Summary:

WeShop is the latest social shopper to hit the scene, having just closed a $4.25 million first round, paidContent has learned. But the start…

Antony Lee, Founder/CEO, WeShop

WeShop is the latest social shopper to hit the scene, having just closed a $4.25 million first round, paidContent has learned. But the startup has an important attribute that ties in nicely to the current mania about behavioral targeting and user data. The New York company, currently in beta, is built around the idea of what founder and CEO Antony Lee says is a “virtual consumer network, anonymously pooling their shopping information, and then attracting great offers on all the things they want to buy from groceries, to clothes, to airline tickets.” In other words, the company feels it’s more of a shopping co-op as opposed to a “shopping recommender.” It’s too soon to say whether that pitch will work on consumers, but it was enough to attract some notable investors, including Jon Miller, chairman and CEO of News Corp.’s Digital Media Group. The company is expected to make the announcement tomorrow.

Other participants in the round included Frank Kenny of Irish venture firm Delta Partners along with Martin White and Carlos Sala, respectively the founder/former CEO and CFO of Abacus Direct, which was sold to DoubleClick a decade ago.

While e-commerce is the main part of the show at WeShop, advertising is also part of the mix. The WeShop platform allows merchants and brands to target shoppers on a cost-per-action basis — and yes, WeShop emphasizes that the offers will be all full-permission and opt-in, which the company says is more efficient and less risky than traditional search engine marketing.

The site is operating in “invitation-only mode” right now, but it claims to have more than 100,000 members since starting up last year. And in terms its guarantee about user control over the data that’s used for targeting, all consumer info has to be submitted voluntarily as opposed to collected by tracking users online search activity. It is also concentrating on building up “thousands” of social shopping networks on its site over the next few months. Some current examples of the networks up and running include a network for people interested in sustainable living, another just for Lego enthusiasts, and another for online gamers.

By David Kaplan

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