General Atlantic today announced that it has acquired Network Solutions, a Herndon, Va.-based provider of online solutions for small businesses, from Najafi Cos. (f.k.a. Pivotal Private Equity). So let’s play 5 Questions with Anton Levy, a managing director with General Atlantic and head of the firm’s media and consumer practice.
1. Network Solutions provides services that lots of other companies provide – domain registration, search engine visibility, paid search, etc. What makes it stand out?
We think Network Solutions is the leading provider of marketing solutions in the digital world for small to mid-sized businesses and individuals. These constituents have a different set of needs and requirements than other groups, and Network Solutions has done a masterful job of providing them with a comprehensive suite of relevant services. A lot of the other companies offer just one-off solutions or pieces, instead of something comprehensive.
2. This is a company with well more than $100 million in annual revenue, which seems to be the threshold for tech companies to go public. Why is it still private?
That may be a better question for the previous owners. But, from our perspective, there are certain things we’d like to accomplish and think they can be done best as a private company. We’re not ready to discuss them publicly yet, however.
3. Well, let me probe anyway. General Atlantic is known for its cross-border activity. Do you view Network Solutions as a global company, and do you expect to do acquisitions to make it moreso?
We’re not disclosing specific numbers, but this is definitely an international business and we view increased globalization as one of the avenues for growth. We think that more and more small and mid-sized businesses throughout the world will need online solutions… As for acquisitions, we think Network Solutions has a long runway for organic growth – but the management team has bought companies in the last and integrated them, so we do expect to use this as a platform.
4. When Pivotal bought the company in 2003, it let prior owner Verisign retain a 15% stake. Did you buy out Verisign, or is it still a shareholder?
We’re not disclosing any specifics about the ownership structure…
5. Well then you almost definitely won’t answer this: Will Network Solutions next year take on fellow domain registrar GoDaddy.com in the Super Bowl ad wars?
(laughing) Well, they’ve got a strategy that they think works for them, and we’ll probably have a slightly different strategy…