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IQ News: Homesteaders Invited

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To TimeDance Party
By JANIS MARA--TimeDance, an online invitations and activity planning service, today announced that it has added a new partner, Homestead, a homepage-building site, to its dance card.
Celebrants, partiers and Netheads-about-town who create their own sites at Menlo Park, Calif.-based Homestead will now have the option of issuing customizable invitations to events such as parties and business meetings via TimeDance.
"When a user clicks on 'Invite my friends,' all the information they have entered about an event, time, date and so forth, pops up and they just add their friend's e-mail address and send it off," said Mark Lazar, CEO of Redwood City, Calif.-based TimeDance.
TimeDance defines itself as "more of an infrastructure company than a branded business-to-consumer company," according to Lazar. The company is focused on enabling other sites to provide e-mail invitations.
Lazar says TimeDance offers a unique targeting opportunity for marketers. For example, BabyCenter, iBaby and eToys are current advertisers on the site's baby shower area.
"Our traffic has doubled every month since December and we have spent a fraction of what Evite, our competition, has spent," said Stuart West, vice president of business development at TimeDance.
Josh Silverman, CEO of San Francisco-based Evite, countered, "TimeDance's traffic has doubled out of a tiny base. We have spent more on offline advertising because we're trying to build a brand. They're just a feature of other peoples' sites."
According to TimeDance's West, "We built our team and our technology with scalability as key. Our competition is well-meaning but not as experienced. Some of the feedback we've gotten is that Evite cannot handle the volume."
Silverman says that Evite "can handle tens of millions of users. We have not had problems with the site going down from traffic from our partners." According to Silverman, Evite's engineers include the former head of West Coast operations for Lycos and a database architect with 20 years of experience.
Evite, which launched in July 1999, five months before TimeDance's latest incarnation, is the more established company. Evite's partners include CitySearch, the GO network, EarthLink, Oxygen and Juno; TimeDance's partners include NBCi and Egreetings.
"In the invitation and event planning category, Mambo, Event411 and Evite to date are pretty well-entrenched," said analyst Anya Sacharow of New York-based Jupiter Communications. "But if a competitor is aggressive with marketing and developing its brand, and has a good solid brand, there's a chance to succeed. Time will tell."
In the meantime, TimeDance and its new partner seem pleased with the match.
Michael Geller, vice president of strategic partnerships for Homestead, said, "We offer a ton of elements--stock tickers, online stores, online radio--for users' sites. Partnering with TimeDance is an opportunity to wrap in a best of breed for invitations." n