A lot of people contemplate starting an online business but get cold feet because they don’t believe they have the resources available to get it off the ground successfully. It’s a poor excuse: Some of the largest website sales in history started as personal blogs — one-person shows that morphed into online media juggernauts. I recently wrote about a website that sold for a million dollars — but what about sales bigger than that?
When you start a website around a topic that you absolutely love and are extremely passionate about, it is going to attract a loyal audience. Whether you are considering starting an online business or thinking about selling your website, here are five eye-opening sales to inspire you.
1. Bankaholic.com — purchased by Bankrate.com for $15 million
John Wu started Bankaholic as a financial blog aimed at providing consumers information on credit card offers as well as additional banking and personal finance topics. He monetized his blog through affiliate offers — every time someone signed up for a new credit card through his website he was paid a referral fee.
As his website grew in popularity, the revenue it was generating followed right along. Due to the blog ranking organically for several highly competitive credit card and financial keywords,acquired Wu’s website for $15 million. The fact that he started a blog about a topic he was knowledgeable about and enjoyed writing about contributed tremendously to his successful exit.
2. TechCrunch.com — purchased by AOL for $30 million
There is a very good chance that you have heard of TechCrunch — in fact, it is likely that it is one of your daily reads along with. What was started by Michael Arrington as a blog about technology and startup news was eventually purchased by AOL for $30 million.
What’s really interesting is the fact that the blog was started in 2005, just 10 years ago. This really emphasizes how new online media and web-based businesses are. It’s never too late to start your own website — and Arrington’s story is just one of the many successful website sales that started as a personal interest site and spawned into one of the most-viewed websites online.
3. Mint.com — purchased by Intuit for $170 million
Imagine launching a website, growing it to 1.5 million users and then selling it for $170 million in just two years. Well, that is exactly what the people behinddid. The website launched in September of 2007 and won TechCrunch 40, which helped to quickly establish its credibility. Just two short years later, in November of 2009, Intuit paid $170 million to acquire .
While the website offered a great product, it was the large user base that was attractive to Intuit. At the time of the sale,had more than a million active users and was growing at a rate of several thousand new users daily. Currently, boasts well over 10 million users.
This large sale also serves as an excellent example of a website being successful without gaining traction and exposure from a viral component. As a personal finance product, its users weren’t tweeting or sharing on Facebook that they were seeking personal finance help. This is a topic that isn’t popular on social media.
4. HuffingtonPost.com — purchased by AOL for $315 million
AOL acquired The Huffington Post on Feb. 7, 2011, for $315 million, just six years after its founding in 2005. At the time of the sale the website was attracting 25 million unique visitors monthly.
This sale is a classic example of how infrastructure and innovation can be combined to create a happy marriage. The Huffington Post was a pioneer in the digital journalism space and AOL had the infrastructure in place to handle the scalability potential. This sale also sparked a big trend — major media outlets acquiring popular blogs and websites to create online empires.
5. Business.com — purchased by RH Donnelley for $350 million
first drew attention nearly 15 year ago when the domain name sold for $7.5 million. That was peanuts compared to the $350 million the website sold for on July 26, 2007. At the time, RH Donnelley outbid several suitors, including the New York Times Company, Dow Jones and News Corp, to name a few.
RH Donnelley, which later emerged from bankruptcy as Dex One Corporation, is a local search and online business directory company. What started as a directory has evolved into a leading source of business-related content, publishing new content daily from leading experts. At the time of purchase, the plan was to grow the website into the largest online directory, but opportunity and trends caused a pivot — emphasizing how important it is to be able to turn directions, even for $350 million acquisitions.