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A well-known venture capital firm announced yesterday that it will invest $13 million into thefacebook.com, the online college directory which was started at Harvard under two years ago.
Accel Partners, based in Silicon Valley, announced that it would invest in the 15-month old company, which currently has nearly three million registered users at over 800 colleges.
Founder and CEO of thefacebook.com Mark E. Zuckerberg ’06-’07 said that the primary reason behind securing the capital was to gain greater flexibility in how the site displays advertisements, which will help him and his employees to expand features on the site.
“The point of this whole investment is that we are going to try and move away from the current way we do advertising,” he said. “I don’t want anything flashing or colorful that disrupts the flow of the site. If people want to see information about different products or events, that should be their prerogative.”
Currently thefacebook.com generates all of its revenue from advertising, and according to Zuckerberg it has been profitable since it was founded.
Jim Breyer, a managing partner at Accel, will now assume a seat on thefacebook.com’s board of directors.
Breyer wrote in an e-mail that it was Zuckerberg and his fellow workers that made the investment attractive.
“It starts with the entrepreneur: Mark Zuckerberg and the team have deep passion to build a compelling experience for college students. I believe that Mark and the team can continue to create a long-term compelling set of products that will deeply integrate with the college experience,” Breyer wrote.
Zuckerberg said that he doesn’t see Accel’s investment as significantly altering the day-to-day operations of the site.
“I just see this as a way to buy us some time and some resources,” he said, adding that previously thefacebook.com had operated with “hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
While Zuckerberg said that he has several other “cool” additions in the works, he said that the long term plans for thefacebook.com are still unclear.
“Companies don’t really go public until they have significant revenue, and at this point we don’t,” he said. “I don’t think it is something we are talking about for now, but it would be sweet.”
Breyer added that he simply hopes to see thefacebook.com continue to grow and thrive.
“Over the next several years, we hope to help Mark, Sean [Parker], and the team build a major stand-alone business that will emerge as not only a leader on the internet but also, a truly terrific place to work,” Breyer wrote.
Just hours after the investment was announced yesterday, Zuckerberg said that he was planning a “very big change to the site,” which should expand the site’s usefulness for alumni. He said that he hoped to implement the change by this morning.
Zuckerberg said that the new feature will allow alumni to join a geographical community in addition to registering with their alma mater’s section on the online directory.
“It’s going to make it so that alums can specify a city that they are going to be in, and if they want they can make their profile visible to people in that city and then they can search for people in that city,” Zuckerberg said.
According to Zuckerberg, the primary motivation behind the new feature was to make thefacebook.com more relevant to people after they graduate from college.
“There is no reason why this use doesn’t extend to people after college,” he said. “Peoples’ lives are different but there is still a basic informational need.”
—Staff writer Evan M. Vittor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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