Valerie Renee

World's richest man in Bello bid

THE world's richest man wants a slice of the action at Bellingen.

A company owned by US multi-billionaire, Warren Buffett, has made repeated expressions of interest in acquiring 1st Place Designs, a web-based business in the heart of Bellingen.

The business, which is causing quite a stir on the global market, is basically search engine marketing.

In layman's terms, they organise business websites to appear in the first page of results when you perform a related search in Google.

Owners Paul Forest and Jonathan Donnelly are excited and proud.

"We've had a US company approach us and they are very interested in acquiring us. At this point it has been informal, but they've asked us to go through the meeting process soon they don't want us getting too big," Mr Forest said.

"It really is a new arena in business the new frontier. And it's a rapidly expanding industry. It's growing at about 150 per cent."

It all started about eight years ago.

"I saw the importance of search engines, and noticed that no one was really providing it as a professional service. I started messing about, I was working for a few businesses and then I cracked a code.

"My site went to number one worldwide and the response was amazing. I had huge enquiries, from all around the world. I ended up being flooded, and had to de-optimise my site."

So it's no wonder one of the world's greatest businessmen wants in.

"We are separate from other companies in that we have a very high level of technology that allows us to keep our prices down but keep results. It's good news for small business, and we're so proud to be from Bellingen especially when we're dealing with huge companies," Mr Forest said.

"It's great. Most of our competitors are in Sydney or Melbourne. They ring and tell us they're flying into Sydney and they'd like to meet, and we have to explain that we're in Bellingen somewhere they've never heard of."

For now, Mr Forest and Mr Donnelly are playing it cool and are looking to expand locally.

"We're just going to keep going and keep focused on the business. We're continually rolling out products that no-one else has, so we're just going to keep going and maybe at some stage sell the bulk of the business and retain a small part.

"We're looking at opening an office in Coffs Harbour, and maybe a warehouse. We'll keep head office in Bellingen though.

"With financial backing I see a big opportunity to expand.

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