Keen.com reels in funding from tech firms

The online advice site receives some $60 million in first-round funding from investors including Integral Capital Partners, Microsoft and eBay.

Karl Jacob Online advice site Keen.com announced today that it has received some $60 million in first-round funding from investors including Integral Capital Partners, Microsoft and eBay.

Integral led the investment round and was joined by Benchmark Capital, which has incubated Keen.com since before its November launch. Inktomi, Attractor Investment Management, Amerindo Investment Advisors and Paul Allen's Vulcan Ventures also invested in the company. Keen.com chief executive Karl Jacob declined to specify the amounts.

Jacob said the investments from eBay, Microsoft and Inktomi could lead to strategic partnerships with those companies. The substance of some of those partnerships could be announced by the end of the first quarter, he said.

"Right now, it's a financial investment," Jacob said. But he added that the companies that have invested in Keen.com "see the same vision we do. They're excited about both the financial and strategic opportunities."

Keen.com pairs consumers looking for advice with experts. Although buyers request the advice over the Internet, the company's technology connects them to advisers over the phone.

Keen.com is one of a number of new firms that sells expert advice and services over the Internet. The company is competing against such firms as Xpertsite.com and CMGI @Ventures-backed Exp.com.

Buyers pay Keen.com for each phone call they make at rates starting at 5 cents per minute. But they can offset charges from the company by selling their own expertise through the service. Keen.com shares its revenues with service sellers on calls with rates higher than 5 cents a minute.

Some 8,000 members have signed up for Keen.com's service, according to Jacob, who added that the site's membership is growing rapidly.

Jacob, a former Microsoft executive, founded Keen.com late last year with Scott Faber and Sean Van der Linden, who invented the concept on which Keen.com is based. At the time, Jacob was working as an entrepreneur-in-residence at Benchmark. Benchmark provided Keen.com's initial funding and has housed the company in its Menlo Park, Calif., offices since its founding.

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