VIRTUAL RISK

Some private equity professionals appear to have found little of substance in the social networking craze. One industry insider recently remarked that he's willing to use career networking sites that don't disclose personal details, like the VC-backed LinkedIn, but aside from that, “Who needs to know what my favourite songs are?”

He and his peers in the PE world may change their tune with the rise of UpDown.com, a virtual investing/social networking site that says it's been described as “fantasy football meets the trading floor”.

Free to join, the site gives users $1,000 in virtual money to invest in real stocks and encourages them to join and form groups “to improve their skills through collaboration, competition and aggregated wisdom”. Users whose virtual portfolios outperform the S&P500 over a month-long period are given cash rewards via PayPal accounts, though it's not immediately clear how much. UpDown also pays real money each week to users who submit what it deems as high-quality stock analyses.

Founded in September 2007 by a Harvard graduate and two Harvard MBA students, the site has received over $1 million in funding, $750,000 of which was recently committed by Swiss angel investor Joachim Schoss.