Lycos is a university spin-off that began as a research project by Michael Loren Mauldin of Carnegie Mellon University's main Pittsburgh campus in 1994. Lycos Inc. was formed with approximately US$2 million in venture capital funding from CMGI. Bob Davis became the CEO and first employee of the new company in 1995, and concentrated on building the company into an advertising-supported web portal. Lycos enjoyed several years of growth during the 1990s and became the most visited online destination in the world in 1999, with a global presence in more than 40 countries.
In 1996, the company completed the fastest initial public offering from inception to offering in NASDAQ history. In 1997, it became one of the first profitable internet businesses in the world. In 1998, Lycos paid $58 million for Tripod.com in an attempt to "break into the portal market." Over the course of the next few years, Lycos acquired nearly two dozen internet brands including Gamesville, WhoWhere, Wired News (eventually sold to Wired), Quote.com, Angelfire, Matchmaker.com, and RagingBull.com.
Lycos Europe was a joint venture between Lycos and the Bertelsmann transnational media corporation, but it has always been a distinct corporate entity. Although Lycos Europe remains the largest of Lycos's overseas ventures, several other Lycos subsidiaries also entered into joint venture agreements including Lycos Canada, Lycos Korea and Lycos Asia.
Near the peak of the internet bubble on May 16, 2000, Lycos announced its intent to be acquired by Terra Networks, the internet arm of the Spanish telecommunications giant Telefónica, for $12.5 billion. The acquisition price represented a return of nearly 3000 times the company's initial venture capital investment and about 20 times its initial public offering valuation. The transaction closed in October 2000 and the merged company was renamed Terra Lycos, although the Lycos brand continued to be used in the United States. Overseas, the company continued to be known as Terra Networks.
On August 2, 2004, Terra announced that it was selling Lycos to Seoul, South Korea-based Daum Communications Corporation, now Kakao, for $95.4 million in cash, less than 2% of Terra's initial multibillion-dollar investment. In October 2004, the transaction closed for sale of half of the business and the company name was changed back to Lycos Inc. The remaining Terra half was reacquired by Telefónica.