Is Active.com Really a ‘Start-Up’ Company?

By Pete Williams

13-year-old 'start-up?'

The Wall Street Journal on Thursday printed its annual ranking of the “top 50 starts-ups,” promising venture-backed companies.

As you might expect, few of these companies are household names unless you’re an avid follower of upstart technology firms, though there at No.16 was a company endurance athletes know all too well. No, not World Triathlon Corp. — The Active Network, the dreaded Ticketmaster of the endurance world.

I’m not sure how a company founded in 1998 qualifies as a “start-up.” If so, it’s even more puzzling that Active was not included in The Journal’s 2010 ranking. Other companies moved up from 35 to 13 or down from 2 to 20, but somehow The Journal editors just got wind of Active?

Of the top 10 start-ups, none were founded before 2002 and most were founded between 2004 and 2008.

Of the 50 companies listed, Active has raised by far the most venture capital ($272.4 million). Only 13 companies have generated more than $100 million, though presumably most of them are younger.

It’s not like Active has suddenly raised more capital in the past year. In 2008, it got an $80 million infusion from another company people love to hate (Disney/ESPN), which brought Active’s total to $272.4 million and sparked rumors of an IPO. Thus far that has not materialized.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the ranking is how The WSJ characterizes Active’s product: “Web publisher and service for managing and promoting events.”

Web publisher? That would make Active comparable to The Huffington Post, which was No.22 on last year’s ranking before AOL bought it for $315 million.

Sure, Active has some decent content, but not sure I’d list “Web publisher” first or even at all, what with Active’s cash cow core business of online petty theft, I mean, online event registration. I’m sure the boys in San Diego are thrilled to see the nation’s leading financial publication characterize them as a diverse media services company. Maybe the IPO is close at hand.

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Filed under Races, Running, Triathlon

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