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Manta announced today that it received a $44 million minority equity investment from Silicon Valley venture capital firm Norwest Venture Partners. The exact proportion of the holding sold to the firm is undisclosed, but its minority stake puts the valuation of Manta at a minimum of $90 million. Jon Kossow and David Su of Norwest Venture Partners will join Manta’s board of directors.

More than 89 million SMBs worldwide use the community, according to Manta, to improve their online presence. Recently, we reported on the new addition of social networking tools to its core SEO-focused directory service. The added functionality is designed to enhance SMBs’ digital referral networks. Manta may also be enhancing its functionality to fend off competition from companies like Angie’s List, Yelp and MerchantCircle. Both companies connect consumers to SMBs.

Founded in 2005, Manta has been compared to the professional networking site Linkedin. Both sites allow users to write a recommendation for a company and let employees connect with their company. However, Manta has found a niche among SMBs that may not have a strong, online or social media presence. This funding round gives Manta more legroom to make further enhancements to its online community moving forward.

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