WhaleShark Media, an online coupon rollup play, launched in June 2010. It was primarily funded by Austin Ventures, which has strong experience in the home rental market with HomeAway. The general idea for WhaleShark was to copy the HomeAway model.
The company just raised a monster round of financing – some $90 million – from Austin Ventures, Norwest Venture Partners and Adam Street Partners. And they spent most or all of that round buying the largest online coupon startup on the market, Australia’s RetailMeNot. Brian Sharples, the founder and CEO of HomeAway, is also an investor in WhaleShark.
That may seem like a lot of money to pay for a coupon site. But RetailMeNot will generate about $30 million in 2010 revenue, we hear, and is growing rapidly. The best part of their model is that almost all of their revenue is profit. They get traffic from search engines, not paid ads, and just five employees are needed to run the site. By any reasonable valuation methodology WhaleShark got quite a deal it seems.
About 14 million people visit RetailMeNot each month, say cofounders Guy King and Bevan Clark. It’s just four years old.
The company sits firmly in the hot “deal” space dominated by Groupon right now. Traditionally ecommerce sites get traffic via SEO, email, coupons/deals and paid ads. After SEO and email, affiliate type deals/coupons are the most profitable way to get new customers, says WhaleShark.
WhaleShark is lead by CEO Cotter Cuningham. Austin Ventures partner Tom Ball, who sits on the WhaleShark board, has deep coupon experience as well – he founded eCoupons in the 90s and sold it to Lifeminders.