In 2013, Scott Delong, then 29-years-old, launched ViralNova, a media startup dedicated to providing aggregated content that’s shareable and has the potential to go viral — content that many people consider clickbait.
The site sold today to digital-media company Zealot Networks for a reported $100 million in a stock and cash deal.
Despite its critics, ViralNova has seen incredible success. The site reportedly drew 100 million pageviews in December of 2013, only eight months after its launch. At that time, Business Insider tried to calculate their revenue:
“If we’re being generous, ViralNova’s AdSense rate might be $2 per thousand views, $1 for each ad on the page. Assuming ViralNova pulled in 200 million page views last month, he’d have made $400,000 in December. He also pays two freelancers and he has to shell out some to keep his servers running. But most of that money is being pocketed by DeLong.”
All of this was achieved with only DeLong himself and two hired writers. The success of the site was so great that even DeLong himself got caught by surprise. He told NextShark in an interview last year:
“I didn’t realize it would be this lucrative. Having just come off of selling another large site, I knew the power of Facebook and social traffic, but I didn’t think ViralNova would explode to this size. I had no idea it would spark so many imitators and ultimately change the way people are looking at headlines and virality. The reason I started it was simply to try to make some supplemental income while I traveled through Europe. I was bored not having a business, so I wanted to start something… and ViralNova is what I came up with.”
Like most viral sites, the majority of the traffic ViralNova has generated is from Facebook. Even with it’s success, Delong at one point wanted to sell the site. He claims that that stress of running a one-person startup became too much for him and he had no desire to manage a team. DeLong told NextShark:
“My normal business lifespan is about two years. I like to work hard on a project and make it the best it can be, but after about two years, I get burnt out and want to exit. This time around, I’m feeling that so much quicker because this has grown so much faster than I ever expected and I have an overwhelming feeling that this just isn’t what I want to do with my life. I do love to start something new.”
According to Business Insider, DeLong did get a couple of offers, but none were good enough to let his baby go. He ended up selling most of his company to New York-based entrepreneur Sean Beckner in 2014, who then became CEO and continued running the business.
ViralNova has currently grown to 22 full-time employees and is on track to generate $35 million in revenue this year.
While we’re sure DeLong is ecstatic to get a deal done, he admitted to NextShark last year that he’s been financially free for a while.
“I’m at risk of sounding very arrogant, but it’s been a few years since I’ve had to worry about money. That’s not the driving force behind ViralNova, so this has changed nothing for me in that regard. Until recently, no one knew who I was or what I’ve done. Since November when so much of my web ‘career’ became public, no one seems to be treating me differently. I mean, I do get approached often from strangers looking for advice. But I don’t have high tastes and I live a very simple life. I have no interest in flaunting money, buying yachts, or living in mansions. I just want security for myself and those closest to me.”
Prior to ViralNova, DeLong had built and sold other websites. His biggest acquisition before ViralNova was GodVine, a website that focused on aggregating uplifting stories that were hugely successful on Facebook. DeLong ended up selling GodVine to Salem Media Group for a “life-changing” sum, according to Business Insider.
Disclaimer: NextShark CEO Benny Luo is a stockholder at Zealot Networks, Inc.