‘Interactive Playground’ Gets $50 Million Investment

Children-oriented Web site MaMaMedia, Inc. announced today that it has raised $50 million (US$) in its most recent round of equity funding.

The company said that the investment was $30 million more than it had intended to raise, but that “enthusiastic response from prominent venture capital and investment management organizations, corporations and individuals” boosted the figure much higher. J.H. Whitney & Co. led the investment. Intel and BancBoston Robertson Stephens also participated.

“We are delighted to announce the overwhelming support of the investment community for our interactive playground,” said MaMaMedia founder and CEO Idit Harel. “Our investors, strategic partners and over 650,000 registered members recognize the need for a safe haven on the Internet that parents can trust and where children can learn as they play.”

MaMaMedia said that it will use the capital infusion to enhance its content and delivery, build infrastructure and expand its marketing and membership programs. It also intends to expand its strategic alliances. The privately held company has established alliances with Intel, General Mills and Scholastic, as well as deals with AOL, Netscape and Road Runner.

“Clickerati” are Internet’s Future

Referring to today’s kids as the “clickerati,” Harel and MaMaMedia said that children should have the opportunity to use the Internet as a fundamental tool for development. The company expounds three basic principles for 21st Century online learning: eXploration; eXpression; and eXchange.

MaMamedia’s Web site is built upon those principles, the company says, giving children under 12 a variety of tools to create and discover in the process. Founded in 1995 by Harel — one of the first graduates of the renowned MIT Media Lab — MaMamedia has grown from 10,000 registered users in late 1997 to nearly 650,000 today.

Election 2000 Impact

Today’s announcement is clearly aimed at laying the groundwork for attracting some of the predicted seven million U.S. children under 12 who are expected to be online regularly by 2002. With the Clinton administration talking about wiring all U.S. schools for the Internet and the 2000 presidential candidates at least paying the notion lip service, the figure could well increase.

Other Deals

MaMaMedia recently signed a deal with General Mills that will put it on 20 million fruit snack bar packages in exchange for the cereal company sponsoring three new activities on the Web site. In August, the company signed a three-year anchor tenant deal with AOL for its Kids Only Channel, a deal that will put them on the portal’s U.K. and Australian Web sites as well.

The company was recently awarded the Computerworld Smithsonian Award for its use of information technology in the Education and Academia category.

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