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Meebo Raises $25 Million

NEW YORK, April 30 (Reuters) – Meebo, a popular Web-based service where users can simultaneously sign in to multiple instant messaging accounts, has raised $25 million in new funds from various investors, including Time Warner Inc (TWX.N: Quote, Profile, Research).

This third round of financing boosts Meebo's kitty to $37.5 million, and CEO and co-founder Seth Sternberg said he plans to use some of it to expand in Asia, where IM is very popular.

Lead investor Jafco Ventures is a Japan-focused venture capital firm, while co-investor KTB Ventures is the U.S. operation of KTBnetwork, Korea's largest private equity firm.

Sternberg, 29, said he also plans to use the money to “turn Meebo into a business,” building a sustainable revenue model and arranging advertising partnerships for instant messaging.

“The reality for a consumer internet start-up is that it's very hard to make meaningful revenue until you have scale,” Sternberg said.

With its Web site and the chat rooms Meebo places on other sites together seeing 30 million visitors a month — up about five times from a year ago — Sternberg said his focus was now on making money off these users.

The company recently hired Carter Brokaw, a former CNET Networks Inc (CNET.O: Quote, Profile, Research) executive, as its chief revenue officer.

Meebo supports IM programs such as Yahoo Inc's (YHOO.O: Quote, Profile, Research) Yahoo Messenger, Time Warner's AOL Instant Messenger, ICQ and Google Inc's (GOOG.O: Quote, Profile, Research) Google Talk. Web-based Meebo has taken off by letting people chat without having to install software. 

This year, Meebo plans to test more 'social' advertisements across its user base, targeting people who share photos, media and experiences on social networks and IM programs.

“Done right, this is an innovative and powerful solution for marketers,” said Rachel Lam, senior vice president, Time Warner Investments, which invests in areas that tie in with the entertainment company's overall operations.

Sternberg hopes to build Meebo chat rooms into the sites of popular Time Warner properties such as People magazine., a Time Warner-owned celebrity news and gossip site, will soon launch Meebo rooms where people can chat about TMZ content without leaving the site, Sternberg said.

Although Sternberg refused to disclose Meebo's revenue or valuation, recently estimated the Mountain View, California-based firm was worth $220 million.

The start-up has raised previous financing from Draper Fisher Jurvetson and Sequoia Capital, two of Silicon Valley's best-known venture capital firms.

By Anupreeta Das (Editing by Braden Reddall)