SAN FRANCISCO - First Internet Bank of Indiana wants to build a nationwide network of Internet customers and is recruiting investors through the Internet to fund the expansion.

Offroad Capital, an online private equity firm in San Francisco, has raised $5.8 million from investors online as part of a $30 million fund it is arranging with Robertson Stephens Inc. to finance the Indianapolis start-up's expansion. Robertson Stephens is the lead arranger on the fund.

The offering is yet another way investment banks are using the Internet to tap capital that may have been out of reach in the past. About 200 investors in 28 states took a piece of the $5.8 million offering, Offroad said.

These online investors are seen as a sort of word-of-mouth marketing and fund-raising machine for start-ups.

"If you plan to take a company public, you might want to have another layer of high-net-worth investors" that will boost aftermarket trading, said William A. Stevens, head of investment banking for Offroad.

The deal is the first between San Francisco-based Robertson Stephens and Offroad, whose service pairs high-net-worth investors with fledgling companies. Last year Robertson Stephens, the investment banking unit of FleetBoston, took a 5% equity stake in Offroad. Charles Schwab & Co. and the Mayfield fund in Menlo Park, Calif., are also strategic investors.

"Offroad offers a competitive distribution channel in certain situations where clients are interested in having a broader diversification among high-net-worth clients," said Clark Callander, managing director of the private capital markets group at Robertson Stephens.

Offroad is not the only Web-based firm to play matchmaker for businesses seeking help from wealthy individuals.

Others in that category include InternetAngels.com. But Offroad has set it sights on increased ties to other investment banks both as a route to more deals like the First Internet offering and as a path to becoming a virtual private equity market for both individual and institutional investors.

Offroad recently hired two senior investment bankers from J.P. Morgan & Co. to run its securities subsidiary.

The company has a goal that has been difficult to achieve in the past: to establish an active secondary market for private equity.

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