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Hobby site first investment for eCompanies

The venture capital firm started by EarthLink founder Sky Dayton and former Walt Disney Internet executive Jake Winebaum will take a minority stake in e-commerce and content site eHobbies.

Venture capital firm eCompanies, started by EarthLink founder Sky Dayton and former Walt Disney Internet executive Jake Winebaum, will take a minority stake in e-commerce and content site eHobbies, marking the first in a coming series of investments.

With the investment, Dayton and venture partner Steve Ledger will become directors on the board of eHobbies, a Santa Monica, California-based destination site for hobbyists. The remaining members of the board have not been announced, an eHobbies spokeswoman said.

"Hobbyists are fanatical about their given interest and spend seven hours a week pursuing their craft," Dayton said. "It is an ideal category to build community."

Dayton and Winebaum announced the creation of eCompanies in June. Similar to venture firm CMGI, eCompanies plans to help launch or invest in start-up Web companies. The goal is to create a network of affiliated companies that can use each other's resources or distribution.

The formation of eCompanies coincided with Winebaum's departure from his post as head of Buena Vista Internet Group, the Disney division responsible for spearheading the entertainment giant's Go.com Web portal.

Under Winebaum, Disney's Web ventures, including the launch of the Go Network, had mixed results, analysts have said. The unit underwent a complicated deal to acquire a 43 percent stake in Web portal Infoseek.

Winebaum joins a list of entertainment executives, such as Barry Diller, Michael Ovitz, and Frank Biondi Jr., who have taken a strong interest in Internet ventures.

Today's announcement comes two days after eCompanies said it raised $130 million for its fund in 60 days. Investors include Disney, EarthLink, Goldman Sachs, and Sprint.