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What’s Old is New Again

Elderly business models are reconsidered – and other alarm:clock news from the land of private venture funding.

It’s well established that Web business models have a way of flaming out spectacularly, but where do these models go when they die? Most remain on the garbage heap of silly ideas – and rightly so – but some quietly re-emerge with better approaches and implementations. For example, Webvan failed miserably with its online grocery concept, but now FreshDirect has created a consistently growing online grocery business in greater New York City.

Another area undergoing a renewal of interest is the “verticalization” of search and locally targeted online ad models. The promise of localized advertising – primarily looking for ways to make the yellow pages searchable – was one of the hottest areas of interest when Web business models first came into existence. Now, new ventures such as Encino, CA-based ReachLocal may finally have a better idea of how to make this business work.

ReachLocal partners with local search engine optimization (SEO) companies to get small businesses such as dentists or car dealers as clients. The company then buys keyword-based online ads for these clients on Yahoo, Google, Yellowpages.com, and other networks. ReachLocal should benefit from the fact that big search players like Yahoo, which introduced its Yahoo Local Search service last August, are also circling back to this market.

Blue Security, an anti-spam and anti-spyware security company, is also going after a market that’s as old as the Web. The Menlo Park, CA-based company is pre-launch and hasn’t revealed much about its plans, but claims its anti-spam/anti-spyware products will be “using a revolutionary approach” called the Do Not Disturb Registry.

One thing seems clear: Blue Security will not be launching a souped-up anti-spam/spyware filter. On the company blog, which hints at Blue Security’s plans, CEO Eran Reshef meditates on the fact that filters aren’t that useful anymore for stopping spam. The company just raised a $3 million seed-round financing from Benchmark Capital.

For employers that want to find top-notch talent, even if that talent isn’t looking for a job, Seattle, WA-based Jobster has a solution.  The site provides a recruiting tool for companies seeking to lure candidates that are not necessarily in the job market – they’re called “passive” job seekers. Jobster uses social networking techniques to get friends and colleagues to forward job listings to people who might be a good fit. The company charges $399 for each job posting and boasts Amazon.com, Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Pfizer, and SBC Communications as early customers,

Offering another spin on social networking, Mill Valley, CA-based Grouper has developed a downloadable application that allows secure P2P file-sharing limited to small, invite-only groups. Users can share [AM1]music files, photos, and digital movies, as well as download Word documents and spreadsheets. The company launched with $1 million in angel seed funding and, in March 2005, it raised a $2.5 million round led by Duff, Ackerman & Goodrich.

We like the “invite only” approach because it makes Grouper less susceptible to the file-sharing legal woes that currently threaten to shutter fully-open P2P sites such as Grokster and StreamCast Networks.

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