monday.

Radar actually began getting term sheets for this round nine months ago, which also happened to be five months before anyone really knew what the company was doing. Chalk it up to semantic Web love among venture capitalists, who see the burgeoning space as Web 3.0. Radar rejected the offer, and subsequent ones, as too early and too low.

So the company just moved forward on its debut product called Twine, which it launched in October (albeit in beta). The basic idea behind Twine is to organize a user’s countless pieces of disorganized data, including contacts, bookmarks, photos and documents. A user saves information to Twine (either drag & click or via a browser plug-in), and the application then does a semantic analysis to tag that information in a variety of ways. It then connects the dots to enable better organization. It also can connect those dots to other users, if you make your information public (voluntary meta desktop search).

Radar’s beta test is currently being conducted by fewer than one thousand people, but Spivack says that the funding will be used to begin scaling Twine up into a major service that has partnerships with other Internet companies, media companies and so on. That is a big reason why he brought on Velocity, whose partnership includes former Fox Interactive chief Ross Levinsohn and former AOL CEO Jonathan Miller.

“We met with a lot of VCs, but most of them are bankers,” Spivack explains. “We wanted people who also had experience running and building and scaling services companies, which is what we got with Velocity.”

It’s also worth noting that Spivak and I spent some time discussing my story on Velocity, and also some disparaging comments he had made about it over at VentureBeat.

“I wasn’t aware of any of the stuff that had gone on [before ComVentures became Velocity], but that wouldn’t have been a big factor for me,” he says. “I don’t think there’s a single fund out there that doesn’t have some dirty laundry, but that’s water under the bridge. I’m working with Ross and Baris [Karadogan], and they’ve been terrific… It’s a different set of people and I think they deserve a chance.”

For the record: I agree that Velocity deserves a chance, and I’m certainly not standing in its way (not that I even could). And I think it’s making some smart deals, including this one. But you also don’t dismiss history because it’s in the past, and reporters don’t stop ferreting out the truth just because it might bruise some egos…