Friendster Closes $20 Million Round; Focuses On Asia Now; New CEO

Friendster has closed its new round of funding, in progress for most of this year, and it is a big one: it has raised $20 million in a new round, and the pioneer is now shifting its focus, wisely, to where it is strongest: in Asia. The round was led by IDG Ventures, which has a lot of experience investing in Asian countries, and included previous investors Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Benchmark Capital.

Also, the company is appointing a new CEO, a position vacant for almost two years: Richard Kimber, previously the head of South Asian operations and business partnerships for Google (NSDQ: GOOG), will become its new CEO. The business head till now, former president Kent Lindstrom, has now become SVP of corporate development.

The money will be used for new offices and employees in Asia, among other plans. It intends to capitalize on its Asian lead in countries like Philippines and Singapore and is Southeast Asia’s top social networking site, at least in terms of traffic/users. It says it has 75 million registered users in June, up from 45 million in June 2007, and more than 55 million of its registered users were in the Asian-Pacific region, up from 35 million in June 2007. Of course remains to be seen if it can monetize the growth in the disparate Asian countries…and then increasing competition from the sites that eclipsed it here in U.S.: MySpace and then Facebook.

The last time Friendster raised money was in late 2006, which was a $10 million round from DAG Ventures with participation from KPCB and Benchmark. Expect some of the new money to be used in acquiring some local social networking sites, and building on its ad infrastructure.

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