Back when The Huffington Post first began in May 2005, I reported in LA Weekly that, during conversations with potential investors, Arianna spoke of her ambition to raise $5 million to underwrite her new venture. Now, she’s more intent than ever on fulfilling that goal. As whispers wafted to me in recent weeks that HuffPo was on the $$$ prowl, Private Equity Week confirms today that The Huffington Post is indeed aiming to raise $5 million in venture capital — its first institutional funding round. Both Arianna Huffington and Ken Lerer won’t spill. But HuffPo has been talking to VCs and hopes to close the round by the end of summer. Bootstrapped with $2 million, HuffPo might want the capital to scale its operations and grow ancillary properties. (It has already spun out Contagious Festival and Eat The Press.) But the weekly asks, “Why it needs $5 million in outside capital to fulfill its vision is another question. Clearly, its founders aren’t hurting for money. Moreover, two weeks ago, Huffington inked an agreement with IAC/Interactive Corp., in which IAC’s Advertising Solutions sales group will exclusively sell advertising for the site.” That’s Barry Diller’s company, for those not in the know. The weekly speculated that “Huffington’s efforts to raise outside capital may suggest that it plans to sell itself to a larger media property down the road.”
Now back to my earlier reporting. From the start, Huffington stressed the profit potential of her venture to potential investors — likening it to getting in on the ground floor of AOL pre-merger. (Indeed, her co-founder Lerer was the former executive vice president at AOL Time Warner) Without the $5 mil, Arianna went around Hollywood looking for $500,000, in $100,000 increments. “She framed it to them as an opportunity to invest, to share in something we’re launching, to be with friends,” one source told me back then. Clearly, she thinks now is her best opportunity to see her original expanded vision become a reality.
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