Can the web make art better? Artfinder thinks so.

All sorts of media have been disrupted by the online world: music, video, news, books and more. But after years of digital revolution, the rarified world of visual art remains largely untouched. Enter one British startup that thinks it can change all that.

Everybody Loves Geo: Gowalla Adds $8.4M

Gowalla, maker of a 10-week-old geo-location app with some 50,000 users, said today it’s raised $8.4 million in a second round of funding. The money will be used “to strengthen growth efforts and further enhance Gowalla’s development capability,” the Austin, Texas-based startup said in a release.

Reid Hoffman on Taking Web 2.0 on the Go

reid_hoffmanReid Hoffman, who joined Greylock as an investment partner for its latest fund announced today, chatted briefly with me on trends in social media as the web goes mobile. For him, the mobile web is tied to the Internet as viewed on the PC, but certain applications will be more appropriate for wireless devices.
“The insight on web 2.0 is the web isn’t this strange place but is actually part of how we navigate our actual life, so with the web delivered to a mobile device, one of these things that will happen is that the same principle will now also be true for real-time applications and apps where people can do stuff from their phone,” Hoffman said. Read More about Reid Hoffman on Taking Web 2.0 on the Go

Content Producer The Box Raises “Millions” From Greylock

theboxThe Box, an Israeli content production company, today announced that it has raised “several million dollars” from Greylock Partners. The Box specializes in creating entertainment and advertising that runs across multiple platforms including TV, broadband and mobile. It plans to use the funding, Greylock’s first content investment, to expand internationally, including hiring new staff, opening up a new office in Los Angeles, and ramping up activity in Paris and London.

The Box has created a number of advertainment campaigns for clients such as Nike (s NKE), Disney (s DIS), and Coca-Cola (s KO), as well as original programming like the satirical web series Celebz, an animated program that airs on Israeli TV and allows viewers to create some of the show’s content via the company’s web site.

M&A: Riverbed Buys Mazu for $25 Million

[qi:101] Riverbed Technology (s RVBD), one of the big players in wide area network optimization, today acquired network management software maker Mazu Networks for about $25 million in cash with some incentives based on sales performance. For Riverbed, this is a bargain-basement way of adding features that would help its customers monitor video and VoIP traffic on their enterprise networks. Mazu makes network behavior analysis software. The deal is not such a good one for the VCs, who pumped more than $40 million into the company. Investors include Greylock, Benchmark Capital, Matrix Partners and Starvest. As a footnote, if the Mazu team manages to get $35 million in sales, it gets another $22 million in cash. According to UBS, Mazu had about $18 million in bookings over past 12 months.

Cuil Finally Gets Going

These days, anyone starting a search-related effort almost certainly has to deal with the G-Factor. Are they trying to take on Google? How are they going to beat that awesome search-and-advertising money machine from Mountain View, Calif.? It is hardly a surprise that Anna Patterson, president and co-founder of Menlo Park, Calif.-based Cuil (pronounced cool), has been fielding those questions from the media, as the company gets ready to launch on Monday, July 28.

The company, which has raised about $33 million in two rounds of founding from Madrone Capital Partners, Tugboat Ventures and Greylock Partners, has been the subject of much speculation in Silicon Valley, mostly because of founders’ (Patterson, Tom Costello and Russell Power) pedigrees — not to mention some well-known search luminaries who have joined the company.

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Bezos Gets His Game On

With an undisclosed investment in Social Gaming Network by his personal fund, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos is proving Om right. Back in May, when Bezos invested in Kongregate, another casual gaming site, Om thought it might be the first of many. May is also when SGN raised a $15 million round from Greylock Partners and the Founders Fund.

SGN makes games for social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace, and has titles that include WarBook and Superlatives. Now that casual gaming has exploded onto the web, the business case isn’t too far-fetched. Revenue comes from ads, selling virtual goods, subscriptions or some mix of those options, with advertising being most prevalent but least effective for casual games.

Gaming has made money, but monetizing social networks is still a struggle, which makes SGN worth watching. Succeeding with advertising depends on getting large numbers of users, which Social Gaming Network — with its 1.1 million daily users — has. It’s facing a Facebook crackdown on spammy applications, which could hinder growth on that site, but is still growing on MySpace and Hi5, which have recently opened up their sites to outside apps. In order to really make money, it needs to push the sale of virtual goods. That might make it the most likely Bezos investment to succeed.

Why Social Gaming Network Got $15M in Funding

What began last March with Warbook, a no-frills Facebook fantasy strategy game first conceived by an intern, has lead to today’s announcement: Social Gaming Network, a startup still based in a Palo Alto garage, is getting $15 million in Series A funding from a VC team comprised of Greylock Partners, Founders Fund, Columbia Partners Capital and Novak Biddle Venture Partners. Originally incubated at the Novak Biddle and Columbia-backed Freewebs, where Warbook was first developed during a hackathon session, SGN now boasts a small library of casual game titles which claim an aggregate of one million daily players and 50 million installs in Facebook.

This influx of cash comes at a moment of fierce consolidation and competition in the social gaming space, with SGN and rivals like Zynga and Rock You jostling for dominance. Last week I had a chance to chat with SGN CEO Shervin Pishevar, and got a glimpse at some of the company’s future battle plans.
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