Mary Meeker is known for making bold predictions that sometimes come true.
But she can also shine such a large spotlight on a relatively unknown company that it begins to debate whether or not to go public.
That seems to be the case for Vungle, a 6-year-old private ad tech company that’s mulling over an IPO after being featured on Slide No. 27 of 355 in Mary Meeker’s 2017 Internet Trends report, according to insiders with direct knowledge of the matter.
If you’re wondering what Vungle does, but aren’t sure, that’s O.K. — the company says it prefers to keep a low profile. That is, until the report.
The ad tech company specializes in creating custom-tailored ads using brand first-party data to get consumers to download
and install apps. Meeker used Vungle as an example of how dynamic ad creation can increase conversion rates. “We’re No. 1 for retention in this space,” said Zain Jaffer, co-founder and CEO of Vungle. “And that’s what caught Meeker’s attention.”
Vungle has a roster of clients that includes Unilever, Coca-Cola, the National Football League, Procter & Gamble, L’Oreal, Electronic Arts, Warner Bros., Sega and Zynga, among many other well-known brands. It also has a $300 million run rate and “plenty of cash in the bank,” Jaffer said.
The company’s name is shorthand for “video jungle.” The ad tech outfit has roughly 200 employees, many of which call themselves “Vunglers” — a play on “Googlers.” (There’s also a “Vunga-loo” at the company’s San Francisco headquarters; it’s a fake igloo that’s used as a quiet space.)
“We were deliberate in keeping a low profile,” Jaffer says. “We’ve discovered the secret sauce, that app installs are lucrative when combined with dynamic ads, but that’s now in the open.”
He declined to comment on whether he is or isn’t taking Vungle public, but said being featured in Meeker’s report has been a double-edged sword.
“Large investors, the type that you would dream about reaching out to you, are courting you and your board,” Jaffer, 29, said. “Now I’m being asked what I would do if I had an ‘extra $100 million or $200 million.'”
Vungle already has money, but Jaffer fears a slew of competitors — big and small — will soon pop up. To hear him tell it, that gives Vungle “no choice but to absolutely double down and make the most of the first move position we have.”
“There are a bunch of new companies out there and they’re telling investors, ‘Vungle is known for doing this, but nobody has won yet. Here’s the opportunity,'” Jaffer said. “The Mary Meeker report is going to result in long-tail awareness.”
Jaffer says Vungle figured out early how lucrative app download
s are, which can range from $3 to as much as $20 per user. The so-called duopoly Google and Facebook gave the space little attention and for a while, Jaffer had everything “all to myself.”
Today, however, Facebook has become a dominant player in the space. And Google has gotten in on the action, too, with YouTube. Even companies like Apple have entered the business of getting people to download
Similar companies like AppLovin recently sold for $1.4 billion. But Jaffer has even bigger aspirations and compares his company to ad tech all stars Criteo and The Trade Desk, which have a market cap of $3.1 billion and $1.97 billion, respectively.
Although Jaffer appeared conflicted with the report, if the experience of Coursera is an indicator, he does seem poised for success. Coursera reported $1 million in revenue in 2013. The following year, the online education software company was featured in Meeker’s Internet Trends report. The company said in its 2016 year in review that it expects to make “$50 million to $60 million.”
“It’s like you’re playing Texas Hold’em and you’re just getting into your groove when some guy puts a monster bet down and you have a pair of aces and the board shows a pair of aces on the table,” Jaffer said. “And you say, ‘Is this worth going all in on?'”