Knight Ridder, Wash. Post Invest in Tribe.net

By: Carl Sullivan

Knight Ridder of San Jose, Calif., and The Washington Post Co. contributed to a $6.3 million venture financing round for dot-com startup Tribe Networks of San Francisco. Tribe offers what it calls person-to-person online classifieds at Tribe.net.

Similar to the popular Friendster.com service, Tribe.net is a social networking site where like-minded folks can meet each other and form offline communities for everything from college alumni groups to local wine lovers. And, of interest to newspaper publishers, Tribe users can post personal classified ads to their communities — for jobs, cars, furniture, or just about anything you can think of.

“We think there’s a tremendous opportunity here to build a business around the intersection of communities of interest, self-publishing, and person-to-person listings,” said Hilary A Schneider, president and CEO of Knight Ridder Digital. She added that the combination of Tribe’s social networking tools and Knight Ridder’s strong local presence should be a win for both companies. One of Tribe’s stated goals is to be “the dominant person-to-person online classifieds service in major urban markets by leveraging the power of trusted networks.”

After three months of beta testing, Tribe.net already has 48,000 registered users and 6,900 “tribes.”

“The goal for Tribe is to become a sustainable, profitable, independent company in this new market space — which I call Classifieds 2.0,” said Tribe CEO Mark Pincus in a statement. Pincus previously founded SupportSoft, which provides customer-support automation software for businesses, including banks, retailers, telecommunications companies and computer manufacturers.

The venture round was led by Mayfield of Menlo Park, Calif. “We were impressed with [Tribe’s] newspaper partnerships and the team’s strategy and execution on multiple fronts,” said Mayfield partner Allen Morgan in a statement.

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