Everything Old is New Again: WildFire is the Web 2.0 Version of FlashBase

The first startup I worked for, about a year after graduating college, was a small company named FlashBase located in NYC. I believe I was the 8th employee and the 3rd full time programmer, not counting the two founders who wore many hats.

FlashBase started life a web front end for database backends, which was a technology in search of a solution. Basically we allowed users to graphically create webforms; common uses were surveys, help boxes, and sweepstakes. During the attempt to raise a 2nd round of funding we made a pivot, and switched from a general tool to a specific solution: Sweepstakes.

DCLK Sweepstakes
Thanks to the wayback machine we can see the homepage a month after the aquisition. (The pre brand change site doesn't have images and hence looks pretty ugly.)

It turns out that getting opt-in mailings lists was important enough for people to actually pay for our product. And thus a business was born. We made a turn key solution for running sweepstakes. Which is why WildFire sounds so familair to me. WildFire is a platform for running sweepstakes and doing analytics around them. Essentially, it is the Web 2.0 version of Flashbase; better analytics and tools for virality I'm sure, but essentially the same product.

 

WildFire
While web design has come a long way, the value proposition is the same: WildFire creates turnkey solutions for sweepstakes, user-generated video, photo, & essay-based contests, and coupon give-aways.

In the end, just as the dot com bust happened, our founders sold the company to DoubleClick for around 20M. Given the peak for the NASDAQ was in March selling in May was quite lucky, the slide had only just begun and people still thought that a recovery might happen. For the VC, Dawntreader, this was a pretty decent outcome since so little had been invested and the flip was quick.

So what does this mean for Wildfire, who has taken 4M? I suspect it is going to be a tough road to hoe. A 20M sale aint what it used to be, and buyout valuations are lower now than in 2000. I'm sure there is an arguement that Social changes everything, but having been there in the past I don't expect WildFire to be a "Big Company". For a month long campaign at the premium level ($250 + $5 a day) we are looking at $400. Let's say they can sell the company for 3x Revenue. So to reach a 20M sale they need 6.6M in revenue. To get that at $400 a pop you need to run 16,500 campaigns a year. Let me say, that's a lot of sweepstakes.

 

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