eCompanies Makes Hobby Site First Investment

New Internet venture capital firm eCompanies announced Wednesday that a soon-to-be-launched online hobby site will be the first of many investments in Internet start-ups. The financial terms were not disclosed.

Backed by the likes of Disney, Earthlink, Sprint and investment banker Goldman Sachs, the Santa Monica, California-based eCompanies believes that eHobbies fulfills the criteria that it laid out in its investment strategy.

“eCompanies’ goal is to work with startups that have the potential to become number one in their categories, and we see hobbies as an untapped market on the Internet,” said Sky Dayton, co-founder of eCompanies. “eHobbies’ unique combination of extensive hobby expertise and seasoned management make it a natural first investment for eCompanies.”

Veteran Internet Backing

The two new ventures are supported by a cadre of veteran Internet executives. Dayton is the founder and chairman of Earthlink, the multi-national ISP that works extensively with Sprint. His partner in eCompanies is Jake Weinbaum, the former chairman of Buena Vista Group, the Internet subsidiary of the Walt Disney Company.

eHobbies was founded in June by Brad Sobel, an EarthLink and Headland Digital Media veteran, and Brent Cohen, who worked for AOL’s Entertainment Asylum and HomeStore. The site will be launched this fall.

Once it debuts, eHobbies will unveil content and e-commerce features for such hobbies as model trains, rocketry, radio-controlled cars, diecast models and others. It will also build an online community for hobbyists to exchange ideas.

According to Dayton, research shows that hobbyists spend an average of seven hours a week pursuing their hobby, making them “fanatical about their given interest.” Both companies clearly expect that kind of devotion to carry over to the e-commerce end of the site.

eCompanies hopes that the eHobbies backing fits squarely with the next in a series of expected Internet investments. The company intends to create a network of affiliated companies — much like SoftBank of CMGI — that can feed traffic or other resources to one another.

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