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Online dolls get $6 million to spend

Site that lets kids play with virtual dolls of celebs like Britney Spears, Brad Pitt attracts VC firm. Images: Dressing up the stars

A doll dress-up site has snagged $6 million in funding from top-shelf VC firm Sequoia Capital, in another sign that Net media investments are thriving. Stardolls.com

Stardoll.com, a Stockholm, Sweden-based children's site, has raised a Series B round of funding from Google backer Sequoia and its original investor, Index Ventures, after little more than two years of operation and relative obscurity, save for its thriving membership of girls. The company also announced that media and entertainment lawyer Fred Davis, who represents singers like Britney Spears, has joined its board of directors.

The prominent deal reflects a willingness among VCs to bet more on Internet media after years of remaining cautious. Investors seem especially hot on next-generation communities like Facebook and Internet services that they hope can attract massive audiences like a MySpace but with the potential payoff of a Google. In recent weeks, for example, Kleiner Perkins, another early Google backer, invested $5 million in One True Media, an upstart providing online editing tools for video clips.

Stardoll, formerly known as Paperdoll Heaven, is a popular site for girls between the ages of 7 and 17 from more than 200 countries. As free members, girls can change the clothing, make-up and hairstyles of more than 330 celebrity "dolls," such as Christina Aguilera, Spears, Demi Moore or Brad Pitt. And for about $3 a month, paying members get access to "Superstar" dolls or special collections of avatars and clothing.

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Video: Starstruck in paper-doll heaven
Join CNET News.com's Neha Tiwari as she plays dress-up with some of Tinseltown's finest on Stardoll.com.

In the coming months, Stardoll will also let members dress up avatars of their own design or of themselves, in a new service called Me Doll. So far, the site has attracted roughly 900,000 members, and according to the company, between 7,000 and 10,000 new members sign up weekly.

"We were impressed with the exponential growth of Stardoll and the sheer number of young people moving online to enjoy this pastime," Mark Kvamme of Sequoia Capital said in a statement.

Still, the privately held company has not said whether it is profitable from subscription and advertising fees. With the funding, it plans to develop added content and functionality for the site, as well as add developers to its staff of 18 people.

"The company will strive towards more brand advertising and integrated advertising" with media partners, according to Stardoll CEO Mattias Miksche.