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GE, VCs invest $20M in SMS ad firm 4Info

SMS advertising and publishing specialist 4Info has raised $20 million in equity and debt funding from existing and new investors, marking a vote of confidence for mobile from major venture capitalists.

Existing investors Peacock Equity Fund, a joint venture of GE Capital's media, communications and entertainment finance business and GE sibling NBC Universal, and newspaper giant Gannett Company Inc. led the round of additional funding.

Silicon Valley venture capital firms U.S. Venture Partners, Draper Fisher Jurvetson and Sand Hill Partners were among the other investors who chipped in with more funds for 4Info.

Selby Ventures was the only new investor to pour funds into 4Info in this round.

4Info will use this additional investment to continue forging traditional media partnerships for mobile campaigns integrated with other channels.

Also, 4Info will press ahead with developing new technology for its mobile marketing services and rich media technology.

The company's specialty is helping publishers and content providers connect with their audiences on mobile phones and then loop them back to other media.

Based in San Mateo, CA, 4Info also has offices in Chicago and New York, whose opening was announced in September.

4Info claims to deliver more than 80 million real-time, user-generated answers and alerts monthly through text message. The company's ad network is said to cross more than 16 million users.

The 4Info content is supported with advertising, including targeted, interactive SMS, WAP and mobile video campaigns for its ad partners and publisher clients.

Clients for whom 4Info has delivered mobile campaigns comprise brands such as McDonald's, Ford Motor, Paramount Pictures, American Express, Philips, Marriott, General Motors, Toyota and Universal Studios.

The four-year-old 4Info is also the primary SMS content provider for television and cable networks such as NBC, CBS, Disney's ABC and its ESPN sibling and Fox.

Activity for last year included being named as the exclusive mobile publishing partner of four NFL teams; the launch of the 2008 Summer Olympics mobile alerts program; a partnership with ImpreMedia to bring free mobile services to U.S. Hispanics; and the delivery of free NCAA Tournament alerts to mobile phones.

4Info is estimated to be the largest provider of business-to-consumer SMS content in North America, according to Nielsen Mobile's ratings for the third quarter of 2008.