Estonian AdCash raises €20 million as their first investment

    When we first discovered AdCash back in 2013, nobody knew the company but they were already doing €25 million turnover, doubling their turnover each year from six million in 2011 to twelve million in 2012. It was a big discovery for the Estonian Startup Scene.

    The company operates in a complex and crowded space of advertising networks, where many are trying to develop difficult system’s in new niche’s to find their space in the market.

    According to Thomas Padovani, the CEO and founder of the company, “We put a lot of focus on technology, followed by a lot of scalability. Repeat. This makes us special, and allowed us to grow and grow quite big in our area.”

    In February of 2014, they had 54 employees, and were ranked 59th on Alexa. Today, they boast over 100 employees, 34th rank on Alexa, over 300 million uniques a day in traffic and of course a revenue number of €42 million and a new office in Tallinn.

    Previously the company was heavily focused on Gaming and Entertainment traffic, but they have decided to take that concept and success and duplicate it in other verticals. As a result, Alibaba is now one of their top advertisers with largest budgets for AdCash.

    “We are not looking for Fortune 500 advertisers. They follow the trends and will eventually come to us. The target is providing a world-wide solution to small and mid-sized businesses. Anyone who is interested in performance space: I want one user, one buyer, one real action done – AdCash is here to provide the traffic.” – says Padovani.

    To compete with Google, who has an advantage of having the organic search data, AdCash focuses on clustering audiences and delivering highly targeted traffic that can also be purely performance based.

    Raising cash

    This past year the company decided that they were ready to start looking for funds in order to optimize and develop their capacity to connect with the market. Many entrepreneurs with the “fake it until you make it” fundraising strategy might be surprised to learn it’s still hard to raise funds even with a positive cashflow from day one, zero previous investments, and one of the top ranks on Alexa.

    According to Padovani, who has met with many US, UK and Scandinavian funds, the results were all the same. They were impressed with the results, but left AdCash with more questions to answer about the future as opposed to looking at the track record.

    Padovani gave an example of one VC commenting, “Suspicious. You are profitable, very profitable. How come? I don’t see that.” or another saying ““How can you grow further?”.

    According to Padovani, the trick to raising money, even as a real success is not in just having good traction and numbers but spending time to package the company for the investment. Preparing all the answers in advance and looking at all the possible angles.

    As one of the investors told Padovani, there is such as thing as a startup “that everybody wants, but nobody will buy.”

    This resulted in the so-important search for an investor that would be a perfect match and would immediately believe in the traction, business model and the future of AdCash.

    They found this in Naxicap Partners, a French VC with around €2 billion under management, who invested €20 million into Adcash. The exact valuation is not disclosed but from sources within the company, we know that it was rather favorable.

    The deal was also a mini-exit for the existing shareholders, who received a portion of the investment as AdCash already had significant cash reserves and did not need the resources as much as a strategic investor.

    Naxicap Partners are very present after the investment, which, they say, is what they wanted out of an investor. After the investment two dedicated team members have joined AdCash including an analyst and a former CEO of a company that scaled from €40 million to €300 million.

    AdCash has also become rather active in the startup community and is now attracting a lot of talent and has already invested into Taxify and Oolala. If you are interested in a career at Adcash, check out this page, they are looking for a lot of developers and data scientist in Estonia.

    As a result of the investment, the company has plans to scale world-wide and is already working on opening offices in China and Russia.