Judgement Day For Ad-Tech? Kawaja On Investor Withdrawal

By Robert Andrews

The company logo lumascapes for advertising and marketing technology platforms have got so crowded in recent years, it can sometimes be hard to figure out who’s who. So, is the segment due a shake-out?

Investment in ad-tech has receded a little from the frenetic dash of a couple of years ago, as the performance of certain newly-public companies has disappointed markets and investors.

It’s not entirely gloomy. One of the sector’s seasoned watchers and deal advisors, LUMA Partners CEO Terence Kawaja, describes the segment’s situation as “a tale of two cities”:
- “At one hand, you’ve got fantastic exits at great multiples, new strategic players enter the marketplace. A lot of people are lining up the capabilities necessary to win in this conversion world.
- “At the same time, investors are down on the space in general. Public market valuations are an all-time low. Some of these companies are trading at fraction of… less than a quarter of one turn of revenue.”

“Cleary, there is bifurcation,” Kawaja says.

While the ad-tech segment begins to sound more muted, other, non-advertising tech outfits like Uber and Snapchat are clocking up mega valuations. But that won’t last, and not everyone can be a “unicorn”, Kawaja suggests.

“There’s a disparity between public and private valuations,” he tells Beet.TV. “Nobody would sell their business for 0.2 times revenue. That will, over time, affect private valuations. A bigger determinant occurred in the last six months – we’ve seen a tech pull-back in terms of the veracity to fund startups. It’s had an implication on exit prices for many.”

Then best course of action for ad-tech platforms, then, may be to exit to a larger strategic buyer.

We interviewed him in New York at the Simulmedia PeopleFront conference where he was a speaker. Please find more video interviews from the PeopleFront event right here.

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