I believe it’s getting tougher on the internet. All markets are getting more competitive. When I started out, it all seemed too easy. Sometimes I wonder if it’s just me getting older & inefficient or are internet businesses actually getting more competitive? The answer always lies in statistics, so I decided to dive in.
I started off my career by making content sites or blogs. There was a mega estate on desktop screens for ads, and the ad-blockers didn’t exist. It was so much easier to monetize blogs compared to now as the screens have gotten smaller and tech-savvy customers are using ad-blockers. With some browsers such as Brave designed to offer ad-blocking by default, it’s getting tougher to run a content site. Despite this trend, a blog would sell for 3x annual profit multiple now compared to 2008 where 1-2x was considered the norm. I sold my first blog in 2010 for a 1.3x multiple or for 16 months profit but the same blog would easily sell for much higher today.
In theory, such low valuation for an internet businesses appear absurd to me. It appears absurd because real-estate in comparison is sold for 15-20x annual earnings which is commonly known as price to rent ratio. This means, buyers of internet property are willing to pay only 15% of what they would pay for a real-estate if both generated similar earnings per month.
The reason why buyers do that is because they believe that real-estate would generate revenue for a longer time-period than internet businesses. But have internet businesses started generating revenue for longer time-period compared to 2008? If not, how have the valuations gone up? Is that because people trust internet businesses more and are willing to believe that they do and will last long enough.
This multiple, in my opinion, will keep going higher. For large softwares, where this multiple is the highest, it already hoovers around 10x. While small to medium softwares go for around 3.5x to 4.5x.
E-commerce, both stand-alone as well as FBA, also seem to be selling for 3.5x to 4.5x annual profits as long as they have minimum 1 year history.
Why are the multiples getting higher? I think this is a sign of trust in the internet businesses. More and more people realize, trust, and believe that internet and internet businesses are here to stay and hence they are willing to pay a higher price to acquire these. With more trust and better valuations, more people want to start internet businesses. I believe that the valuation multiple and competitiveness on the internet are directly proportional.
This is no more an open field. There is cut-throat competition, and it will keep getting harder to the point that economics will be nearly identical of what it is for offline businesses. Before that happens, I recommend that you hop on and enjoy the journey.