When you listen to Richard Rosenblatt, CEO and co-founder of Demand Media, explain his company's mission, it has a sort of Google-esque ring to it. Google's missions is simple: to organize the world's information.
"We want to publish the world's content," said Richard, in a recent interview with me, at the Web 2.0 conference.
If search is the primary online conduit to finding knowledge, then Demand wants to be the deliverer of that information and the beneficiary of all those clicks from billions of people seeking answers. So far, so good. Since launching in 2006, Demand has grown to publishing 4,000 pieces of bite-sized nuggets of daily content - pumped out with scientific precision - that now attracts 80 million unique visitors monthly to its vast network of sites.
Demand Media is a social media company, consisting of a number of niche sites, such as Livestrong and eHow, a vast library of domain names via eNom, and a social media toolkit through Pluck that powers large organizations, such as USA Today, Conde Nast and Whole Foods.
With a growing audience base, and a profitable business off of annual revenues of some $200 million, Demand appears to have many options before itself for future financing and an eventual exit. And, whatever it is - IPO or M&A - it'll have to be a significant one. Demand has raised more than $355 million from top-tier investors, including Oak Investment Partners, Spectrum Equity Investors and Goldman Sachs. Its valuation after raising its last round was $1 billion.
To that end, Demand has to do something grand. It could wait until a large media company offers several billions for the young company. This summer, it was rumored that Yahoo was interested in buying Demand, but at a price that wasn't worth selling for. Or, it could be that Demand partners with one of its competitors - Mahalo, About.com, etc. - to get even bigger and go public. With Shawn Colo as Demand's co-founder, partnering or acquiring companies to get big is one of Demand's fortes.
Or, Demand could stay the course and go public.
It's clear which one Richard has his eye on.
Are there ambitions to go public? What do you gain from that? I asked.
"We want to build a sustainable business," said Richard. "We believe we’re the size that we can go public and it’s something we want to do."
Richard's background consists of at least two exit wins - selling iMall to ExciteAtHome and more famously selling MySpace to Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. Both sales were more than half a billion. There's no doubt that when this guy sets his mind on something, he's going to pursue it relentlessly.
And, maybe by 2010, when the markets are ripe and media property options for investors continue to disappear, perhaps there'll be appetite for a new media company IPO, with a grand mission to "publish the world's content." Google went public with a similar simple yet bold and grand vision to organize the world's content. Look what it did for investors.
Wait a second, is Demand Media trying to usurp Google as God?
(Watch the interview and listen to Richard explain Demand's business model and hints at future announcements. The next segment of this interview will be on partnerships and which media partners make sense for Demand to partner with. First segment is: Demand Media's scientific approach to news)