The IPO market may not be treating consumer Internet companies such as Facebook and Groupon very well, but venture capitalists are still putting significant amounts of money in online firms.
Some of the more interesting deals we saw today include:
San Francisco-based Lumosity, which sells online brain training programs, has raised $31.5 million in Series D financing.
Discovery Communications (Nasdaq: DISCA, DISCB, DISCK) led this round of financing, along with participation by existing investors FirstMark Capital, Harrison Metal, Menlo Ventures and Norwest Venture Partners.
In the past year, Lumosity’s membership has doubled to over 25 million members and the Lumosity mobile app has been downloaded 10 million times since launching in 2010. The mobile app has reached the #1 spot in the overall app store and is consistently the top app in the Education category.
We’ve seen conflicting reports on the effectiveness of these digital brain-training tools. We tried the Neuro-Active Brain Fitness program from Miami-based Brain Center of America. It did sharpen our attention and seemed to help reduce uncaught typos in our copy.
Some studies have cast doubt on their effectiveness, however, suggesting that what they do best is improve your performance on brain training games and not necessarily on other tasks. Some experts think that actual physical exercise, which has proven benefits for brain health, would be better than digital exercises.
Others suggest they do work.
Lumosity’s own games are based on the latest discoveries in neuroscience, with continuing independent third-party studies being conducted by researchers at Harvard, Stanford, UC Berkeley, and other academic institutions
The company will use the funds to continue its research into human cognitive performance, build the leading science-based learning brand, and reach hundreds of millions of users. Lumosity has received a total of over $70 million in funding to date.
Couchsurfing rides a $15M funding wave for social travel network
Another San Francisco company, CouchSurfing, a social travel network, has closed $15 million in funding from new lead investor General Catalyst Partners, with participation by Menlo Ventures and existing investors Benchmark Capital and Omidyar Network.
The additional funding brings the company’s total funds raised in the past year to $22.6 million and will help expand product management and engineering teams to enable faster innovation across its mobile and online platforms.
CouchSurfing enables people from around the globe to discover each other online so they can share their cultures, hospitality and experiences offline.
Along with hosting travelers and staying with locals, there are thousands of activities hosted by more than 40,000 interest groups on CouchSurfing, including language exchanges, bicycle tours, museum visits and volunteer opportunities.
In the past year, CouchSurfing’s nearly 5 million users have shared more than 10 million face-to-face experiences. The company recently released an infographic highlighting the diversity of its users and their experiences.