Hot or Not Valuation - $20M is way too low and is very likely wrong

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I am intrigued by the metrics and the factors related to the valuation of online enterprises (see here, here and here). Every time there is a new major acquisition, it gives us a new data point to calibrate the dynamics of the current market conditions and expectations.

Blogosphere is reporting that Hot or Not was acquired for $20M by a Canadian company, Avid Life Media. HotorNot is an online photo rating site that has a dating component to it.

HotorNot’s web strategy gives some insight in to the free vs. paid service models. HotorNot had a paid "premium services" model and they claimed that the conversion rate was very high (as much as 15%; typically it is 1 to 3% for similar sites). Then last April, in a very bold move, they changed their business model and decided to go the completely free route.

The site did see a huge jump in traffic; from 6M visitors per month to 10M visitors/month; the revenue from advertisements and virtual gifts increased, but not to the level that would make up for the lost receipts from the membership plans. Of course, a period of few months is not enough time to gauge the effect of a major transitions, but it was interesting to watch them go through the transformation.

With the free service, came spam; and I understand that they have gone back to the paid premium service model, mainly to protect the users from getting junk mail.

From the Alexa traffic graphs, it seems that they did experience a huge traffic boost but it was not a sustained one; the traffic is back to the pre-free-model levels.

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There are reports that HotorNot was acquired for $20M but I hesitate to believe these figures.

Some of the available stats about the site are as follows: Annual Revenue(est.) $5M; profit (est.) $2M; the current visitor count has stabilized to around 5M visitors/month. They also have an established brand and a significant presence on Facebook.

Given these numbers, where would one peg the valuation of HotorNot?

As a comparison, Face book has about 100M monthly visitors (theoretically valued at $15B) and Plaxo has about 2M visitors/month, and was looking for a valuation in the range of $200M.

Another variable that goes in here is that HotorNot is a risqué dating site, and traffic on similar sites does not monetize well.

Even after taking this in to account, I find it hard to believe that HotorNot would receive a valuation of $20M, I think there are some multiples missing here.

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If I were to throw out some numbers, I think the total package that HotorNot sold for, might be about $40M, may be $50M (but definitely not $100M).

Well, we will know in a couple of days.

You can add your estimate of the valuation in the poll (current poll is on the sidebar, see here for the results of past polls)



Predictify the Presidential elections

Question: Who is going to win the Democratic primary nomination
Prediction: Barrack Obama

That is according to Predictify, an online site crowdcasting site that uses the wisdom of the masses to "predict" the outcome of events.

image The Preditify process is simple. On the site, you can either predict the outcome of events, or pose a question along with multiple choices, and let the global crystal ball steer you towards the truth.

Posting is free if you want up to 200 responses (after which that poll is closed), or you can post a premium question for which you get charged $1 per response up to the maximum number responses that you want to generate. Premium questions ask for some personal information from users. The overall demographic information is available online and also shared with the poster of the question.

The following were the responses to the predictions for the Oscar for best picture.

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Questions range from politics and current events to sports and pop culture.

So can the wisdom of the crowds be trusted? You be the judge

Question: What position will Hillary Clinton finish in the 2008 Iowa caucus?
Prediction: 1st
Actual: 3rd

Question: Who will capture the most delegates in the Republican primaries on super Tuesday?
Prediction: John McCain
Actual: John McCain

The first poll (at the top of this post) which places Barrack Obama as the popular choice for the democratic primary nomination might be suffering from population bias at this point (as they say, time will tell). Young, energetic democratic voters who spend a large part of their time on the web would be expected to support Barrack Obama in large numbers.

Which brings us to the next question; is there any real money to be made on the site? The answer is yes but it depends upon your definition of real. Part of the pot in premium questions is shared with the predictors. The amount depends on their accuracy, level of expertise and how quickly the users responded to the question (ie before the wisdom of the crowds became apparent).

The current top winners on Predictify are listed below. the #1 predictor’s payout is $154 or about $0.05 per question. There are respondents who have higher accuracies and are generating $0.50 per poll. Meanwhile, it would be safe to predict that the users of the site are hanging on to their day jobs!

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Question: Would you trust the wisdom of the crowds to make business decisions?
Take our poll (current poll is on the side bar; see here for past polls).



I support the Microsoft-Yahoo merger because Google is my frenemy

microsoft Yahoo combined

I fully support the Microsoft and Yahoo merger; mainly because I consider Google to be my frenemy.

Frenemy is defined as:

Someone who is both friend and enemy, a relationship that is both mutually beneficial or dependent while being competitive, fraught with risk and mistrust.

google_frenemy

And without a doubt, Google is my number one Frenemy. I love some of their products, but I worry that they have so much information about ever body and it is just a matter of time before their privacy policy crumbles.

As I said a while ago, Google is so much ahead of the competitors that Google is skewing the market and tilting the playing field for innovations. If you ever cross Google, Google is the prosecutor, the judge, the jury and the executioner. Google is stronger than God, and I don’t like any entity wielding so much power over me.

And as the old adage goes, the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

I want to see a real alterative to Google for online ads, web search and online office applications.

google_ballsYahoo couldn’t compete with Google and I was concerned that they have essentially conceded to Google in the field of web search. Microsoft couldn’t compete with Google, because well, they are Microsoft and they have their own ways of doing things. But combined Microsoft and Yahoo, Microshoo, might provide real competition to Google in some important fields.

Microshoo might not be able to catch up with Google in search technology, but there is a real chance that Yahoo and Microsoft combined will provide a viable alternative to ad-sense and online advertisement market. Online office application could go either way, but I do expect Microsoft+yahoo to put up a robust defense before they concede that domain.

ImageIn some of the websites I maintain, 80% of the traffic comes from Google. I think that is just wrong - it means that I am not in control of my website, Google is. Anything that can be done to bring that ratio down, to reduce my reliance on Google, is a good thing.

NewYork Times is reporting that CEO of Google placed a call to Yahoo chief, offering the company’s help in fending off Microsoft’s offer. One of the ways that Google can help is by having Yahoo outsource the web search to Google. NO, NO, I don’t want to see that happen and believe me, you don’t want to have Google the only provider of web search - if that happens, you might as well wear shackles with Google logo on it.

I am convinced that the Microsoft and Yahoo merger is good for Microsoft, good for Yahoo and most importantly, it is good for the internet community; both in the short term and in the long run.

Go Microshoo, Go!



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