Friday, December 14, 2007

John Cook: Venture Capital: Car dealers driving a hot streak at Cobalt

"THE COBALT GROUP could very well be the biggest Internet company in Seattle you've never heard of. And the 12-year-old company, which develops Web sites and online marketing services for about one-third of the automobile dealers in the U.S., is poised to get even bigger in 2008.
With revenue expected to hit $170 million this year, the privately held company is planning to hire about 300 people over the next 12 months, bringing worldwide employment to 1,000. Most of the new hires will be in the Seattle area, primarily in search engine marketing and content management of dealers' Web sites.
To accommodate that growth, Cobalt Group Chief Executive John Holt has been scouring the Lynnwood/Bothell area for 45,000 to 60,000 square feet of additional office space.
What's driving the hiring spree?
Holt says business is booming as automobile dealers shift resources from traditional advertising to the Internet. With dealers spending roughly 10 percent of their ad budgets online, Holt, 51, thinks there's plenty of room for The Cobalt Group to grow. In fact, he is targeting 35 to 40 percent annual growth for the next two years, which would give the company about $300 million in revenue by 2009."

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