Radar Networks raises additional $13 million in Series B round

Velocity Interactive Group, DFJ and Vulcan invest $13 million in Semantic Web startup Radar Networks, taking the company's total investment to $20 million.

Nova SpivackA rumoured additional investment in San Francisco-based Semantic Web startup, Radar Networks, has become clearer over the weekend.

Late last week, Dan Primack broke the story on PE Hub, reporting on a lunch he'd had with Ross Levinsohn and Roland Van der Meer of Velocity. VentureBeat's Chris Morrison added flesh to bones, reporting his own sources as suggesting a $15-20 million investment, and I in turn reported that here.

A conversation with Radar Networks' CEO, Nova Spivack, backed up by Radar's formal press release overnight, sheds further light on both the investment and its purpose.

The Series B round is for $13 million, with Velocity Interactive Group, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, and Vulcan all participating. This is a continuing interest in Radar Networks for Vulcan, which participated in the earlier Series A round along with Leap Frog. The Series A and B rounds, "combined with some venture debt", bring investment in Radar Networks to date to a grand total of $20 million. Ross Levinsohn of Velocity joins Radar Networks' Board, perhaps suggesting that Velocity is the lead partner in the settlement.

Twine UI

Spivack says that the additional injection of cash will be used to move Radar Networks' initial product, Twine, from its current beta status toward mainstream adoption. He suggests that the thousands of individuals already on Twine's waiting list will gradually be granted access from next month, and encouraged to drive viral growth by passing invitations to friends and colleagues. He believes that Twine will be open to the public by early Summer.

Nova is clear that this is to be a "big consumer play," and it will be fascinating to see the degree to which that public proposition is 'semantic' in nature... if at all. Semantic technologies lie at the heart of how Twine does what it does, and Nova would be the first to admit that. Do those same semantic technologies have any place in the way that Twine is described or marketed to a consumer audience? Played carefully, 'Semantic Web powered' might lend an already good product a certain cachet. My colleague Ian Davis, for one, has often remarked that the Semantic Web could 'just' make a product or function 'a little bit better', without you being quite sure how or why; results that are a little more relevant, connections that are a little stronger, etc.

Asked to comment directly on the valuation or degree of control passed to his latest investors, Nova - unsurprisingly - was unprepared to comment, other than to note that;

"it was a substantial increase in valuation for us."

Mills Davis, Managing Director of Project 10X and author of the Semantic Wave 2008 (the executive summary is available for download), commented;

"From a user perspective, semantic technologies are simply a great way to make our experience of the internet more useful, relevant, and enjoyable. However, under the hood what we'll be seeing is a new kind of engine and drive train - a semantic infrastructure.

The size of recent investment rounds make it clear that the infrastructure build-out stage for semantic technologies is now under-way. It means we'll hear a lot more about semantic platforms and data spaces this year. Both new investments and acquisitions will increase. Remember, if you don't have the infrastructure, you won't get to play in the applications and services round of market expansion."

Congratulations, then, to Radar on this latest round of funding. And, as Mills says, watch this space; the money has only just begun flowing in the direction of Semantic Web startups and there's plenty more waiting for - and deserving - that call.

Update: 01:08am PST, 25 February - Nova Spivack confirms Radar Networks' plans to roll out Twine in a post to his own blog.

Update: 07:40am PST, 25 February - Dan Farber has more over on News.com.

Thanks to Dan Farber, Editor in Chief of ZDNet parent CNET News, for the image used to illustrate this piece.

I conducted a podcast interview with Nova Spivack back in March of 2007, whilst Radar Networks was still deep in stealth mode, and no one had heard of Twine. Almost exactly a year later, the insights and thinking illustrated there remain both relevant and interesting.