About.me, the personal profile page startup co-founded by Tony Conrad, and acquired days after its public launch by AOL* back in 2010, is going it alone again. The move was announced by Conrad and co-founder Ryan Freitas on about.me’s blog:
Twenty-four months and several million about.me pages later, we continue our commitment to building the best personal identity service on the web. During the past two years, we’ve been thankful for the tremendous resources and support of our friends and partners at AOL.
Today, we’re thrilled to announce that we’ll be spinning about.me back out, returning to life as an independent company that is financially backed by our management team and a truly amazing group of investors who have backed companies such as WordPress and Google. Our team will remain the same for the most part, and we’ll continue our roles as co-founders.
Conrad said the decision to spin out from AOL was not down to any sort of disagreement or “classic” culture clash between the big corporate entity and the creative upstart startup. Rather he said AOL’s acquisition strategy is “very focused on media” and there just weren’t the product integration opportunities that had originally been envisaged. (And on the media side, only yesterday rumours surfaced that AOL is looking to buy consumer electronics site Gdgt.)
Conrad told TechCrunch: “Our experience at AOL has actually been great. That’s genuine. They’ve been really supportive of us — we’ve hired, our team has doubled in size. They’ve given us a lot of air cover, a lot of support… [But] the reality is AOL is very focused on media. When we sold about.me part of the thesis was that we’d be able to be integrated into mail, we’d be integrated into AIM… And there really hasn’t been integration opportunities.
“We’re a big cost centre to AOL. I don’t think that serves their purposes well if they don’t see the long term integration.”
Taking the business independent again “just felt like the right move — for the brand, for the product, for the team”, added Conrad. Conversations about spinning back out have been going on for the past year. AOL, which bought about.me for a seven-figure sum, remains a shareholder — so it asked about.me’s team to raise enough capital to go it alone.
To that end, about.me has raised $5.7 million, led by True Ventures, said Conrad. Other investors include SoftTech VC, Google Ventures, CrunchFund and others. “We’re excited as co-founders to have the brand back, and to go for it and to build hopefully a product and service that crosses over into every household,” added Conrad.
Asked what’s next for about.me, he said its focus will be looking at ways of making it easier for people to link their online identity to ‘calls to action’ — such as requests for work along the lines of ‘hire me to be your X’ or ‘buy my Y’ — which he said a lot of people are already putting in their about.me page text or subtitle. “We want to dive deeper into that,” he said.
About.me’s blog announcing its return to startup life can be read in full here.
*AOL is also, of course, the owner of TechCrunch.