Lycos, Tripod merger benefits alumni investors

On Feb. 3 Lycos Inc. acquired Tripod Inc. of Williamstown, MA in a deal worth approximately $58 million in stock. The merger had economic ramifications in both cyberspace and the Williamstown.

The Williamstown-based Berkshire Capital Investors, who reached their goal of $5 million of capital on Feb. 17 had invested some of their fund in Tripod before the merger, earning a large profit. The money raised by BCI is targeted at creating jobs in the Berkshire region. Williams College Vice-President of Administration and Treasurer David Healy said, “the initiation of BCI and the College’s 20% share of the investment pool was very much driven by our wanting to provide a base of investment capital for firms in the Berkshire area and, thereby, to provide economic growth and development for the area.”

On the internet, Lycos/Tripod is now the fifth most visited web site in the world, attracting almost 24% of all web users. Tripod’s on-line community of almost one million registered viewers is organized around the creation of member pages and pods, on-line interest pages about various subjects. The pods have regularly schedule discussion forums and are tailored to meet their users needs.

Tripod is currently gaining new members at a rate of 100,000 per month, making it the fifth fastest-growing web site. It was founded in September 1992 by Bo Peabody, who graduated from Williams in ’94 with a degree in political philosophy and sociology. Tripod has since grown into one of only two (Lycos being the other) web sites to gain members in the past three months. Lycos is a web site search engine used by many to find useful information in a glut of sites.

The union enables Lycos to target Tripod’s demographic: a group of users primarily between the ages of 18 and 34. With the additional Tripod members, Lycos’s 800+ brand name advertisers will have a new market with which to target and on-line commerce will benefit greatly. Peabody commented, “With this union, we can offer our members the Web’s most valuable features and services while maintaining the hip, homegrown culture that has made Tripod a favorite destination for savy twenty-somethings for years.”

The Williamstown area will hopefully benefit from the effects of the merger as well. By helping the Berkshire Capital Investors reach their capital investment goal quickly with a tidy profit, the number of jobs created will be greater than before, and the investors gain respect at the same time. Healy noted, “things are progressing wonderfully and much faster than we anticipated.”

Using funds from BCI, the portfolio companies can increase their employment base, strengthening the local economy. David Healy noted, “What I hope this initial success means is that it is the indicator of more success to come.” Williams alumnus and BCI fund-raiser George Kennedy commented, “Tripod’s success is a visible proof of our belief that the Berkshires region can produce success stories.”