Im happy to report exclusively that Grouply, the innovative group reader startup I previously profiled, just closed a Series A round, including $2 million in new money. They now support over 1.3 million groups and 700,000 users. (Disclosure: I am on their Advisory Board).
The round was led by O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures. It was oversubscribed, i.e., more investors were interested in investing than they could support in the round. This is particularly impressive in light of the global economic slowdown and increasing government desire to reduce incentives to invest in innovation.
In December, Grouply released version 3.5, which includes support for Google Groups, building on their historic support for Yahoo Groups. Yahoo Groups serves 110 million users and 8 million groups; Google Groups is about one-fourth the size of Yahoo Groups.
The development timeframe for Grouply from here is clear: become the tool of choice for power administrators, and replicate all the functionality of Yahoo/Google Groups, such that they become the preferred groups platform. Also, given the renewed focus of all startups (excluding Twitter, for not much longer) on monetization, you can assume theyll be soon introducing advertising on Grouply.
Today, most of Grouply’s users join as a result of an invitation they received from an existing Grouply user. One of Grouplys strengths, and weaknesses, is its viral model. This has allowed them to hit significant scale with a tiny team (6 full-time people).
One challenge of the viral model is that Grouply — like Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, and virtually all “social sites” — offers users the ability to invite people they are “connected to” to join the site. Most services, with a few deservedly ostracized exceptions, require users to click several buttons before any invites can be sent. Grouply had some initial hiccups as a result of people accidentally inviting people they did not intend to invite, and has since made the disclosure process emphatically clear.