Rick Gibbs saw it as a new beginning, not the end of the line, when he and other Dealer.com investors sold the digital-marketing giant to Dealertrack Technologies last year.
At publicly traded Dealertrack, the software expert saw the possibilities.
Gibbs set out to combine the mountains of vehicle-shopping data Dealer.com collects with the dealership finance and retail software Dealertrack sells. The goal: Create an online car-buying experience that complements in-store shopping.
"I'm like a kid in a candy store," he said.
Gibbs spent his first year with Dealertrack integrating Dealer.com's websites and digital-marketing tools with Dealertrack's software offerings.
Dealertrack paid $1 billion in cash and stock to acquire Dealer.com and get at its technology and huge customer base. About 11,000 franchise dealers use Dealer.com websites or digital marketing tools. The tools allow dealers to reach customers on Google, Facebook and other online media.
Dealer.com posted sales of more than $200 million in 2013, its last full year before it was bought.
Gibbs was a founder of Dealer.com in 1998, at age 22. He was fresh out of Clarkson University in northeastern New York with a software engineering degree, and the auto industry was just discovering the Internet.
The early days of Dealer.com were out of central casting, he says, with executives sleeping at desks because of the long hours and maxing out credit cards to float the company.
Gibbs spent several years as the company's chief technology executive before becoming president in 2010. The promotion allowed him to combine his software and technical expertise with the ability to drive the direction of the company.
Success as an entrepreneur allows Gibbs to indulge his love of skiing and mountain biking. He still works long hours, only now it's the deep pockets of Dealertrack that fund product development rather than a few budding entrepreneurs.
-- David Barkholz