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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

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March 26, 2008 11:40 PM

More on Live Current startup deal: It's just the start, more buyouts coming

Posted by Brier Dudley

The acquisition of Auctomatic was just the beginning, according to Live Current Media President Jonathan Ehrlich, who briefed me on the deal this afternoon.

Ehrlich said the company is planning to buy more startups over the next year or two to build an e-commerce business on its choice portfolio of Web domains.

"We have big appetites and are aggressively trying to scale this business,'' he said. "I think aquisitions of one sort or another are probably in the cards over the next 12 to 24 months. We want to grow this business as aggressively as we can."

It's probably a great time to be shopping for Web 2.0 startups, but how much can a 20-person outfit buy?

Live Current has about $5 million in cash, Ehrlich said, but the company is reviewing options to increase its buying power. They include selling a few domains, moving the company onto a larger stock market with a new public offering and taking an infusion from private investors.

Over the next six weeks, "we'll be making some decisions about how to put more gas in the tank,'' he said.

My guess is it will turn to investors. It was activist investors who pushed the company last year to bring in new management and figure out better ways to monetize its portfolio of about 800 domains.

That led to the new strategy of building a network of e-commerce sites on the 30 or so best domains, as well as the push to acquire technology and talent. It also brought in Ehrlich, from Canada's Indigo Books & Music, as well as a new chief executive and development officer.

So far the company's best domain has been perfume.com, which it has been monetizing with a basic online store. Another promising domain is cricket.com, especially for markets in India and the U.K.

As the company expands, it may build up its office in Seattle and add new offices in cities such as Los Angeles and New York. In Seattle, it now employs a marketing person and one of the five Auctomatic employees.

The company's new strategy was also telegraphed last month when it hired Wanderspot, a Seattle Web design and engineering company started by veterans of Jobster.com, as a strategic adviser to help build its destination sites. I wonder if Wanderspot will be acquired next.

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Gadgets and games | Fun stuff I've written about lately includes Apple's iPhone, Hewlett-Packard's HDX laptop and Microsoft's Halo3. Also on the radar are new digital video boxes such as the Tivo HD and the Vudu.