A big day for online genealogy sites: MyHeritage, an Israel-based site that lets people research and their family histories and make family trees, has raised $25 million in new funding, and it has bought out one of its rivals, Geni.com — the company that originally begat Yammer, which now owned by Microsoft. The purchase was an eight-figure deal in cash and equity, according to MyHeritage investor Index. And it is not only an acqui-hire — Geni.com engineers and other employees will join MyHeritage — but a data-cquisition: it gives MyHeritage “billions more global records and connecting millions more of our users,” the company says.
David Sacks, the founder of Yammer and Geni.com, says that data is a big part of the equation in the online genealogy business.
“What we’ve learned over the years building Geni is that there are three key assets that customers want in the genealogy space: records, private trees, and the world family tree,” he said in a statement. “This deal brings together all of these pieces to form the most complete offering in the genealogy space. Together with MyHeritage, we look forward to continuing Geni’s mission of connecting humanity through a single family tree.” As part of the deal, Sacks will become a board member at MyHeritage.
The deal represents a resting place for Geni.com, which was left behind when Yammer was sold to Microsoft for $1.6 billion. At the time, Noah Tutak, the CEO of told me: “Although Yammer was developed internally at Geni, and we consider them a sister company, we are separate entities so the sale has no material impact on Geni itself.”
But as Yammer was developed and took off, Geni slightly stalled. The company in 2007 picked up $10 million in funding on a $100 million valuation — possibly not quite what would have been achieved in an 8-figure deal five years later.
The deal help MyHeritage compete better against the biggest payer in the field, Ancestry.com, which was recently bought out by private equity firm Permira for $1.6 billion. MyHeritage now covers 72 million registered users — about 8 million of which came from Geni.com — 1.5 billion profiles and 27 million family trees. In an interview with WSJ, the CEO of MyHeritage, Gilad Japhet, notes that one of its unique selling points over Ancestry.com is that it offers better collaboration and sharing.
But that does not mean that the two sites will immediately be integrated. Geni.com and MyHeritage will continue to run as independent sites, the companies say, while giving users of each the ability to access data from both.
The $25 million round in MyHeritage was led by Bessemer Venture Partners, with participation also from existing investors Index and Accel. It’s a late-stage Series E round, with the last round in the company made in 2008. The total raised by MyHeritage is now $49 million.
MyHeritage says that it will be using the new funds to grow its business internationally, as well as continue its consolidation march in the online genealogy space with more acquisitions.
Official release below.
MyHeritage acquires Geni.com and raises $25m in new funding round
Family history network buys rival and advances international expansion with new funds
LOS ANGELES, California, PROVO, Utah & TEL AVIV, Israel – November 28, 2012 – MyHeritage, the popular online family history network, announced today it has acquired long-time rival Geni.com and closed a new USD$25M funding round led by Bessemer Venture Partners (BVP), with existing investors Index Ventures and Accel Partners also participating. Geni.com Founder David Sacks and BVP Partner Adam Fisher are joining the MyHeritage Board of Directors.
The acquisition reinforces MyHeritage’s position as a global power player in the family history industry and accelerates its vision of helping families everywhere build and share their legacy online. The purchase of Geni.com is the eighth and largest acquisition made by MyHeritage since the launch of its online family history network in 2005. It extends MyHeritage’s network to 72 million registered users, 1.5 billion profiles and 27 million family trees,containing the most internationally diverse family history content in the world.
The new investment round will be used by MyHeritage to boost growth of its historical content services and expand commercial operations worldwide. In addition to acquiring significant record collections from Europe and rolling out globalcrowd-sourcing projects, the funds will enable MyHeritage to explore additional M&A opportunities and ramp up its international marketing operations. The latest funding round brings the total funds raised so far by MyHeritage to USD$49 million.
“Exploring and curating one’s family past is both a timeless and universal hobby pursued by hundreds of millions of people around the world; I personally grew my own family tree to include more than 2,500 people,” said BVP Partner Adam Fisher. “The freemium model of MyHeritage/Geni not only makes online family history accessible to the casual user, but underscores the importance of user generated data to the product offering itself, which grows every day. As the international market leader with an aggressive expansion plan, we see tremendous value in their subscription business and are excited to work closely with Gilad and his team as they build on their success.”
“Today’s news is a major turning-point for the family history industry, giving us significant new resources to extend our market leadership and deliver new value to families worldwide,” said Founder and CEO of MyHeritage, Gilad Japhet. “Well established as an innovative and social brand, Geni.com is a natural addition to MyHeritage and together we look forward to taking collaborative family history to new heights. Over the past few years our dedicated workforce has transformed MyHeritage from a garage start-up into a successful, dynamic and global company. With new funds, impressive new talent from Geni.com and new world-class leaders on our Board, we look forward to fulfilling our potential and accomplishing our mission to bring family history to the masses.”
Founded in 2007, Geni.com is well known as a pioneer in collaborative family tree building with its focus on creating the World Family Tree, and enjoys a large following in the US. Geni.com will continue to operate as a separate brand based out of its California office, which will also serve as the main engineering hub for MyHeritage in the US, alongside its main content offices in Utah. The entire staff at Geni.com will join the MyHeritage team.
The services of MyHeritage and Geni.com will initially run independently. MyHeritage plans to give respective users the option to collaborate on family history research by enabling two-way information flows between the sites that will facilitate new family discoveries and provide greater value to the users of both services.
Users from both sites will be able to discover long-lost relatives and new ancestral connections through MyHeritage’s Smart Matching technology, which finds common matches between family trees. To add new color to the ancestries of Geni.com users, MyHeritage will apply its recently launched Record Matching™ technology that matches historical records, such as birth, death, census and immigration records, to individuals in Geni.com family trees. Geni.com users will be able to enjoy extended offerings provided by MyHeritage including DNA kits for genetic genealogy.
Geni.com Founder, David Sacks, a renowned entrepreneur, and most recently the Founder and CEO of Yammer (sold to Microsoft in June 2012 for $1.2 billion), will take a seat on the Board of Directors. David’s contributions as a visionary in the family history field, combined with his sharp eye for product, make him a strategic addition to MyHeritage management.
“What we’ve learned over the years building Geni is that there are three key assets that customers want in the genealogy space: records, private trees, and the world family tree. This deal brings together all of these pieces to form the most complete offering in the genealogy space. Together with MyHeritage, we look forward to continuing Geni’s mission of connecting humanity through a single family tree”, said Founder of Geni.com David Sacks.