Widget makers woo big money, VCs

Hummer Winblad Venture Partners' Will Price leaves his post as general partner to join Widgetbox as its chief executive officer.

Widget makers aren't just drawing big money from investors, now they're luring the venture capitalists themselves.

On Thursday, Hummer Winblad Venture Partners' Will Price left his post as general partner to join Widgetbox as its chief executive officer. Widgetbox operates a large community of widgets--roughly 41,000 pieces of software in the form of games or gadgets--which it distributes to sites and social networks like MySpace.com or Facebook. The company has raised $14.5 million since it was founded in April 2006, from investors including Sequoia Capital, NCD Investors, and Hummer Winblad.

Price, who worked on early financing of Widgetbox, said he left Hummer Winblad for two reasons. One was his desire to once again run a start-up; the other was the promise he sees in the widget market.

"We're seeing a huge sea change going on in the Web--the model used to be about driving traffic to one domain. Now we're talking about a model of syndication of the Web or deconstruction of the Web," Price said in an interview with CNET News.com. "This is a company at the nexus of those things."

The news comes on the heels of big investments in widget rivals. ShareThis, maker of a widget to share content with friends, raised $15 million on Thursday from Draper Fisher Jurvetson and others. Earlier this year, widget ad provider Gigya said it drew $9.5 million from Benchmark Capital, Mayfield Fund and others.

Price estimates that the widget market is worth between $20 million and $30 million annually, and most of that money is put into the services to build them. As for advertising on widgets, sales are still just a drop in the bucket (or rather, dew in the bucket) compared with total online advertising sales. That's a wide gap between the amount of exposure people have to widgets on Facebook or even publisher sites like The New York Times. ComScore estimated that roughly 650 million came in contact with a widget in December.

"Anyone who can close that differential will see a lot of money," he said.

Widgetbox is developing an advertising platform to make money from its collection of widgets, according to Price.

Price wrote about his move on Techcrunch.

 

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