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Start-up Tellme grabs $47 million in financing

A Silicon Valley company working to make the Web accessible by phone collects a small fortune in second-round financing.

A Silicon Valley start-up working to make the Web accessible by phone has collected a small fortune in second-round financing.

Tellme Networks has secured $47 million from venture capital heavyweight Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, along with Benchmark Capital, the company said today. Tellme's first round of funding brought in an undisclosed sum from the Barksdale Group, headed by former Netscape Communications chief executive Jim Barksdale, as well as from former Microsoft executive Brad Silverberg. Those investors also participated in the second round.

Tellme is building an interactive media service that it says will combine the power of the Web and the convenience of the telephone. The service will allow consumers to speak simple voice commands into telephones to receive access to a broad range of media, commerce and communications services. The company said it expects to release its initial service offerings in the first half of 2000.

Tellme isn't without competition in the market for voice-activated Internet access. A potential rival is General Magic, whose MyTalk service lets users access email by phone.

General Magic, too, plans to allow users to access the Web by phone. Others with interests in this area include Microsoft, Lucent, AT&T and America Online.

In addition to investments by Microsoft and Netscape veterans, Tellme has tech talent from the two companies as well. Tellme was founded this year by Hadi Partovi, who oversaw much of the development of Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser, and Mike McCue, who was vice president of technology for Netscape.