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I sold my company to Bankrate 10 years ago for 8-figures.

I left another 8-figures on the table, but got to see the inner workings of the best customer acquisition company in the world.

Here is Bankrate’s billion-dollar playbook (that you can use too):
Bankrate started as a magazine.

They published interest rates from various lenders all in one place (hence the name “Bank-rate”).

It was pretty valuable back in the 1980s.

But it became more valuable during the dot com boom when they moved online and went public.
In 2004, Tom Evans became CEO.

Evans previously ran US News & World Report.

He’d also taken GeoCities (web hosting services) public back in 1997.

Tom had HUGE plans for Bankrate

But when stocks plummeted in 2008, his plans changed.
Evans took Bankrate private with PE backing.

His new plan?

Buy content sites with strong SEO for 6x EBITDA.

His bet: The rollup would trade at 12x+.

They started rolling up a ton of content sites.

@CreditCardsCom
• Insurance sites
• Finance blogs
• And my company!
I was running a marketing tech company at the time.

I was in my early 30s. We were growing fast.

But I wanted that first win.

So I sold to Bankrate, leaving 8-figures on the table for not waiting another 18 months.

Ah…hindsight…
Bankrate went public again in 2011.

They continued buying more and more websites.

Their playbook?

1. Buy sites with strong SEO
2. Boost with engaging content
3. Add simple tech to monetize traffic better
4. Layer aggressive paid advertising and affiliate programs
With this playbook, Bankrate was paying sellers 6x.

But, they were effectively paying only 2-3x after improving the sites.

And the combined company was trading at 15x!
One of their greatest acquisitions was a tiny blog called The Points Guy.

@ThePointsGuy was a go-to site for travelers and credit card points hackers.

At the time of acquisition, The Points Guy was reportedly making $2M in revenue.
Bankrate worked their playbook and 4Xed The Points Guy’s revenue in one year.

Fast forward a few years and The Points Guy was making over $60M in revenue!

Remember, this is only one of the many sites they acquired…
Bankrate continued to push for growth, expanding into buying paid media lead gen companies.

It didn’t go so well.

Tom Evans and his disciplined playbook had retired.
Shareholders began to notice accounting discrepancies.

It turned out the CFO was cooking the books.

He was sentenced to 10 years in jail and a $21M fine.
Amidst the issues, little-known Red Ventures bought Bankrate in 2017 for $1.24 billion.

Red Ventures is the best customer acquisition company on the planet.

Its CEO, Ric Elias, was on the plane that famously landed in the Hudson River.

His Ted Talk on the topic has 8M views.
Red Ventures has a huge portfolio:

• Bankrate
• CNET
• Healthline
• Lonely Planet
• 1,000s of SEO blogs in high-value niches

They also run massive customer acquisition campaigns for Fortune 100 brands.

Red Ventures is estimated to generate $1B+ in EBITDA in 2022.
So while I might have missed out on 8-figures by selling too early...

The experience of seeing the inner workings of this machine has paid massive dividends for the rest of my career.

If you enjoyed this, follow me @mattschnuck for more on entrepreneurship, EQ & growth.

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