There was only one justification for Glam Media's extraordinary valuation, $150m, when Samir Arora's latest venture received its last round of funding. The fashion media network has an unimpressive core property, glam.com; but it's cunningly gathered together 350 affiliate sites ; a superficially impressive audience of 17m unique visitors in the US, largely female; and that's a recipe for blowout ad sales to marketers desperate to reach women on the web. Except they're not that desperate. How do we know? Because Glam's VP of sales just sent out, mistakenly, the network's 2007 sales spreadsheet, and the numbers are unimpressive. (The screenshots are below.) The company, which has raised about $30m in three rounds, did just $1.34m in sales in the first quarter, at least in the main East Coast markets, and that's before affiliates take their cut.
To be sure, Jack Rotolo's projections show sales leaping ahead in the rest of the year, as projections always do. And almost any other big-name Valley startup makes less than one would, in the current ad boom, expect. But, to meet the team's target of $11m this year, Glam would need growth of 166% between first and second halves. Even assuming a bump around the time of the Christmas shopping season, that's improbable.
Glam is by no means the lamest company in Silicon Valley. Networks, which aggregate audiences for busy ad buyers, can be lucrative businesses, so long as the participating sites don't get greedy, or restless. Glam's focus — on the highly desirable female demographic, responsible for the majority of consumer purchases both online and off — gives it an edge over more generic networks such as John Battelle's Federated Media or Philip Kaplan's Adbrite. The company is backed by blue-chip Accel Partners, as well as Tim Draper's DFJ.
But the revenue multiple implied by Glam's leaked sales numbers, for what is a glorified rep firm, is exorbitant. Take the first-half run-rate of $6m a year for the East Coast. Let's add another $4m for the rest of the country. Glam's last round, $18m taking the company's valuation to $150m, puts the company at an outrageous 15 times revenues. Even for the cash-rich private equity investors who paid the price, that multiple must be painful.