Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Video of RockYou Founders Talking About the New $17 Million Funding for Asian Expansion

Yet another Web 2.0 wunderkind got itself more shelter from the economic storm–widget maker RockYou announced today that it has nabbed a $17 million investment from two Asian firms, SoftBank Group and SK Telecom Ventures.

The investment will be added to $35 million from the Redwood City, Calif.-based start-up’s C round in June. Overall, RockYou has raised a total of $67 million from investors, including DCM, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Partech International and Sequoia Capital.

It is unclear if the company’s valuation is at the previous $400 million level or not.

In a video interview with BoomTown on Friday (see below), the company’s co-founders, CEO Lance Tokuda and CTO Jia Shen, said the money would be used to expand into the Asia-Pacific market, including onto Xiaonei, one of China’s largest social-networking sites.

As part of the investment, SoftBank–which has major Web investments all over Asia–and RockYou, the company said in a press release, “will also set up a new joint venture company that will develop widget and application products and services for use on PCs and mobile devices in the Asian market, in particular the Japanese, Korean, Russian, and Chinese markets.”

Well, that’s a horse of a different color, what with most Web 2.0 outfits pulling in their horns of late.

Indeed, RockYou said it would also use the money to open offices in New York, Los Angeles and Detroit and look at making some opportunistic acquisitions, as well as adding to its advertising sales force and developing more brand and vertical channels.

The company’s NYC sales office, previously a one-man shop, is expanding, adds MediaMemo’s Peter Kafka. It hired two people since August and still has one position open and plenty of applicants, says sales boss Paul van de Kamp.

Why all the frenetic activity from RockYou, which says it had over 100 million monthly uniques with over eight billion page views from its popular third-party applications like Super Wall?

Well, a few good reasons, such as: the need to keep up with its key competitor, Slide, which raised its own huge war chest; to find new audiences away from the two top social-networking site, Facebook and MySpace, from which it gets most of its traffic; to improve its products, in order to get better ad rates; and, most of all, to weather the current econalypse in the ad sector.

While RockYou’s execs believe the ad market for widgets and social networking is on the rise in comparison to other kinds of media, it will still be a glum outlook for everyone for a while.

Tokuda and Shen talk about that, as well as the investment, in the video here, and below that is a video I did a year ago with the pair: