-Contact Thomas Rasmussen
Rumors of the sale of Super Rewards (also known as SR Points) have been swirling for quite some time. On Wednesday, acquisitive Adknowledge announced that it is indeed the winning bidder in a competitive sales process for Vancouver-based Super Rewards, a bootstrapped, 40-person incentives-based online advertising startup. (We understand that Super Rewards is profitable and generating approximately $60m in gross revenue – a number the firm says could hit as much as $100m this year. Of course, the company’s net revenue is much lower, likely in the neighborhood of one-fourth the gross amount after revenue share.) The purchase of Super Rewards marks the sixth acquisition for Adknowledge in less than two years, and we estimate this transaction is by far its largest yet. The deal also marks a shift in the M&A strategy of the Kansas City, Missouri-based online advertising giant, which has typically been more inclined to pick up heavily discounted distressed assets.
Nonetheless, Adknowledge, which we estimate was running profitably on close to $200m in revenue prior to the acquisition, has made a smart purchase in reaching for Super Rewards. Incentives-based advertising companies like Super Rewards have received quite a bit of attention recently because they seem to have found a way to actually make money off of social networks. (The fundamental business principle of profitability has largely eluded the social networks themselves.) Much like other online advertising niches, it is a sector that stands as a small, faster-growing piece of a much larger overall market. But in order to reach their full potential, incentives-based advertising vendors need the scale brought by established and wealthy companies like Adknowledge, which boasts more than 50,0000 advertisers. Because of that, we weren’t surprised to see Super Rewards gobbled up – and we wonder if the same thing might not end up happening to the firm’s two main rivals.
We’re thinking specifically about Fremont, California-based Offerpal Media and San Francisco-based Peanut Labs, which have taken approximately $20m and $4m in venture capital, respectively. The largest independent startup remaining in the niche sector, Offerpal Media recently said it was doing around $40m in revenue. Potential acquirers include dominant online advertising players such as Microsoft, Google, Time Warner’s AOL and ValueClick. In particular, we suspect ValueClick could be ready to shop as a way to stand out from its larger competitors. The Westlake Village, California-based company certainly has the means to do a deal, since it has no debt and some $100m in cash. Other potential suitors for incentives-based advertising startups include large-scale application platforms such as Facebook and NewsCorp’s MySpace that would benefit greatly from bringing the ad service in-house.
Source: The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase