FORT WORTH, Texas – Blackstone Group today announced an investment in Simpli.fi that values the ad-tech firm at $1.5 billion, marking the latest stage in its growth since its founding in 2010. For Frost Prioleau, chief executive of Simpli.fi, the Blackstone investment follows a series of partnerships with investors that have provided strategic know-how in addition to funding.
When Simpli.fi was getting started, investment bank and corporate advisory firm Progress Partners “was very active in helping us in the early, formative stages of the company – giving us introductions, et cetera,” Prioleau said in this interview with Beet.TV.
Simpli.fi later raised growth capital in a funding round with Frontier Growth, which provided advice on how to focus on key metrics used by software as a service (SaaS) companies, such as net recurring revenue and Net Promoter Score (NPS). In 2017, Simpli.fi’s investors considered the possibility of finding a strategic buyer for the company. That year, it was acquired by Chicago-based private equity firm GTCR, setting the stage for the next phase of growth.
“Selling to private equity was a great fit for us, because we really believed in the company and wanted to participate in the company in a meaningful way going forward,” Prioleau said. “When you sell to private equity, you’re really going into partnership with that private equity firm.”
The ad-tech industry went through a period of rapid growth as the buying and selling of digital advertising migrated to automate auctions. Some ad-tech companies went public, only to disappoint investors.
“The markets have had a love-hate relationship with the ad-tech industry. Early on, there were some companies that went public and didn’t perform well in the public markets,” Prioleau said. “More recently, the industry has matured. We’ve got great companies out there like The Trade Desk who have shown that ad-tech companies can be good public companies.”
Prioleau recommends that entrepreneurs seek out early-stage investors that can provide expertise on developing a growth strategy, whether it’s through organic sales or acquiring other companies.
“For people starting out, the quality of the partnerships is really important. We’ve been super-fortunate to have great partners all the way from the seed stage, the growth stage and now in the private equity stage,” he said. “We were focused on being profitable fairly early, so when we went to raise money, it was really because we wanted to raise money to fund growth initiatives. It wasn’t because we needed to raise money to fund losses.”
Blackstone joins GTCR as majority shareholders in Simpli.fi, whose connected TV and mobile programmatic advertising platform handles more than 120,000 campaigns for 30,000 active advertisers every month, according to the deal announcement.
Blackstone’s investment will help to accelerate Simpli.fi’s innovation and organic growth initiatives, and continue its targeted acquisition strategy. Blackstone’s investments in digital advertising technology platforms also include equity interests in Liftoff and Vungle.
“Simpli.fi’s highly differentiated technology platform and superior customer service have made it a clear leader in its space,” Sachin Bavishi, managing director at Blackstone, said in a statement. “Digital advertising is a high-conviction investment theme at Blackstone and Simpli.fi sits at the intersection of multiple attractive tailwinds, including the continued shift in local media spend to programmatic digital and CTV.”
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