Gay social networking site raises seed funding

What do you get when you merge the social networking functions of Facebook with the local search and reviews of a Yelp?

You get fabulis, a new social networking site aimed at gay men, says founder and CEO Jason Goldberg, who recently raised seed funding in anticipation of launching the site in the spring.

Goldberg says he hopes the site, which is still in beta test mode, will become a brand synonymous with gay men and their love of “celebrating life.”

He says it will not operate as a sex or dating site. Instead, fabulis will provide a place where gay men can go online discuss and share places and cities to visit and reviews of what to see there, similar to a Yelp. Goldberg says the site will also include a location-sharing component, much like the social networking companies Foursquare or Gowalla, but he also wants the site to provide connections among friends, just as Facebook does.

A deeper component of a gay man’s lifestyle is that friends of friends become like an extended part of his family, Goldberg says.

Goldberg, who previously founded tech companies Jobster and socialmedian, came up with the idea of launching fabulis while working in Europe. When his boyfriend visited from the United States, Goldberg says he would go online to find places to go that had a gay take. Unfortunately, he found none.

Essentially, the sites he found were “representing 50-year old women, but not addressing my demographic,” he says. “I realized then that I needed to create a product that I wanted to use.”

The company recently raised $625,000 in seed funding from The Washington Post Co. and various individual investors, some of whom previously backed Jobster and socialmedian, a social news site that Xing bought last year.

The individual backers of fabulist include Goldberg; Allen Morgan, venture partner of the Mayfield Fund; Don Baer, worldwide vice chairman of Burson-Marsteller; Lars Hinrichs, CEO of Xing; and three other undisclosed investors.

As for future rounds of investing, Goldberg says he will explore the possibilities. In the meantime, he will use recent funds towards product development and product awareness.

Fabulis will need to compete with other social networks, such as Facebook, for user’s attention spans. However, Goldberg believes that if the company can capture even a small percentage of gay men, who primarily use Facebook to interact, than he says that his startup can succeed.

Goldberg would not disclose whether the company will charge membership fees. The site will generate advertising revenue, but he says that his plans do not rely solely on advertising. He also says fabulis will earn revenue beginning on day one of the launch.

The company is already appealing to several college age men through a viral user marketing campaign asking future users to post videos of themselves about why they are “fabulis.”

In return for videos, the company is sending out T-shirts with the company logo. The younger users will drive fabulis with their social networking skills, Goldberg says. However, he points out that fabulis will cater to all gay men.

It will be left to see if gay men find fabulis fabulous or snub the social network in favor for Facebook, which has grown to about 400 million users worldwide.