VC Media Investments Surge, Led by Globalization of Group Buying

Stare hard enough at a bunch of database queries, and eventually a trend will emerge.

That, at least, was the finding from today’s dive into the murky depths of the Thomson Reuters private equity funding database. After ten minutes in a Zen-like trance before the early stage investments by industry category, a realization struck: Early stage investment in media and technology companies is on a tear. It’s surged over year-ago levels, with VCs investing $585 million in 103 such deals in the first five months of the year – more than double the amount invested in the same period last year. It’s also going into deals that, for the most part, sound a lot like the ones venture capitalists backed last year, just in more exotic places.

What are they investing in? A lot of stuff that sounds sort of like Groupon, but is based somewhere else. Also, they’re backing several disruptive music plays, with a focus on cloud storage for song collections.

Group deal sites got the most money. For instance, the largest funding round went to Beijing Lashou Network Technology, which looks to be a Chinese version of Groupon, offering discount deals online only if the minimum number of coupons are sold. The company raised $110 million in April, after raising $50 million in December, according to Thomson Reuters. Backers include GSR Ventures, Milestone Capital Management, Norwest Venture Partners, Taishan Invest and Tenaya Capital.

Dealfind, a Toronto-based group buying site, raised $31 million in a May round backed by Georgian Partners, Insight Venture Partners and Ontario Venture Capital Fund. Coupang, a Korea-based provider of online daily deals, raised $18 million in March from Altos Ventures and Maverick Capital. And Groupalia, a Barcelona-based group purchasing site, raised $16 million in April, bringing total funding for the past year to $26 million. Backers include Insight Venture Partners, Index Ventures, General Atlantic, Caixa Capital, and Nauta Capital.

As for music, the biggest early stage round by far went to Beyond Oblivion, provider of a digital music service that allows music filed to be downloaded and played from a cloud-based library and shared between licensed devices. The company raised $77 million in March, after closing a $10 million seed round a year earlier. Backers include Allen & Co., Wellcome Trust, News Corp., and Intertrust Technologies.

Other music startups raised significant rounds as well. Rdio, a San Francisco-based provider of streaming music that allows people to share online music collections, raised $17.5 million in February from backers including Atomic Ventures and Mangrove Capital Partners. Simfy, a Berlin-based online music service, raised $14 million in May from backers including DuMont Venture Holding, Earlybird Venture Capital and NRW Bank.