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Amid Mixed Picture For VC Investments, Silk Gets More Seed Funding

By   /  August 1, 2012  /  No Comments

Just as reports are coming in that venture-backed companies based in Europe recently have raised more money but in a fewer number of deals, word comes from the team at Amsterdam-based Silk that its latest seed round has brought in an additional $1.6 million.

According to new analysis from Dow Jones VentureSource, VC-backed companies based in Europe raised EUR 1.3 billion through 273 venture capital deals during the second quarter of 2012. That marked a 14 percent increase in capital raised but a 20 percent decline in deals from the same period last year, it said. Additionally, second-round deals accounted for 19 percent of deal flow and 18 percent of capital invested, down from 25 percent and 28 percent, respectively, in the year-ago period, it said.

Silk in May 2011 completed a $475,000 funding round led by Atomico, the venture capital firm headed up by Skype co-founder Niklas Zennström.

A bright spot, according to Dow Jones Venture Source, was that interest in online start-ups remained strong, even as energy utilities, and health care backed down. Silk helps users apply semantics to create more powerful web sites.

The latest seed round for Silk saw NEA come into the picture, with Atomico continuing as co-investor. NEA has committed capital over the years to the tune of $11 billion and has funded more than 650 companies in the information technology, as well as energy technology and healthcare sectors, according to its web site. It also ranks among the top firms in portfolio IPOs each year. Other investments for the company have included salesforce, Macromedia, Diapers.com and Groupon.

Silk launched in open beta this past May (see story here). Sander Koppelaar, head of operations, says the company has made some serious progress with the stability of the platform since then, having seen upon the launch of the beta a significant increase in the number of users that created a big demand on its server infrastructure. “We’ve been working hard on that and quite successfully,” he says, but some money from the new seed round will go to continuing to scale up the infrastructure.

“The fact that there are more Silk sites requires more from the infrastructure in two ways,” he says. “The first is in performance, the speed of the product as you work with it, and secondly it is in the way of redundancy.”

Another thing the company wants to continue refining is making Silk work very well for the kind of information that both needs to be shard in near-real-time and also needs to remain available and searchable at a later date, and easily manipulated by the user to-boot. “For example, people could simply store the places they went to in a certain city and share that while they are traveling there, but it’s also interesting for them to look back — if someone else is going to that same city they might want to retrieve what that French restaurant was. Because Silk is structured those kinds of questions are fairly easy to answer,” he says.

“Or, people could track their children’s height as they grow – they could report that in Twitter but because they do it in Silk they can also plot a chart for it …. And, you don’t lose it like a tweet.” Nor, as in Evernote, is there a lack of adding structure to the data, so that events could be plotted on a map or as a chart, he says.

NEA will get use out of the investment it’s making. Koppelaar says it will publish its investment portfolio as a Silk web site. “We’re trying to make it very useful but generic enough to support all sorts of use cases, like Excel does,” he says. “You could use Excel to make a budget for your company or to track groceries. We see a very similar thing with Silk.”

About the author

Jennifer Zaino is a New York-based freelance writer specializing in business and technology journalism. She has been an executive editor at leading technology publications, including InformationWeek, where she spearheaded an award-winning news section, and Network Computing, where she helped develop online content strategies including review exclusives and analyst reports. Her freelance credentials include being a regular contributor of original content to The Semantic Web Blog; acting as a contributing writer to RFID Journal; and serving as executive editor at the Smart Architect Smart Enterprise Exchange group. Her work also has appeared in publications and on web sites including EdTech (K-12 and Higher Ed), Ingram Micro Channel Advisor, The CMO Site, and Federal Computer Week.

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