Axel Springer acquires majority stake in kaufDa mobile coupons startup for $40 million

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kaufDa is one of Germany’s leading “promotion search” sites. What’s that? It helps you look for the best sales and mobile couponing running near where you live. So instead of retailers needing to send out huge catalogues, Germans have warmed to kaufDa’s targeted nature.

Admittedly it doesn’t sound that exciting a business. But today European media giant Axel Springer has acquired a 74.9 percent equity interest in the business for – our sources say – $40US million, thus generated a tidy, and significant, European-style exit for the investors concerned.

The story behind the price is that traditional publishing companies are quite simply terrified of kaufDA. It targets the $3bn retail advertising market in Germany, much of which is poised to transfer online, long after classifieds in jobs or car search did so.

And you can talk up Foursquare et al all you like. But kaufDa has been simgled out as Germany’s “Star of Location Based Services” because of its market dominance in local promotions, much of it delivered by mobile.

Some 30% of traffic is mobile already: kaufDA’s iPhone Navigator App has been installed on over 15% of all iPhones and over 20% of all iPads in Germany. kaufDA’s app hit the No. 1 position of most downloaded apps in Apple’s AppStore for several weeks in the past, both on iPhone and iPad.

This location based targetting delivers high-value ad-contacts to retailers and charges on a CPC basis. It has 11 million unique visitors accross a wide local partner network, including white label solutions at T-Online, meinestadt, or telefonbuch.de, some of Germany’s largest local traffic providers, and reaches more than 11 million users in 12,000 German cities and towns.

Launched in January 2009, it was founded in late 2008 by recent college graduates Thomas Frieling, Tim Marbach and Christian Gaiser. Seed financing came from Dr. Stefan Glänzer (best knwon for Lastfm and more recently the White Bear Yard incubator in London) , Michael Brehm and Stephan Schubert. A Series A came from eVenture and T-Venturem which invested in Q3 2009. Both are corporate VCs backed by Deutsche Telekom AG and OTTO Group (Europe’s largest e-commerce company behind Amazon).

A staff of 70 people are in the center of Berlin’s startups cluster, Mitte, including former professionals from eBay, Jamba, Holtzbrinck, Goldman Sachs or McKinsey.

KaufDa has a gross media advertising volume of €8 million in 2010 and generates more than 25% of revenue on mobile devices such as iPhone and iPad already.

We gather Axel Springer was chosen as the best exit because of its large newspaper interests as well as existing Web platforms (aufeminin, seloger, idealo, Zanox).

Dr. Mathias Döpfner, CEO of Axel Springer is also known to be a fan of mobile. Clearly he is.