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Time Warner and Others Invest $25 Million in Meebo; Korea, Japan Expansion Plans

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As we reported first earlier today, social IM firm Meebo has closed its third round of funding, and it came in at a big amount: $25 million. The lead investor was Jafco Ventures, the U.S. arm of Japanese venture/PE firm Jafco, with participation from Time Warner (NYSE: TWX) Investments, KTB Ventures (based on Korea), and existing investors Sequoia Capital and Draper Fisher Jurvetson. Founded in September 2005 and based in Mountain View, CA, Meebo has an online IM platform which cuts across multiple IM clients such as AIM, MSN Messenger, Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) Messenger, and Google (NSDQ: GOOG) Talk. It had previously raised $12.5 million in two rounds…this current round values the company, at least on paper, at around $200 million.

With this investment, the company will use Jafco and KTB’s help to expand its services in Japan and Korea respectively. I spoke to Seth Sternberg, the CEO of Meebo, earlier today about the investment, and he emphasized that the round was more built around strategic expansion than just taking the money available. Hence the Japan and Korea factor. Then, with Time Warner’s venture arm, this gives the company leverage with a huge content portfolio and distribution within the TWX brands, including AOL (NYSE: AOL). Meebo, while it in some senses competes with AOL’s AIM, had an official deal with AOL prior to this investment.

Seth told me the startegy of the company is to be knows as “the people who power live communication on the Web”. With its Meebo Rooms startegy, it has moved beyond IM on to distributing its chat/IM function to others sites and blogs, enabling social media tools on its partner sites.

The company has recently hired Carter Brokaw, a former CNET and Warner Music executive, as its Chief Revenue Officer, and has entered into marketing partnerships with companies such as VideoEgg, CBS (NYSE: CBS), PUMA, and all four major record labels. It will start ramping up its ad and marketing deals during this year. The challenge will be around building business and selling advertising in the unpredictable social IM and chat environments, which haven’t been monetized heavily by the three main players previously, for that very reason. Hence the company’s focus on building those branded environments and third-party services, though it remains to be seen if it will scale. For mor einsight into the company’s revenue strategy, read our previous interview with one of the co-founders here.