Thursday, November 10, 2011

What went wrong?

Hindsight being 20/20, there are some things that I saw from my last company that I feel contributed to the decline of their recent stock pricing.  It is fairly common with most larger companies to become more risk adverse as they grow (unlike investment banks).  Because of this, management was fairly stubborn in investing and fully funding new initiatives.  The company had a lot of interesting initiatives, but most of them died a slow death from lack of funding and resources.

My belief is that you either have to fully fund any investment to development it internally, or pay a premium after someone else has successfully developed it externally.  Unfortunately, being part of the Corporate Development team there, I saw neither.  We were notoriously cheap, and many of the deals I was able to accomplish was done mainly based on my relationship with the Seller.  I honestly don't think they would have done a deal with the company otherwise.  The company likes to acquire a lot of short term wins, but people hold grudges for a very long time.  The fact we pulled a fast one on one Seller in the short term doesn't always translate to good business in the long term.  In fact, it was an uphill battle as these Sellers talk to other potential Sellers.  I think this prevented us from taking the next leap that would have accelerated growth.  The company is still focused on the bread and butter lead gen, but forgot that even that wasn't the original business model when the company was first founded.

Next, I really feel the company should have made a bigger push into mobile and online gaming, making big bets like they did with Insurance.  They really turned their head away from social networks, and may have missed the boat big time.  This could be one of the reason why they're currently the "black sheep" of the online marketing family.

Lastly, Quinstreet had a history of not willing to brand itself, and this policy is directed from the top down.  They prefer to have the media they own appear stand alone as to create the perception of unbiased reviews.  Although this may work well on a consumer perspective, as well as hiding from Google how many sites they really own that rank the first page of top keywords, I believe this was horrible from an investor standpoint.  Many people know more about the media properties I have acquired (just name a finance blog, I probably bought it for QNST), then they do about the company.  For a public company, this is killer since part of the value of the stock is the perception of the investor.  If they really understood the girth of the media brand names QNST is a part of, there may have been more excitement.  Honestly, I think the CEO and COO should have pimped out the company like a fat kid loves cake.

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