Avvo Decides Not to Go Public, Being Acquired by Internet Brands

Legal directory Avvo, which was founded in 2006 as a kind of “Yelp for lawyers,” has been acquired for an undisclosed amount by Internet Brands, which is itself owned by private equity. The company will now be part of the holding company’s “legal vertical,” which includes, Martindale-Hubbell and

Avvo raised well over $100 million of investor capital and had a valuation of roughly $650 million at one time. The company expected to go public but obviously declined to go that route — probably wisely. It’s not clear whether Avvo got anything close to it’s valuation. My speculation is that it did not, though the purchase price was probably several hundred million dollars.

Internet Brands is a collection of “vertical marketplaces” that sell ads (and in some cases other marketing services) on the basis of more qualified leads and traffic. It’s not clear what percentage of Avvo traffic is branded and what portion relies on SEO. Avvo is far from a household name and a variety of legal searches I informally conducted this morning found Avvo links on the first page of Google in some but not all cases.

Avvo sells legal services to consumers but most of its business focuses on selling ads to lawyers. It also sells websites. At one time it offered SEM to lawyers although that no longer appears to be the case. Avvo will now be able to sell exposure and ad products to attorneys across multiple sites in the Internet Brands portfolio.

Avvo will reportedly remain in Seattle under the leadership of CEO Mark Britton, who was one of the company’s co-founders. Co-founder Paul Bloom is now a developer liaison and evangelist for Cortana at Microsoft.

Legal was historically the highest-revenue category for print yellow pages, at one time generating well over a billion dollars per year. Avvo was founded partly to disrupt that market.

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