Buying an Internet Business Why 2016 is the Year to Buy
The start of a new year is always a natural time of year to make plans for the future. be it personally or professionally. It’s a good time to take stock of previous experience and think about what’s taking place in the world. Indeed, you don’t have to look too far for predictions posts at the moment, the internet is positively awash with musings about the year ahead with many exciting internet marketing trends predicted (mobile, the internet of things and as ever, more content marketing!)
Strangely though there is not much in the way of thoughts on business buying in 2016,particularly for buying an internet business. so I’ve put some thoughts together on why 2016 is potentially a very timely year to buy.
Buying an internet business – macro favors the opportunist
There’s so much uncertainty in both the US and global economy at the moment that you can carve a pretty convincing argument either way for economic collapse or prosperity in 2016 (presumably that’s how Wall Street analysts keep in business come high or low…)
I think though that when it comes to small business ownership there is strong cause for optimism this year. Consumer confidence has continued to climb through 2016 to the mid 90 s. Good news for consumer facing e-businesses.
Investment levels always tell you something about the market’s sentiment toward both the economy and small business growth. Whilst you shouldn’t always follow the herd it’s important to note we operate in an economy based largely on consent, so if everyone else is investing it’s a good sign for personal acquisitions. US venture capital investment continue to grow year over year, and 2015 saw the largest amount of investment dollars.
Lastly, borrowing is an essential component for acquisition and growth and it’s refreshing to see that whilst SBA lending softened a little in 2014 to $3.8bn (from $4.0bn in 2013), the lender is anticipating a huge boost in 2015 to $4.8bn. If you’re looking to debt finance an internet business acquisition, 2016 could well be the year to do it.
A word of warning though, it can still be quite difficult to secure debt financing for online business acquisitions. SaaS businesses and recurring revenue models that have at least three years of history tend to be the most successful candidates for funding, though cash buyers will continue to have pole position in 2016. If you want to learn about alternative finance options you can read How to Buy a Website with Finance .
Surging internet growth continues
The nice thing about most internet trends is that they almost always face upwards which makes the old Chinese proverb of “the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the second best time is now” true at the start of almost every year.
E-commerce continues to be one of the biggest areas of internet growth and eMarketer expects the global E-commerce industry to increase another $263bn in 2015 to $1.763trn (yes trillion), all boding very well for site owners and potential business acquirers.
Content sites will not miss out on a continued surge in internet usage as multi-device and particularly mobile usage make the web a major source of advertising dollars. Internet advertising revenues continue to rise with spending up across every single sector. from 5% YoY in entertainment to 20% YoY in retail. Digital advertising revenue is now worth more than $40bn in the US alone (as of 2014), second only to TV, and rising at 15% per annum (5x faster than any other medium).
It’s not just the growth opportunities that are appearing in the internet investment landscape, the risk factors are somewhat fading too. Many online business acquirers are cautious of pending Google algorithm updates particularly when looking at websites with high search traffic (and they are wise to be). With the last 18 months seeing an unprecedented amount of algorithm changes. things have now started to calm and the industry is expecting a smoother runway in 2016.
That’s not to say there won’t be movement but there is much less concern over 20% single-day traffic falls as we saw with the Penguin and Panda rollouts in 2013 and 2014. The good news for site buyers is that investors now have the pick of sites that are still standing after the updates and they also have some runway ahead before Google consider another major algorithm update.
Mobile is an explosive opportunity
A major part of the trends above is the continued penetration of smartphones across the US, Western Europe and Asia as well as the proliferation of multi-device. Multi-device ownership is increasingly commonplace in developed markets with 1 in 4 smartphone owners in the US and EU5 also owning a tablet.
Almost every internet marketing predictions post is citing mobile’s importance this year and its clear from listings at FEI that site owners who have mobile-optimised their sites (at the least) or built new service or content offerings around mobile, are very well positioned for selling. With Google putting greater emphasis on the mobile user experience, potentially even incorporating “mobile-friendliness” into its search ranking algorithm, mobile-friendly is now essential.
Digi-Capital predict 61.3% CAGR of revenue growth in mobile app revenue (ex-gaming) to 2017 which is a staggering growth rate and a huge growth opportunity for buyers of e-businesses and apps in 2016 and beyond. Advertisers worldwide are recognizing the increasing penetration of mobile and its impact on consumers, and in response, plan to spend more than $64bn on mobile ads in 2015. 60% higher than 2014.
Favorable industry trends
Thomas and I wrote about industry trends at the end of 2015 and we think they are aligning positively for buyers. Whilst there’s undoubtedly more buyers in the industry than ever before, the market is formalizing and this can only be a good thing for raising industry standards amongst brokers, sellers and other industry participants alike.
An exciting new development has been the launch of Escrow’s new domain name holding service in 2014 which has dramatically increased the scope for creatively financed deals in 2016. With domain(s) held in Escrow during the deferred consideration period there is much less fear about payment default, which warms sellers to the idea of earn outs, holdbacks and other financing methods. All of this is great news for buyers looking to stretch out their funds or structures deals for lower risk.
Speaking of formalisation, the website buying industry definitely embraced content marketing in the past few years and we have seen a marked increase in content posting by brokers, marketplaces and industry commentators alike. Centurica now publish an annual website buying report and its co-founder Justin Gilchrist also published an in-depth primer on business buying.
FEI published a free Guide to Buying an Online Business to help educate buyers on how to run through the process successfully and to raise awareness about the asset class. In short, there’s never been more quality information available about internet business buying which is great news for new and seasoned buyers alike.
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If not now, when?
So there are a lot of good reasons why 2016 presents a unique opportunity to buy an internet business. But the truth is, every year gives advantages over the previous year. So, if you’re waiting for the perfect time, then you’ve perhaps already waited too long. The right time to buy a business is now! Don’t wait for any arbitrary date like January 1st.
Instead, commit to your plan and get started right now. Yes, 2016 will be a great time for buying a business but so is today .
David is the Brokerage Director at FE International. Starting out as an investment banker, he moved online to use his transaction experience for website brokerage. At FE International, he spends his time speaking with buyers, executing deals and working on raising industry standards to encourage more investments. In 2014 he closed more than $6m in sales and wrote a book on buying internet businesses for investors new to the space.