Hearst Interactive Media Invests In VillageVines


WEBWIRE – Monday, January 10, 2011

Deal Will Feed Restaurant Reservation Start-Up and Change the Way People Eat Out

NEW YORK - VillageVines, the members-only website that offers preferred pricing at the nation’s most exclusive restaurants, has announced completion of a $3 million Series A. Hearst Interactive Media is joined by GrandBanks Capital and High Peaks Venture Partners in the investment.

The total investment will be used by VillageVines to increase its marketing efforts, hire key staff, develop more affiliate partnerships like those already forged with MenuPages, New York Magazine, Plum Benefits, Foodspotting and TimeOut New York, and expand to even more domestic and international cities, which already include New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.

“In a market where consumers and restaurants are being peppered by dozens of daily deal offerings, VillageVines has crafted a unique platform that delivers significant value to both diners and restaurants,” said Ken Bronfin, president of Hearst Interactive Media. “VillageVines has become a critical business partner to many restaurants by driving significant incremental business for them on a regular basis. We’re thrilled to have had this opportunity to invest in VillageVines as it rapidly expands to serve more restaurants and diners.”

With VillageVines, members sign up for free to access a curated selection of restaurants, book their reservations online and score exclusive discounts that are discreetly applied to their bills without needing to show a coupon (discounts are generally 30 percent off the entire meal, including alcohol).

“Hearst’s experience with consumer Web companies as well as local marketing makes it the ideal strategic partner for us as we continue to drive VillageVines’ rapid growth,” said Ben McKean, VillageVines co-founder. “We are excited to further develop our service and continue delivering value to our restaurant partners and to diners seeking premium dining experiences.”

And a valuable service it is. VillageVines, which launched six months ago, has proven that its unique platform combining reservations with deals can help upscale restaurants fill tables that might otherwise go empty. Currently utilized by hundreds of restaurants nationwide, VillageVines generated over half a million dollars of sales for their restaurant partners in December 2010 alone. The site provides restaurants with an appropriate alternative to the abundance of daily deal sites, which can often be harmful to restaurant profit margins. In fact, less than five percent of VillageVines partner restaurants have ever gone on to use a daily deal offer after signing up with VillageVines.

“Partnering with VillageVines works for us because, unlike daily deal services which often feel like a free-for-all, we are in control of the amount of tables offered and on what days and times,” said Robert D’Arcangelo, general manager of New York’s famed Kittichai. “Additionally, other reservation platforms can be very expensive, but VillageVines is extremely cost effective for attracting a significant number of new diners into our restaurant.”

World-famous restaurants like New York’s Le Cirque and Delmonico’s; Washington, D.C.’s Prime Rib and Vidalia; Los Angeles’ Il Grano; Chicago’s Sprout, and San Francisco’s Saha are among some of the top restaurants utilizing VillageVines to attract diners. A full list can be found at VillageVines.com.

Hearst Interactive Media, GrandBanks Capital and High Peaks Venture Partners join a number of angel investors from an initial $750,000 round of seed funding conducted by VillageVines.

ABOUT VILLAGEVINES
VillageVines is a members-only Web site that provides access to preferred pricing at leading restaurants in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. With VillageVines, members access a curated selection of restaurants, book their reservations online and enjoy exclusive discounts off their entire bill. For more information, please visit VillageVines.com.

ABOUT HEARST INTERACTIVE MEDIA
Hearst Interactive Media (www.hearstinteractivemedia.com), a unit of Hearst Corporation, operates digital media businesses, initiates new business ventures and makes strategic investments in digital content and infrastructure companies. Hearst Interactive Media also supports Hearst’s growth through its operation of the Corporate Innovation Program as well as its oversight of major enterprise technology initiatives.

ABOUT GRANDBANKS CAPITAL
GrandBanks Capital invests in early stage companies located primarily in the eastern part of the United States and Canada. Recognizing new technologies with the potential for significant impact, GrandBanks Capital team members and partners have been lead investors and senior executives for some of the most successful companies in their respective sectors, including Yahoo!, E*Trade, Art Technology Group, GEAC, GeoCities, Multex Systems, 1800Flowers.com, GSI Commerce, SoftBank, EMC Corporation, Thomson Financial, First Call, CCBN, Lycos, The Learning Company, State Street Bank and Phoenix Technologies LTD. With headquarters outside of Boston, the firm has proven investment expertise in information technology, software, internet and communications, mobile media, financial services, and wireless technologies. The GrandBanks Capital portfolio currently includes; Coradiant, Ember Corporation, Exit41, First Coverage, GlassHouse Technologies, I Love Rewards, KnowledgeVision, Nexage, OutStart, SendMe Mobile, SilverRail Technologies, Where, Vela Systems, VillageVines and Vivox. For more information on GrandBanks Capital, visit http://www.GrandBanksCapital.com.

ABOUT HIGH PEAK VENTURE PARTNERS
High Peaks Venture Partners is a venture capital firm focused on investments in market leading, seed and early stage technology companies. Founded in 2004, High Peaks began investing its second fund in 2010. With offices in New York City and Upstate New York, the firm focuses on investments in the Web services, digital media, software, and medical technology markets. High Peaks is one of 18 affiliates of Village Ventures, a collaborative, nationwide network of seed and early-stage venture capital funds.



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