Talenthouse flotation finally reveals a $40M exit for EyeEm, Europe’s almost-Instagram

Talenthouse AG has made a name for itself as an aggregator of content creators, which is then commissioned by brands for their own social media channels. Brands just can’t seem to come up with the same kind of authenticity, so they farm it out in this manner. But business is going well, so Talenthouse is now listing on the SIX Swiss Exchange (ticker THAG) in response to this demand for content creation and ability to tap into the ‘creator economy.’

The move is significant in tech startup terms because in June last year New Value AG (trading as Talenthouse) acquired long-time social photos startup EyeEm. When it launched in 2011, only a year after Instagram, it was often talked of in the same breath, but the EyeEm founders studiously repeated that it was a place for for high-end content creators and photographers to sell their wares.

By the time it had been acquired, EyeEm had raised a total of $24 million in VC backing. No price was released at the time for the ‘mostly shares, some cash’ deal.

But the public markets flotation of Talenthouse reveals some interesting data.

Roman Scharf, Co-Founder of Talenthouse told me: “The initial shares will trade around one Swiss franc, and we have 400 million shares outstanding. So the market cap tomorrow will start around 400 million Swiss francs. We paid 37,348,490 million shares for Eyeem plus some cash. Those shares at current share price are $37.3 million. But their exit was roughly $40 million, since they also got cash.”

Talenthouse, with its operational headquarters in London, has 14 million members across brands including EyeEm, Ello, Zooppa and Jovoto. Members of these brands produce content that can be acquired or commissioned by companies such as PayPal, Netflix and Nike.

The Creator Economy generates $2,250 billion annually, employing 30 million people worldwide, according to UNESCO. For instance, in a commission for the UN, Talenthouse took in 16,700 submissions from 142 countries, for a campaign around the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a statement, Clare McKeeve, CEO of Talenthouse said: “We’ve acquired and developed brilliant companies within our portfolio so that our creatives have the tools to be part of an active community whilst successfully monetizing their skills.”

Speaking to me over a call Scharf added: “The SIX market floatation is like a sandbox environment where we learn how to behave as a public company. And then we’re going to go for a NASDAQ listing, because you know Tanenhaus really is about the creative economy. And in the German-speaking world, investors don’t really understand what the creative economy is. They have no clue about Tik Tok.”

Eyeem was started by Florian Meissner, Ramzi Rizk, Gen Sadakane and Lorenz Aschoff in 2011. Photographers could offer their pictures for sale via the portal and Eyeem retained part of the income. But the end, the four founders each held 1.7 percent of their company.

Meissner and Rizk have since moved on to work on the app Aware, an analysis service for health data, and also become Angel investors, taking early stakes in the Gorillas delivery service.