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Enterprise network gains funding

A professional networking company raises more than $10 million in venture capital, while the National Science Foundation planned to grant it $100,000 to study enterprise applications of social networks.

A professional networking company raised more than $10 million in venture capital, while the National Science Foundation planned to grant it $100,000 to study enterprise applications of social networks, the company said Wednesday.

Spoke Software, based in Palo Alto, Calif., said it had been offered, and intended to accept, a venture capital round worth more than $10 million. Spoke's three enterprise-focused applications help customers share their contacts at companies from which they hope to land contracts.

Social networking companies like Friendster have attracted millions of their own in venture capital in recent weeks. Those companies let customers post personal profiles, contact and introduce one another for dating, and other social activities.

Another crop of start-ups, however, is focusing on potential business applications of the personal networking idea. These include Ryze, LinkedIn and Spoke.

Spoke maintains its own network for individual professionals, but its main business is selling dedicated applications that a company's employees can use to pool their contacts and connections.

The idea of applying personal networks to customer relationship management and other enterprise applications also has attracted the interest of the National Science Foundation, which Spoke said had notified it of an impending research grant of $100,000.

The expected $10 million venture round follows two previous rounds worth $9.2 million combined for the start-up.

Spoke said it had no significant plans for expansion.

"This gives Spoke two years of additional cash on hand," Spoke Vice President Chris Roon said. "This is staying power in order to help us pick our customers and markets strategically and carefully."

Spoke's nine pilot customers include Cap Gemini and AT Kearney.

For the pilot phase, licenses cost $75,000. The company also earns a half percent of related revenue, adding much more to the possible revenue.