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Interview with Ed Ojdana and Matt Coffin, Experian Interactive

Experian acquired Santa Monica-based LowerMyBills.com Wednesday in a deal worth $330M. LowerMyBills.com provides price comparison and tools for consumers, and generates mortgage and other loan application leads for lenders. I spoke with Ed Ojdana, group president of Experian Interactive, and Matt Coffin, founder and CEO of LowerMyBills.com (and longtime socalTECH reader) about the acquisition and what it means for the two companies.

BK: Ed, why did Experian decide to acquire LowerMyBills?

EO: Experian saw LowerMyBills.com as a natural fit with Experian's goal of assisting consumers in managing their financial needs. By merging LowerMyBills.com, a leading online mortgage lead generator and the number one online financial services advertiser, with Experian Consumer Direct, the leading online provider of credit reports, scores and monitoring products, as well as Experian Interactive's other businesses, we are now able to greatly expand our ability to provide the quality products and services desired by our customers and positions us as the 15th largest Internet company by revenue in the United States.

BK: Will LowerMyBills.com continue to operate as an independent business, or will it be combined with Experian's other online offerings?

EO: LowerMyBills.com will continue to operate as an independent company but will be working closely with other Experian business units to take advantage of synergies such as our analytical and modeling capabilities, added distribution channels, and financial services clients.

BK: How did the acquisition come about, and how did LowerMyBills.com and Experian connect?

EO: Matt and I have known each other for a long time, both having started Internet companies: LowerMyBills.com in 1999 and ConsumerInfo.com in 1996. Over the years we watched each other grow and continued to explore ways to do business together. After ConsumerInfo.com was acquired by Experian in 2002, Experian began to develop its strategy for this high growth area. Experian's core business has been focused on helping client companies acquire customers. Many companies, for example, use Experian's databases and decision tools for developing their marketing campaigns. ConsumerInfo's core competency is online customer acquisition. We felt that this competency could be extended to acquiring customers directly online for other companies. In 2003, Experian acquired MetaReward, an online customer acquisition, internet marketing company which has benefited from the growth in online advertising as traditional companies began shifting their marketing budgets to the Internet. At the same time, we wanted to focus on large scale financial transactions associated with key life events such as buying a house, renting an apartment, buying a car, saving for college, etc. LowerMyBills.com was a natural fit because it helps lenders acquire customers, focuses on a key event (mortgage payments are also the largest recurring expenditure for most households, thus having great savings potential), and has an experienced and talented management team. The rest is history as they say.

MC: Ed and I met five years ago and kept in touch. We started thinking about the future when we started getting approached by various companies. After talking to a few, the Experian deal made the most sense. It made the most sense becasue it allows LowerMyBills.com to reach our vision faster. Additionally, I liked their team, Ed himself is a proven entrepreneur and Don Robert, Chief Executive Officer of Experian, is aggressively growth minded.

BK: Matt, was it difficult to decide to sell the company, and why did you decide the time was right?

MC: Of course, because this was my baby so to speak. The first time I met with Experian Interactive I was rather nervous as I knew it meant I might sell, but also becasue the opportunity to sell represents a milestone of sorts for the blood, sweat and tears put in by myself, our entire team, board members, investors, and even former employees. I don't know if it was the right time or not, the deal and the opportunity to join Experian just made sense.

BK: Finally, do you see any big changes with the offerings that LowerMyBills.com provides as a result of the acquisition?

EO: Experian sees LowerMyBills.com as a financial hub for consumers seeking information and products related to financial transactions associated with key life events. We plan to broaden and deepen the range of products it can offer but maintain focus on generating mortgage leads.

MC: I think you will see certain things related to data appending and we certainly have 5-10 ideas that we collectively think will be a competitive advantage for us versus our competitors that will also be big wins for consumers.

BK: Thanks, and congratulations on the deal!


 

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