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VENTURE CAPITAL

WhaleShark Media Raises $150 Million

The coupon site aggregator will spend the money on (what else?) acquiring more sites.
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Call it a whale of a cash infusion. WhaleShark Media, which owns a wallet full of online coupon sites, announced it has raised a $150 million round of funding.

It's not the only coupon company growing at an eye-popping clip. In October, Coupons.com raised a $30 million round, bringing their total funding to $200 million. That same month, CouponCabin announced it had raised $54 million.

Austin-based WhaleShark was founded in 2009. It's led by former BankRate COO Cotter Cunningham, 49, and has raised some $300 million in funding. Among its investors: J.P. Morgan Asset Management, Institutional Venture Partners, Austin Ventures, Norwest Venture Partners, Adams Street Partners and—most recently—Google Ventures.

Among the company's sites: RetailMeNot, Vouchercodes.co.uk, Deals.com, and CheapStingyBargains.com—a combination of sites that provides discounts, coupon codes, and other offers from some 130,000 merchants. Unlike Groupon or LivingSocial, WhaleShark's coupons tend to be more traditional—Cunningham has described the company as "digitizing the Sunday circular."

Also unlike Groupon, WhaleShark is profitable, Cunningham said. It's on track to post $70 million in revenue this year, up 50 percent from a year ago. The company claims to bring in over 100 million visitors a year to those sites, and makes money through advertising on the sites and commission from merchants.

"We're good at acquisitions, and our goal with this money is to go out and buy more online coupon and deal sites," Cunningham told the Austin American-Statesman. "Having a little dry powder in the bank helps us negotiate with the sellers." Cunningham estimated it will take about a year to go through the money.

"Acquisitions are hard—sellers change their mind, and other bidders pop up. They don't come together in a day or two," Cunningham told the Statesman. "We're in preliminary conversations with a handful of people, but some we haven't started even talking to."

The company has about 140 employees in Austin and abroad in the U.K., with plans to add additional employees in the future.

Is an IPO in the works?

"Our investors like what we're doing, and we're under no pressure to go public," he said. "Right now we're working hard, and we're super focused on growing our niche and getting as big as we can be. It wouldn't surprise me if it's something we're talking about more in a year."

 

 

Last updated: Nov 11, 2011

Inc. contributing editor COURTNEY RUBIN was for five years a London-based staff writer for People magazine. Rubin, a former senior writer for Washingtonian magazine, has written for the New York Times magazine, Time, Marie Claire, and other publications. She is the author of The Weight-Loss Diaries.




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