With rare exception, the goal of any startup is to eventually exit. Whether it’s out of the need to let investors see a return or simply because the magic of the fresh start has dissipated and the thrill is gone after years of toiling away at building a brand, the moment of merger, acquisition, IPO or some other form of cash-out usually brings with it a wave of relief after so much hard work.
In a December 2013 article in which TechCrunch dove into CrunchBase’s statistics on startup exits, writer Mark Lennon reports, “We found that the average successful US startup has raised $41 million and exited at $242.9 million. We also found that there is a strong correlation between larger exits and companies that raised more money, but no such relationship between the amount of time between founding a company and being acquired or taken public.”
Austin’s biggest exits in recent history, some of which exceed TechCrunch’s reported averages, can provide something of a blueprint for founders hoping to follow in their footsteps. So today, we’re taking a look at four of them: HomeAway, BazaarVoice, RetailMeNot and Indeed.
One of the world’s leading online marketplaces for the vacation rental industry, HomeAway got its first boost in the form of $49 million in Series A funding from Austin Ventures and Redpoint Ventures in 2005. After several more rounds over the next six years and a final $25 million push from Google Ventures in October 2010, HomeAway went public on June 29, 2011.
Today, the HomeAway portfolio includes numerous leading vacation rental websites across the globe including HomeAway.com, VRBO.com and VacationRentals.com in the United States.
Another Austin venture founded in 2005 that’s since gone public is Bazaarvoice, a Software as a Service (SaaS) company that turns social media into social commerce for global brands. A year to the day after its founding in May 2005, it secured $4 million in Series A funding from Constantin Partners, First Round and Austin Ventures, later following that up with two more rounds and then going public on March 2, 2012. It followed up its public offering with two post-IPO equity rounds in 2012 of $6.7 million and $103.9 million, bringing its total funding to $130.6 million.
Shortly after going public, Bazaarvoice acquired retail ratings and reviews company PowerReviews, but after the $168 million deal was completed, an antitrust suit was filed in which the US Department of Justice argued against the legality of the acquisition. Bazaarvoice ultimately divested PowerReviews to Wavetable Labs, owner of the review site Viewpoints.com, for $30 million.
Recently, per MarketWatch, Bazaarvoice reported revenue of $46.0 million for the first quarter of 2015, up 14% from the first quarter of 2014, and consisted of SaaS revenue of $44.3 million and net media revenue of $1.7 million.
Global deal site RetailMeNot made its way toward its exit a bit faster than its peers. Founded in 2007, it hurtled toward an eventual acquisition over the span of just five years. Built with $21 million in seed money and a $28.5 million Series A round led by Austin Ventures, RetailMeNot then undertook three more rounds, reaping the support of Austin Ventures, Google Ventures, Adams Street Partners and Norwest Venture Partners along the way and including a private equity round led by JP Morgan and Institutional Venture Partners in 2011.
In December 2012, RetailMeNot was acquired for an undisclosed amount by WhaleShark Media, which later changed its name to RetailMeNot, Inc. Today, its portfolio of coupon and deal websites includes RetailMeNot.com, the leading online coupon site in the United States; VoucherCodes.co.uk, the leading online coupon site in the United Kingdom; Bons-de-Reduction.com and Poulpeo.com in France; Deals.com in Germany; and Deals2Buy.com, a discount offer site in North America.
Founded in Austin in November 2004 by Paul Forster and Rony Kahan, the job site Indeed secured $5 million in Series A funding — notably, its only round of funding — from The New York Times, Allen & Company and Union Square Ventures less than a year later in August 2005. Seven years later, the company was acquired by Recruit Co., Ltd. for an undisclosed amount on October 1, 2012. It’s headquartered in Austin with offices in Austin, Mountain View, New York, Stamford, Dublin and London.
Today, with more than 140 million monthly unique visitors, Indeed says it has doubled the traffic of the next leading job site. It’s available in more than 50 countries and 28 languages. That’s quite a long way from those first days of coding back in 2004.