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Home >Press > Red Herring

Media | Press Releases | Founders | Media Kit

Red Herring
Hummer Winblad funds baby-boomer portal

By Georgie Raik-Allen
July 17, 1999

Internet companies targeting women, teenagers, and seniors abound. However, a new startup, spun off from CNN and funded by Silicon Valley venture capital firm Hummer Winblad Venture Partners, is focusing on a different affinity group: baby-boomers who believe they are ten years younger.

Former CNNfn.com executives Helen Whelan and Craig Forman are launching Myprimetime, an affinity portal based on the theory that baby-boomers are not catered to on the Internet today, and the editorial vision that 40-to-55-year-olds aspire to be younger than their actual age.

"We are targeting a very dynamic group, who are staying fit and healthy longer, have probably sent their kids off to college, and are looking for alternatives to retirement," Ms. Whelan says.

The site will offer the three Cs -- content, commerce, and community -- in four areas: personal finance; entrepreneurship ("over half of our generation are entrepreneurs or would like to be," Ms. Whelan claims); health and nutrition; and travel and leisure.

The startup has just raised a first round of funding from Hummer Winblad and a handful of angel investors. Hummer Winblad partner Ann Winblad has joined the board of directors.

According to Mr. Forman, the first generation of Internet companies focused on building sites that were scalable and defensible, and that "tried to be all things to all people." The second generation built on the lessons learned by the first, but are focusing on specific demographic groups.

David Card, an analyst in Jupiter Communication's consumer content group, sees the advantage of focusing. "General-purpose portals like Yahoo [Nasdaq: YHOO] have been very successful, but a new tier of success is growing up around communities of like-minded people on the Internet."

He says Jupiter is very bullish on affinity portals and that a generation of 40+-year-olds are all going though the same things with careers and lifestyle changes. "People who are throwing out the music they listened to in college and making the switch to classical and jazz do have a lot in common," Mr. Card says.

With a number of Web sites targeting women, teens, seniors, and various ethnic groups, it does seem that, as venture capitalist Ann Winblad says, "baby-boomers are the last untapped group on the Internet." However, this group represents the most average and broad of all demographic groups and is already the focus of most mainstream media and commerce.

"The challenge for this Internet company is that all media is targeted at this group," Mr. Card says. "Positioning could be very difficult for them, because everyone is trying to reach these people."

Another challenge will be attracting users to a site that brands itself as focused on older adults. "No one will want to admit they are part of this group," Mr. Card says.

Ms. Winblad argues that the site will not focus on aging, but the more positive aspects of being middle-aged: having more experience, more money, and more responsibility. "It's about growing up, not growing old," she says.

Middle-aged people are a valuable target market. It is the most rapidly growing segment of the population, with about 79 million people aged 40 to 55 in the U.S., according to Myprimetime. They also have the most money and, according to Jupiter statistics, have the third-largest penetration on the Internet (after college students and young adults).

If the site does take off, it will no doubt attract a number of competitors. The founders believe, though, that their experience at CNNfn will give them an edge over any other sites targeting baby-boomers. "We were part of that first generation of Internet sites; we already know how to build a mass audience around good content and tools," Ms. Whelan says.

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