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Negroponte Plays Angel to European Swap Site

[London, ENGLAND] Always at the leading edge, Internet visionary Nicholas Negroponte has given "significant financial backing" to European swap site Webswappers.com, it was revealed Tuesday.

Negroponte, founder and a director of the MIT media lab, is joining Webswappers as an independent advisor while also bringing the backing of seed-stage investment fund Protos LLC of which he is one of four partners.

Essentially, Negroponte is bullish on swapping -- an activity that has been largely neglected by the big players in e-commerce.

"Swapping is ideal for the Net economy. It is the most extreme form of dynamic pricing, in that each party values their currency differently. Two apples you do not want can be worth one orange you do," said Negroponte.

He went on to comment that consumer-to-consumer Web sites currently carry the stigma of online retail, which, he said, completely misses the enormous opportunity of peer-to-peer commerce.

Jonathan Attwood, chief executive of Webswappers, said the support of Professor Negroponte and his colleagues reinforced the strategy being followed -- at a time when many venture capitalists in the U.K. were avoiding consumer-based businesses.

Webswappers lets users turn their unwanted items into the goods and services they prefer, all without the need for cash. It claims to be revolutionizing the concept of swapping and bartering by bringing together a fragmented user base.

The exact sum put into Webswappers by Negroponte and his colleagues was not revealed, but it should ensure that the concept becomes fully tested in Europe. Webswappers enables swapping across categories ranging from books and CDs, to cars and houses.

The other three Protos partners are Jeff Parker, creator of First Call and currently chief executive of CCBN.com, Thomas Grant, Boston-based venture capitalist, and Bill Sahlman, the Harvard Business School professor.