On the heels of France-based MobPartner’s $58 million acquisition by Cheetah Mobile, yet more movement in Europe’s mobile advertising landscape: Glispa, a startup based out of Berlin that focuses on digital marketing and mobile ads, is picking up a $77 million investment from Market Tech Holdings, a UK-based business that focuses on property and e-commerce investments.
Among Market Tech’s notable $1.4 billion in holdings: they own pretty much all the property behind London’s famously funky, touristy and hectic Camden Market; and they own and operate fashion portal Market.com.
Gary Lin, the American-expat cofounder and CEO of Glispa, said in an interview that the investment works out to a 75% stake in the company, or a valuation of $103 million. This is the first time that Glispa has raised any money, he said.
The company will be using the proceeds of the investment to expand its business, including acquisitions, particularly in the area of mobile commerce. As one example, he mentioned developing ad units that cater specifically to e-commerce businesses that are on the hunt for consumers.
Current Glispa advertising customers include Alibaba, Amazon, Gilt, Flipkart and Zynga, among many others, with the company serving some 400 billion ad impressions and 1 billion active users each month. The company does not disclose its own revenue figures but overall eMarketer estimates that mobile ads will see sales of $65 billion in 2015, up 60% on a year ago. By 2018, mobile ads will be 22.3% of all ad spending worldwide, worth $158.55 billion, the firm predicts.
Although Market Tech’s investment is strategic, this does not mean that Glispa will be narrowing its customer focus as a result. “We’re going to continue to partner with others,” Lin told me. “We’re known for digital content advertising, but close to 40% of our business has been mobile commerce for quite some time, in areas like user acquisition and monetization outside of the basic sales transaction.”
The strategic nature of the investment from Market Tech was part of the reason why Lin said Glispa gave a nod to giving up a stake of the company. “We did speak to a few private equity firms and we had some interesting considerations, but we thought that a financial loan wasn’t that interesting,” he said. “We were profitable for the past few years and we wanted a strategic partner that had more to bring to the table.”
For Market Tech, that will likely mean some services that bring together physical and online commerce. The firm’s “large offline component,” as Lin referred to it, covers around 1,000 physical retailers, and the company is building a consolidated platform for omnicommerce, where the hundreds of thousands of people who walk through Camden Market will be targeted by a mixture of services that will use their phones as well as their presence to come up with interesting offers and more, which will continue after they trudge home from Chalk Farm tube station, weary, laden with shopping bags, and possibly drunk.
“Glispa’s market-leading technologies and team will add significant value to our business and I want to start by welcoming Glispa to Market Tech group,” said Charles Butler, chief executive of Market Tech, in a statement. “We see the future of online retail being via mobile devices and Glispa’s proprietary technologies are at the cutting edge of m-commerce, helping businesses interact with their customers on-the-go.”
Indeed, the market opportunity for mobile commerce is one that many e-commerce firms, from Amazon and eBay/PayPal to Apple and Google, are chasing with a rapidly growing pace. Glispa, referencing figures from Digi-Capital, estimates mobile commerce will be worth $516 billion in sales, driving over 70% of all mobile internet revenue by 2017.