Benchmark Capital sitting pretty with Bebo

Interest is building around Bebo, a social networking site backed by Benchmark Capital, as founder Michael Birch plays down potential of approach from Viacom, a US media firm.

Viacom, a US media group, is considering a bid for Bebo, a social networking site backed by the London office of US venture firm Benchmark Capital.

Benchmark backed Bebo in May of this year with an investment of $15.5 million  (€12.1 million). 

UK paper Financial Times reported Viacom’s interest in the site today.

The paper said the acquisition would be the latest attempt by Viacom to regain ground lost to Rupert Murdoch since his News Corporation paid $580m (£304m) for MySpace, a rival social networking site.  Bebo is frequently referred to as the UK’s MySpace.

However, Michael Birch, Bebo’s founder and chief executive, told the newspaper he was in no hurry to sell. He said his company was still growing rapidly.

According to another report on a technology blog site, Bebo has already turned down a $300-million approach from BT, the UK national carrier.

Benchmark has invested in two other social networking sites, which allow users to create blogs, publish and share videos and photographs and communicate with friends.

It joined with Accel Partners in a $15.5 million Series B investment in WeeWorld, which provides WeeMee digital identities that reflect their owner’s looks and interests both on the internet and mobile phones, having helped the business get off the ground in March 2005.

Benchmark’s interest in social networking dates back to January 2005, however, when it partnered with 3i to invest $23.5 million in Sulake, the Finland-based multimedia creator of Habbo Hotel, which combines the online chat concept with The Sims-style visual representations of users and their habitats.