Highland Capital Partners Leads $12 Million Funding Round for CafeMom

3/20/08

So, yes, I have my Facebook page, my Friendster page, Myspace, LinkedIn, and possibly a couple of others I signed up for and forgot about. One site I’m not on is CafeMom, and the folks there are just fine with that.

The social networking site for mothers just received $12 million in funding, on top of $5 million last August. The lead investors were Highland Capital Partners of Lexington, MA, and Draper Fisher Jurvetson of California. CafeMom says it’s the largest and fastest growing site for moms, which gives advertisers a nicely targeted demographic that I would only muck up.

“Advertisers know that moms are huge influencers of purchase decisions,” says Gaurav Tewari, a senior associate at Highland and a non-voting observer on CafeMom’s board. “They have a desire to really get in front of moms.” Indeed, he says, the website has a number of marquee advertisers, including P&G, Walmart, Playskool, Disney, HP, Kraft, General Mills, Nestle, Unilever, JCPenney, Johnson & Johnson, and Best Buy.

Launched in 2006, CafeMom is the brainchild of CMI Marketing, an affinity marketing firm aimed at mothers of children under 18 that Highland has supported since its inception in 1999. CMI was founded by Michael Sanchez, a former professional soccer player and high school math teacher, and Andrew Shue, the actor best known for his stint as Billy Campbell on “Melrose Place.” Before the two rounds for CafeMom, CMI had garnered more than $50 million in financing, and Tewari says internally Highland is referring to this latest round as a Series D. With the rise of social networking, most of the CMI’s resources are now being focused on CafeMom.

The new round of funding will be used to expand CafeMom’s sales and marketing efforts. The site gets visits from 6 million moms every month, who show up to talk about pregnancy, financial issues, and healthcare, and to share pictures of their offspring. But with 40 million mothers in the U.S., Tewari says there’s room to grow.

There’s also room to expand internationally, both in Web-enabled English-speaking markets in Australia and Western Europe and in areas where people are just starting to get onto the internet, such as India and China. Tewari expects a roll-out of some overseas version of the site in the next 12 to 24 months.

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