PhillyDeals: Penn grads' Invite Media reported in Google deal

Posted: June 03, 2010

Four guys who graduated from the University of Pennsylvania just two years ago might have become their own case studies Wednesday, on word they had sold their upstart firm, Invite Media, to Google.

Invite runs the Bid Manager online advertising management service from offices in Manhattan and Rittenhouse Square.

Online tech writer Peter Kafka posted the deal's outline from the annual All Things Digital conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., where he'd been talking to Google executives. Kafka estimated the deal price at $70 million. The buzz of a sale showed up on other tech-centric sites as well.

Who's Invite Media? They are a band of 23-year-olds tasting great success early in their careers, if Kafka's report is accurate. They include chief executive Nat Turner and president Zach Weinberg, who

studied economics and started an online restaurant delivery service at Penn's Wharton School.

Cofounder Michael Provenzano studied materials science and nanotechnology at Penn's engineering school and ran track; cofounder Scott Becker studied computational biology.

Turner summer-interned after his freshman year at First Round Capital, a West Conshohocken-based investment firm whose partners include Josh Kopelman. Kopelman has been a new-company godfather since he and his investors sold Half.com to eBay in 2000 for $350 million.

Kopelman's fund invested in Turner's firm. Now First Round Capital is among the Invite investors who would be enriched by its sale, along with Comcast Corp.'s investment unit and investor Gil Beyda's Comcast-allied Genacast Ventures, among others.

"People familiar with the transaction say Google's plan is to leave Invite running as a stand-alone unit, which will work at arm's length with [advertising] exchanges like Google's AdX as well as competitors like OpenX, Yahoo's Right Media and Microsoft's AdECN," according to Kafka. Eventually, Google would combine Invite into its DoubleClick ad system.

Turner, Kopelman, Google officials, and other principals weren't answering e-mail and phone messages.

Like a lot of Penn grads, Turner and his cofounders have mostly moved to New York, to Invite Media's main office on West 20th Street.

But there's still a group of Ivy League-educated software engineers based at Invite's hometown office in a funky four-story apartment building a block east of Rittenhouse Square, upstairs from where the Moon Over Miami bar used to be.

From the battered buzzer box at the building's door, Invite Media's receptionist told me she is under orders not to let strangers upstairs: "People come here and try to poach our talent."

Con's honor

Solomon Dwek, the New Jersey rabbinic student-turned-confessed real estate fraudster, has been singing like a proverbial canary as a federal witness in New Jersey public-corruption trials. His word was judged credible by U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Kathryn C. Ferguson Tuesday, in a case that pitted Dwek against his uncle and past fraud victims, Joseph Dwek and his wife, of Brooklyn.

Solomon had named his Uncle Joseph as guarantor of a $1.5 million mortgage loan to a predecessor of Vineland-based Sun National Bank back in 2001. When the loan went bad, Sun tried to collect, but Joseph Dwek denied he had truly lent his name.

Ferguson disagreed, noting the elder Dwek had let his nephew sign for him in other deals. She ordered Uncle Joseph to pay the bank $1.85 million.

"A victory for truth," said Joseph H. Blum, Sun's lawyer. "As long as [Joseph Dwek and his wife] were profitable, all was good, but when the arrangement turned not profitable, they tried to argue it wasn't their loan."

Joseph Dwek's lawyer, James Kim, said he was studying the ruling. Timothy P. Neumann, representing Solomon Dwek, said his client was pleased, as he awaits sentencing for his confessed misdeeds and, in the meantime, helps prosecutors try to put his former political partners away.


Contact Joseph N. DiStefano

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