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April 2, 2008 10:00 AM

Family networking site Sampa raises $1 million, rolls out redesign

Posted by Brier Dudley

Is Sampa Seattle's little startup that could?

The company started out offering simple personalized Web pages and then sharpened its focus on the family market, where it found traction building sites where families can stay connected and share photos.

Today the company is announcing that it raised $1 million from angel investors led by Geoff Entress, a partner at Madrona Venture Group. Others include former executives from Microsoft, Netscape and Lightsurf, the company said.

The redesign, which has been in the works for some time, helped draw the funding by showing investors the direction Sampa is heading, Chief Executive Paul Gross said.

Gross said the site is now "much more WYSIWYG" and easier to control, with a new five-button interface.

The interface was developed after he and founder Marcelo Calbucci hired the company's third full-time employee, a user-experience designer. With the funding, they plan to hire developers and business development staff to pursue partnerships.

About 68,000 Web sites are built on Sampa's free, ad-supported service. Gross said it's seeing about 6,000 new sites a month, and of the total, about 10 percent are active. In February, it drew 2.3 million pages views and 200,000 unique visitors.

Gross said the company's focusing on growing users this year and next year will turn its focus to monetization. Sampa plans to begin testing premium offerings later this summer; one approach may be to charge for additional storage.

Also newly added to the site are features including a guestbook and "baby countdown" and 50 new templates and themes. The site is also providing more direction to improve the appearance of pages that users create.

"I think the opportunity for Sampa is potentially huge,'' he said.

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