You might have seen a pretty cool little announcement we made today. With all of the excitement around $9.4 million added to our balance sheet, I thought it would be a good idea to talk about how it happened and why.
Before now, we were bootstrappers. In fact, the word bootstrapper defined us more as a company than probably anything else, and over the last four years I came to associate the word with ideas around evolution, pivoting, passion, and long hard nights. All things I never want to give up. So why in the world would we ever raise money?! Even as 2012 came to a close, I wasn’t sure we’d ever really find the right funding partner. The biggest reason was that we have these two products and we believed wholeheartedly in both. But how could that possibly be? (…says every VC, ever.) How could you have two products in one startup and plan for them both to be successful?
As the calendar flipped to 2013, the most amazing thing happened. Our second product, MobileAppTracking, began to really produce the revenue we kept saying was coming, and it was ramping up quickly in volume. In fact, the demand was so high it sent us scrambling to meet the needs of an abundance of high profile clients. If you’ve ever worked on a project you knew had all the potential in the world for what seems like forever, then you know what it feels like when it finally clicks into motion. It feels like magic. I remember when it happened for our first product, HasOffers.com, in 2010 when we became a profitable startup and we knew we had something very special.
Now we have two products that are best in class and growing at an outstanding pace. Not only that, but we’re now addressing a market that is exploding in front of us. Mobile advertising is growing at over 100% year over year, and the infrastructure of web advertising cannot support it. Along with changes in attribution technologies, mobile marketers are demanding performance measurement. They already have their web budgets charted out and in order to open up spend for mobile advertising they need to see results, and measuring results is all we do. Mobile marketers need a third party they can trust to help them reconcile their advertising relationships and show them the true life-time value of their spend.
If you believe half of that then you’re probably already saying in your head, the time is now, and you would be right. We have the incredible opportunity to bring clarity to chaos and truly help build the mobile advertising economy. I think we fully realized this in February of this year, which is why I immediately began making plans to find the perfect venture partner to help us lay our claim to mobile advertising attribution.
This was my first time to run a real funding process. We built the deck and supporting materials, we studied our numbers and created projections, I crafted a list of likely partners, and I began meeting with entrepreneurs to start developing introductions. Chris DeVore was a huge help during the process. So much so that we wanted Founder’s Co-op to be a part of the round in the end. All in all, I met with partners of over 30 venture capital and growth equity firms in the span of a couple weeks, and my head was spinning with positive responses. I’d like to say it was due to my excellent presentations, but it wasn’t. We have created something real that now has 80 people supporting it. That team shows up every day and pumps in remarkable value, so of course investors are interested.
So now that we had plenty of interest, we had to determine the best fit that would maximize our potential. Ultimately, we chose to partner with someone that is equally obsessed with mobile advertising, and someone that believes that all advertising is experiencing a shift to a more programmatic, performance driven approach. I found that in Rich Wong.
Honestly, in my first meeting with Rich he hadn’t actually heard of us. I think I pretty much blindsided him. He is so connected in the mobile community and I think was a bit astonished that this bootstrapped startup out of Seattle had grown to such a size by solving problems in performance advertising without him knowing about it. Here is where you have to admire him for immediately realizing that we were worth pursuing. He flew into full on courtship and we began pre-diligencing (no idea if that is a word). I spent time with Vas Natarajan and others pouring over the revenue models, Lucas and I came to a full Accel board meeting to present to the entire Accel partnership, and I spent several dinners and drinks with Rich discussing the mobile ecosystem. Rich also introduced me to Seattle legend, Rob Glaser who also ultimately participated in the round, and I couldn’t be more excited collaborating with him.
When it came down to the final term sheets and it was time to make a decision, I met up with Lucas. We sat down at “The Melt” in San Francisco though I wasn’t the slightest bit hungry. We pulled up a third chair for Lee, our co-founder and Lucas’ twin brother who was actually in Seattle, so we got him on speaker phone. The ultimate question we asked ourselves was, are we really ready to lean in, again? That is exactly what taking $9.4 million dollars means. We leaned in so much over the last four years we sometimes fell in. We gave it everything we had so many times it almost broke us. Are we ready to do it again?
This time leaning in means something different. It means company building. We’re terrified of losing our agility and adaptability as a bootstrapped startup, yet we have to build a company that has the redundancy and process it needs for longevity. Are we ready to give it everything we’ve got to become great leaders? Do we have what it takes to let go of some tasks to better minds, make decisions with extreme integrity, scale our teams with more efficiency, and stretch in ways we never knew we could?
The answer from all three of us was YES, so here we go.
To see the full press announcement, visit our news page.
A performance marketer by background, Peter is the CEO of TUNE, the world's leading mobile marketing platform. Peter has lead the company to 10 offices around the world and nearly 400 employees, now trusted by companies like Expedia, Starbucks, Supercell, and Uber. Follow @peterhamilton