Hyperlocal Site Wins $3M in Funding

Backfence.com, the area’s first big entry into hyperlocal journalism, has won a $3 million investment to help it expand into other Washington-area communities and at least two other U.S. metro areas. The funding comes from SAS Investors and Omidyar Network, two major tech innovation backers.

The site, which started by covering Reston and McLean, launched early this spring and coincidentally happens to be the same area covered by the Post’s first community blog launched in August. The Post obviously wasn’t going to allow someone else to steal their hyperlocal goodness.

(If you need a quick briefing on “hyperlocal”: Backfence “builds and operates community-focused Web sites for which members of the community create virtually all the content. The sites… [bring] together user-generated content tools such as blogs, wikis, photo galleries and events calendars, as well as do-it-yourself advertising tools. Revenue for the sites comes from the sale of display, classifieds and Yellow Pages advertising.”)

Backfence.com has since expanded into Bethesda as well, and it has plans to launch in seven more cities around the region in the coming months. The broader goal is to operate 10 community sites each in 16 metropolitan areas within three years, cofounder Mark Potts said.

“With Backfence, everyday people can report on what’s happening within their own communities and connect with others who care about the same issues,” said Omidyar Network VP Doug Solomon. “Backfence’s citizen-driven model brings people together in a way that’s meaningful and empowering to the participants and to the businesses that support them.”

Backfence also announced this week six additions to its advisory board. Full list and details after the jump.

In addition to announcing its Series A funding, Backfence named to its Advisory Board six executives with extensive media and business experience. They are:

* William Allman, General Manager and Chief Content/Creative Officer of ChoiceMedia Inc., and former Senior Vice President and General Manager of Interactive New Media for Discovery.com.

* Merrill Brown, Principal in MMB Media, a consulting and investment firm, and National Editorial Director of News 21, the content-development component of the news initiative launched by the Carnegie and Knight foundations. In addition, Brown was the founding Editor-in-Chief of MSNBC.com and a founder of Court TV.

* Michael Rogers, former Editor and General Manager of Newsweek.com and Vice President of Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive.

* Dr. Edward Bersoff, Chairman and founder of Greenwich Associates, and formerly Chairman, President and CEO of BTG Inc., a leading information technology firm serving government and commercial clients. BTG was publicly traded prior to its acquisition by Titan Corp. in 2001.

* Frank Bonsal Jr., a founding member and Director of Red Abbey Venture Partners and former founding partner of leading venture capital firm New Enterprise Associates. Bonsal is a former general partner at Alex. Brown & Sons Inc. and a longtime investor in healthcare, life science and technology companies.

* John Burton, General Partner of Updata, a leading national information technology merger and acquisition advisory firm and early-stage technology venture fund, and former CEO of Legent Corp., one of the largest software firms in the world prior to its acquisition by Computer Associates International Inc.