One of the few dot com success stories Ancestry.com and their parent company The Generations Network has entered into a private buyout, a couple of months ago, with the private equity firm Spectrum Equity Investors for a reportedly $300M acquisition deal. Private equity buyouts have been a serious, if not the only, alternative of IPOs these past years.
Spectrum Equity Investors has led the investment of $300 million to purchase a majority interest in the company. Spectrum is a private equity firm based in Menlo Park and Boston and has been a shareholder in The Generations Network since 2003. Following the transaction, Vic Parker and Ben Spero from Spectrum will serve on the company’s new board of directors, along with Tim Sullivan, President and CEO of The Generations Network. Additional terms of the transaction were not disclosed but the investment was said will support and accelerate the company’s “strategic direction and growth plan”.
This is being said to be a liquidity event for most of TGN’s shareholders, although it was said that the deal does not represent a complete buyout. Employees and possibly some outside shareholders still have equity in the entity, which is almost certainly preparing for an IPO or other larger liquidity event. The company is said to be making over $150M in revenues per year and is reported to be hugely profitable according to online sources. The company’s current management team will continue to lead the company.
The Generations Network (formerly MyFamily.com Inc) is a genealogy discovery company which helps you map your family tree. The Generations Network, Inc. provides people the content, community, and technology to empower them to find the people most important to them — and discover and share their unique family stories. The company’s most popular brand is Ancestry.com, which has more than 5 billion names and 23,000 searchable databases for family history information, including the web’s largest collection of historical records.
The Generations Network operates a number of popular sites among which ancestry.com, ancestry.com.uk, ancestry.com.au, ancestry.ca, ancestry.de, ancestry.se, ancestry.fr, ancestry.it, myfamily.com, genealogy.com, rootsweb.com, familytreemaker.com, ancestrymagazine.com.
In late 2007 the company has launched DNA Ancestry — a new service combining the precision of DNA testing with Ancestry.com’s unrivaled collection of 5 billion names in historical records and the site’s unmatched online family history community.
This DNA testing service provides Ancestry.com’s growing network of more than 15 million users a tool that helps solve family-tree mysteries through science. By taking a simple cheek-swab test and comparing DNA test results in DNA Ancestry’s expanding results database, individuals may be able to extend the branches of their family trees, prove (or disprove) family legends, discover living relatives they never knew existed and find new leads where traditional paper trails dead end.
“DNA testing in family history is reaching critical mass,” said Megan Smolenyak, Chief Family Historian for Ancestry.com and co-author of the no. 1 selling book on genetic genealogy, Tracing Your Roots with DNA. “As more people add their results, the DNA Ancestry database becomes a powerful asset for users to make connections and discover their family tree. Already, many people have taken a simple DNA test to uncover genetic cousins and tap into their research, gathering names, dates, places and stories for their own family tree.”
DNA Ancestry offers Y-DNA and mtDNA tests — the two types of DNA tests most useful in family history, ranging in price from $149 to $199. The Y-DNA test analyzes the DNA in the Y chromosome, which is passed virtually unchanged from father to son. Test results can help users identify living individuals who share Y-DNA as well as predict ancient ancestors’ origins. Women can benefit from Y-DNA by having their father or other related male take the test. The mtDNA test analyzes DNA in an individual’s mitochondrial DNA, which passes from a mother to her children. Test results predict ancient ancestors’ origins and migration route from Africa and can aid in identifying living cousins.
Ancestry.com has also recently introduced the largest collections of U.S. military records and African-American historical records.
According to Quantcast, the company’s main site Ancestry.com is reaching 3M uniques per month but the site is not reported quantified so we can easily assume the site’s real reach is larger. Comscore, by contrast, says TGN’s group of sites had 8.2 million unique worldwide visitors in August 2007 (the only public date we have discovered online).
The Generations Network properties have more than 900,000 paying subscribers off the 8.2 million worldwide unique visitors per and in the last 18 months the company has solidified its position as one of the largest and most profitable subscription businesses online with success in several areas:
- Ancestry.com is the world’s leading online family history resource, with more than 5 billion names from historical records, unmatched and proprietary search technologies and an engaged and passionate community f more than 2.5 million active members.
- A redesigned Ancestry.com experience has transformed an online research tool into a platform for aggregating the world’s family history memories. Since late July 2006, more than 3.8 million family trees have been created on Ancestry.com, over 330 million names added to Ancestry Family Trees™, and more than 3.5 million individual photos, stories, or scanned documents have been uploaded by members.
- Ancestry.com now boasts the only completely indexed online U.S. Federal Census Collection (1790-1930), the most comprehensive online compilation of U.S. ship passenger lists (1820-1960), the largest online collection of African American historical documents and the most comprehensive online collection of U.S. military records.
- Beyond the United States, the Ancestry global network now includes local country sites for the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Germany, Italy, France and Sweden.
- The recent launch of DNA.ancestry.com™ now extends the Ancestry service into the rapidly growing field of genetic genealogy.
- AncestryPress™, a digital publishing platform integrated into Ancestry.com, now gives every family the ability to create completely unique, professionally printed family history books.
- Family Tree Maker® 2008, the No. 1-selling family history software package, is now available online and in major retail stores throughout North America and Europe.
- The redesigned myfamily.com site now has new features, providing families everywhere a safe, private, and free family home on the Web.
“Spectrum Equity has been an incredibly supportive and strategic-minded investor in our company for several years, so I am thrilled to have them acquire this majority interest in The Generations Network,” said Tim Sullivan, company President and CEO. “2007 has been the company’s most successful and profitable year to date, and 2008 looks even more promising as we grow our core businesses further, expand our global presence, and innovate with new products and services that help us realize our mission to connect families across distance and time. I appreciate Spectrum’s vote of confidence in our direction and vision, and I am excited to work even more closely with Vic Parker and Ben Spero to continue to transform this amazing and unique business into a truly great company.”
Lehman Brothers acted as financial advisor to The Generations Network, Inc. in the transaction.
The Generations Network, Inc. has been founded in 1983 as a print publishing company called Ancestry and is based in Provo Utah. They’ve raised $95 million to date, although the last round of financing was closed back in 2001.
About Spectrum Equity Investors
Spectrum Equity Investors is a private equity firm focused on investing in profitable, growing services businesses. Founded in 1994 with offices in Menlo Park and Boston, Spectrum manages over $4 billion in capital across five funds. The firm’s investment team has deep experience in information services and online media, including investments in Demand Media, Interbank FX, iPay Technologies, NetQuote, Mortgagebot, RiskMetrics Group, Seisint (acquired by Reed Elsevier PLC) and WorldCheck.
The company’s web sites compete with a number of web 2.0 start ups that have aggressively entered the space one of which is Geni. Other companies include MyHeritage, familytreemaker.com, Story Of My Life, Our Story and 23andMe, founded by one of the Google’s founders, which competes with TGN’s DNA unit, among others.