Empires are generally built on military superiority, strategic genius and money. Of course the concept of an “empire” has expanded beyond warfare and now includes industries such as: Music, Technology and Real Estate. Everybody knows giants like Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and Virgin (which kind of encompasses all of those aforementioned products, plus commercial space travel, because why create an empire that doesn’t extend beyond the Earth right?). Sometimes though empires aren’t so widely known, they exist in the shadows like financial ninjas, amassing customers, offering flawless services flying just under everyone’s radar. I bet you it’s because they don’t have an eccentric CEO/Founder that has the potential to be portrayed in a Hollywood movie and then turn around and say that it was an unfair depiction.
The companies that we’re going to talk about are huge and have large catalogues of highly profitable websites. Let’s take a look at some of these relatively unknown companies and the websites they own (that might surprise you). The websites include social media, e-commerce and even online gambling sites like Casino.com.
Diversity is the name of the contemporary market’s game. You can’t be a one-trick pony and become a mighty company-acquiring conglomerate. Well, Mansion Ltd. is a great example of how diversity can help a company expand exponentially. For example, it started with MansionCasino.com, an online gambling website, then moved to sponsoring a soccer (or football, take your pick) team, and even produced a show with Fox Entertainment called “Poker Dome Challenge”. The series actually went on to win an Emmy Award. If that isn’t diversity, I don’t know what is.
Another key part of its success is its adaptability. When the company acquired Casino.com (another website), it was an online marketing website. But as it would be absurd for it to be anything else, it was turned into an online gambling site and proved to be immensely successful. The Mansion Group currently owns and operates six online gambling websites and one affiliate website, sponsors numerous sports teams, and has even financed an event that broke a Guinness World Record: a 12-hour long DJ relay mix. I can’t even begin to imagine how many innocent glow sticks were sacrificed to beat that record.
If there’s one thing that the internet is famous for, it’s democratisation of knowledge and expression…oh and porn…Yes, although you can use the internet to feed your brain, you can also use it to feed your deepest dirtiest desires. You want to see two grown men dressed as chickens and running into walls...but in an erotic way, then the internet has you covered. If you are watching videos of strawberry marmalade being slowly stirred to the sound waves crashing onto the beach…but in an erotic way, the internet, yet again, has you covered. One of the biggest companies that pander to these deepest, nastiest desires is MindGeek.
I know that the name makes it seem like a brain-game app developer but this massive network of virtual smut includes: YouPorn, Twisty’s, GayTube, SexTube, TrannyTube, RedTube, the company was even Playboy’s operating partner for a period of time. There are many more websites that are owned by MindGeek, but I doubt you’d want an exhaustive list of online porn websites…Oh, you would? Well, writing out every single one would get me in trouble with my boss but you can find the list here. Also, you can stop complaining about the lack of links to the respective freaky deaky websites…that would also get me in trouble with my boss. Sorry, it’s not my fault he’s a prude.
I’m sure you’re familiar with Alibaba…No, not the Open Sesame one…the e-commerce one. If you’re not, I guess I’ll have to explain it to you. Well, Alibaba is China’s answer to Amazon and Ebay, but better as it also offers the ability for consumer to manufacturer and manufacturer to manufacturer transactions.
It’s not just a pretty face though, it also owns huge stakes in one of China’s most used social media/microblogging sites (which basically equates to Facebook and Twitter’s Chinese speaking love child), Weibo. In 2014 the company filed registration to go public in U.S. and ended up having the largest IPO in American history, $25 Billion. Its R&D Department currently holds 350 patents and has recently even acquired a mobile device manufacturer. I guess when Alibaba.com utters Open Sesame it says it to the bank vault and not the thieves cave.
Avid Life Media
I bet that most of you have never heard of a little company called Avid Life Media, and you probably haven’t heard of the company’s Chief Operating Officer, Rizwan Jiwan. That’s probably because a website that it owns called AshleyMadison.com recently overshadowed it with a bit of controversy. The first controversy AshleyMadison was subject to was purely due to its premise: which is to help married people looking to have an affair meet up. The second wave of controversy was when hackers published the names of 32 million users (yes million the world is full of cheaters, that shouldn’t be news to anyone at this point).
It is said that at least 2 suicides resulted from the publishing of the users’ personal information, users that were ultimately trying to cheat on their husbands and wives. Shortly after the devastating and revealing hack, Avid Life Media and AshleyMadison.com’s creator and founder (and self-proclaimed most hated person on the internet) Noel Biderman stepped down as CEO and Rizwan was appointed as COO. The company had ownership or managed various other sites that catered to the less than faithful…NO! I am not going tell you how to find them.
So for those of you unfamiliar with Baidu.com, it’s basically a Chinese version of Google, but on steroids. According to Alexa.com, it is the 4th most visited website in the world. Beyond that, it employs 40.500 people (compared admirably to Google’s 57.148) is worth 52.61 Billion and offers a suite of 43 different web services which includes a law search engine, an online library and an mp3/multimedia search function (take notes Google…I still can’t find Cabbage Soup Polka, by Polka Dot).
Baidu is constantly expanding and currently has a partnership with Discovery Communication producing programmes with scientific, archeological, cultural and historical content. The company also creates its own software, which includes a mobile OS, a proprietary browser and even a free suite of tools for webmasters. It’s even slowly breaking away from just the Chinese market and creating a Japanese version of its search engine. Within China, it is the #1 ranked website, surpassing Yahoo!, Bing and Google’s Chinese language versions.
Undoubtedly all of these companies when transitioning from small scale to larger scale had to take a gamble. It seems though that it paid off in dividends…well, except for that whole AshleyMadison thing, but we’ll ignore it for the sake of argument.