Not a lot of consumers have heard of, El Segundo based, Internet Brands but many have heard of the companies they own.  A sampling of the over 40 brands they oversee include:
  • - Community ratings and reviews of apartment complexes
  • - A car research portal
  • CarsDirect- A one stop shop for online car buying
  • - A home improvement and home repair site
  • WikiCars - A collaborative Wiki for all things cars
  • Wikitravel - A community wiki for travel guides
  • World66 - Community Travel listings
  • Vbulletin - One of the biggest developers of bulletin board software
Originally launched in 1999, as CarsDirect, Internet Brands has grown both organically and through heavy acquisition (costing roughly $85 million).  This growth though is not without struggles, as their 1st three quarters of 2007 resulted in a 2.5 million dollar loss, not a good way to kickoff an IPO. Maybe even more telling, todays IPO was originally filled in the summer,  priced between $10 - $12 a share, and at the last minute downgraded to $8 a share.  In conjunction, they also reduced the shares they were expected to offer from 9.5 million to 6 million.  All of which adds up to relatively luke warm coming out party for their public offering.

In general, Internet Brands, seems to have some clear strategy problems.  Their intent is to be a leading provider in community based research and transactions in the areas of automotive, real estate and travel, and they certainly own enough sites in the respective categories to be the leader.  However, what IB has not done well is leverage the 40+ brands they own to create an ultimate experience in any of those categories.  Oddly enough, many companies during the acquisition process are guilty of stifling the team they purchase by forcing integration to quickly, but if anything, IB seems to be suffering from the exact opposite problem. IB's companies seem disjoint, with little ability to create game changing synergy.  

Maybe even more concerning is that IB owns many "web 1.5" brands...websites that are community driven, but are doing so with a look and feel of the past Internet age.   What makes this concerning is that IB is in a dangerous position of gradually losing its various communities to new-commers that take a better advantage of web 2.0 type polish and functionality thats becoming standard in the "social Internet".  In many ways this would be a shame, its great to see a local Internet company that's based around helping the consumer.  And its also great to see one make it to the stage of going public (they even were up a few points by the close of their first days trading).  Hopefully Internet Brands will be able to take the cash they've raised from the IPO, develop a more clear cut strategy, and become a powerhouse for helping consumers.