Bloomberg News

WhaleShark Triples Marketing Budget After 2011 Revenue Jumps 50%

January 26, 2012

Jan. 26 (Bloomberg) -- WhaleShark Media Inc., which operates online-coupon websites, plans to triple its marketing budget this year after acquisitions helped it increase revenue.

The Austin, Texas-based company, whose sales jumped 50 percent in 2011 to about $80 million, will increase its advertising spending to gain market share in online discounts, Chief Executive Officer Cotter Cunningham, 49, said today in an interview. He declined to elaborate on the company’s ad budget.

WhaleShark, which was founded in 2009 and owns RetailMeNot.com and VoucherCodes.co.uk, has bought eight companies and may soon add two more in Europe or the U.S., Cunningham said. The company has about $100 million in cash after raising $150 million in private funding from JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Institutional Venture Partners last year, he said. That round valued WhaleShark at $800 million to $1 billion, a person familiar with the situation said in November.

“This is the year to push on the gas,” Cunningham said. “You’re going to see us accelerate. We don’t see revenue growth decreasing significantly, even though it’s from a bigger base.”

The company typically seeks acquisitions of between $10 million and $50 million apiece, Cunningham said.

WhaleShark sites were visited 300 million times in 2011, driving an estimated $1.7 billion of purchases from businesses such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Target Corp., Cunningham said. The company offers discounts at more than 140,000 merchants, stores and retailers, according to a statement.

Smaller Discounts

WhaleShark turned a net profit in 2011, Cunningham said, without providing details. The revenue figure and growth rate are pro forma, taking into account the previous performance of companies WhaleShark has bought, he said. The company more than tripled the number of employees in Austin to 110 last year.

This month, WhaleShark said it hired Kate Sperber as vice president of operations. Sperber previously directed sales strategy at Yahoo! Inc. The company added Tobias Conrad, from Groupon Inc.’s German business, to oversee operations in that country.

While online coupon leader Groupon tends to offer deep discounts at local businesses, WhaleShark typically provides smaller discounts for online purchases at national retailers, Cunningham said. WhaleShark also doesn’t use a sales force the size of Groupon’s, he said. Chicago-based Groupon, which raised $805 million in an IPO last year, employed more than 10,000 people as of Sept. 30, it said in a regulatory filing.

WhaleShark doesn’t have immediate plans for further private fundraising rounds or an initial public offering, Cunningham said.

--Editors: Elizabeth Wollman, Niamh Ring

To contact the reporter on this story: Lee Spears in New York at lspears3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jennifer Sondag at jsondag@bloomberg.net


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