Website conglomerate Internet Brands Inc. purchased Scranton tech startup success story Net Driven.
Net Driven founder Patrick Sandone III, who started the company in 2007 as its sole employee, made the announcement at a press conference Thursday at the company’s headquarters at the Scranton Enterprise Center on Lackawanna Avenue.
He declined to disclose the price paid by the El Segundo, California-based Internet Brands, but said the 70 Net Driven jobs will remain. He noted he is signing a two-year lease on space in the center, which the Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce owns and operates.
“The employees will stay,” he said. “This was an important point we were able to negotiate.”
The company continues to add positions to serve its growing roster of 5,000-plus clients.
Last year, Net Driven came on the radar of larger tech companies, and Mr. Sandone fielded several offers. He said he selected Internet Brands because of its history and pedigree — it is owned by KKR & Co., an huge private equity firm which purchased Internet Brands last summer for $1.1 billion. Internet Brands operates a slate of websites serving healthcare, automotive and other areas, such as NoLo.com, Lawyers.com, CarsDirect.com and ApartmentRatings.com. Last year, KKR reported earnings of $478 million.
Internet Brands has long specialized in automotive, going back to its origins as CarsDirect.com. That specialty made Internet Brands the best choice, Mr. Sandone said.
In the wake of the KKR acquisition, Internet Brands seeks to position itself as purveyor of services rather than an owner of high-traffic websites.
“Net Driven’s keen focus on specific niches within the automotive industry has created a thriving business that nicely complements our existing technology solutions servicing automotive OEMs and franchise dealers,” said Bob Brisco, chief executive officer of Internet Brands, in a statement.
Mr. Sandone and Net Driven have become assets to the region and the chamber, helping it show technology companies that growth and success is possible in the Scranton area, said chamber president Robert Durkin. The chamber has taken principals of prospective companies to tour Net Driven.
“We want to take the seeds of technology and grow them into companies here,” Mr. Durkin said. “Pat Sandone is the poster child for how to do that.”
Mr. Sandone is a scion of a family that founded and operates Sandone Tire Co., a wholesale distributor of tires, with some retail and car care center. Mr. Sandone worked in banking in Boston and Paris as a consultant working with liquidated companies. He returned to Northeast Pennsylvania in 2004, and consulted with his family’s business on information technology and marketing. He saw the potential for a software system for automotive retailers, offering websites, internet marketing, customer acquisition and social media support and he launched Net Driven.
“You don’t have to be in Silicon Valley to grow a company with a world-leading technology,” Mr. Sandone said. “You can do it right here in Scranton, Pennsylvania.”
Under an agreement with Internet Brands, Mr. Sandone will remain president of Net Driven for one year.
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