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Bebo founder invests in LinkedIn rival

LONDON - Bebo.com founder Michael Birch has invested in a new social networking site for entrepreneurs called Smarta.com.

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Smarta, which is the invention of entrepreneur Shaa Wasmund, is also backed by the Royal Bank of Scotland Group, Vodafone and commercial law firm Mishcon de Reya.

The site's aim is to help small UK businesses fast-track their way towards becoming more profitable and efficient.

It claims to let users set up a new business in just 30 minutes and features short video guides and special reports that provide practical advice on all aspects of starting and growing a business.

Smarta users will be able to create profiles and connect and interact with other business owners, similarly to other social networks such as Facebook, but they will also be able to access a Q&A forum where they can get answers from other entrepreneurs and experts and receive free professional advice from financial and legal services companies.

Wasmund said: "A new approach is needed for entrepreneurs and small businesses more than ever before.

"Smarta.com will allow users to tap into the brains, experience, and ideas of the entrepreneurial community. Irrespective of background, Smarta.com will help you think, create, and grow ideas, empowering people who never thought they could realise their dreams and ambitions." 

Digital agency Splendid and Tom Watson MP, the minister for digital engagement and Parliament's first blogger, are also involved with Smarta.com.

For Birch, the investment in Smarta is the latest in a string of digital projects he's made since selling Bebo to AOL for $850m last year.

In September, he launched video dictionary website Wordia, which is similar to Wikipedia, and allows users to upload videos defining their favourite words. Birch also invested in a social networking site for gamers called PlayFire.com.

Smarta hopes to have 150,000 users by the end of 2009.

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