Good afternoon, Mr. von Hilgers, congratulations again on the successful sale to DoubleVerify. How did the first 18 months after the acquisition go? How did the post-merger integration impact Meetrics?
Thank you very much! As it is well known, the first months are crucial when one company is integrated into another one. Whether it is technology, the customer base, or corporate culture, frictions can occur anywhere or the hoped-for synergies can emerge for all involved. In retrospect, fortunately, the latter has occurred, even though during the process, there was hardly any time to look beyond the next milestone. Everything that we were able to build up at Meetrics in Europe in more than 10 years has now arrived in a global organization.
In the new company structure, you have decided to continue to play an active role in the company. What are the advantages and disadvantages of such a step for founders?
Founders tend to question existing structures in order to bring about positive changes. However, companies also draw their strength from the sum of their incremental improvements. This can certainly create a field of tension. The crucial question is whether a company, despite its increasing size and success, can cultivate the flexibility to allow for both. I think DoubleVerify has the right balance. I also attribute this to the fact that DoubleVerify has a CEO, Mark Zagorski, with a lot of founder DNA.
Since its founding in 2008, Meetrics has had an incredible growth story. What was the initial idea behind the founding, and how were you able to implement it optimally?
When we founded Meetrics, we had no idea about AdTech. That was perhaps our luck because we initially focused solely on a game-changing technology. We equipped each individual advertisement with a sensor that reported back to our servers whether the advertisement was effectively displayed. In the beginning, efficiency meant that the ad was visible at all and did not just end up in the browser’s cache without being displayed in the browser window. Nowadays, it has become standard to collect many more quality features in real-time and to ensure a more effective delivery. Back then, it was a completely new territory to receive feedback in real-time about the effectiveness of each individual advertising banner.
To establish Ad Verification as a category, which is now a multi-billion business, we needed a team that complemented each other’s competencies to build up the different areas of the company. We needed good partners and first customers who were willing to try out a new technology, as well as institutions and associations who set standards in the market and helped our solution to achieve its full potential. And last but not least, we also needed some luck. As complexity increases, not everything can be planned down to the smallest detail. There were negative and positive surprises along the way.
Meetrics has evolved to become one of the leading providers in the European online ad verification space. How did you leverage this positioning during the M&A process?
Firstly, it is important to have a clear understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of one’s own company. Preparation is key for M&A discussions and advisors can be extremely helpful as they bring in an outside perspective. If one can precisely identify their strengths, then various attractive growth paths can be derived from them and an acquisition could prove to be most attractive. It also makes sense to proactively address weaknesses. For example, missing geographical coverage can be instantly be overcome through an acquisition by bringing together complementary sales structures. The same complementary approach also applies to technology and know-how.
With Facebook and Google, so-called walled gardens, you have very strong partners by your side. What kind of know-how is required to win such giants as strategic partners, and do such partnerships bring advantages when finding a buyer/investor?
One does not win big partners by just contacting them frequently. Google & Co are very selective when it comes to entering into partnerships. One has to understand how to build a network of partners and customers, especially when they are much larger than one’s own company and has a clear interest in large partners technically integrating a company like Meetrics into their platforms. Doubleverify, of course, already has its own integrations on all major platforms without Meetrics. Nevertheless, there is hardly a better showcase than such partnerships because it comes with the signal that we know a) how to strategically differentiate ourselves from the rest of the market and b) we also have the operational and technical competence to deal with large partners and their requirements.
Why did you choose ox8 Corporate Finance as your M&A / corporate finance advisor? How do you evaluate the collaboration?
After an extensive selection process, we decided to work with ox8 Corporate Finance for several reasons. Firstly, ox8 Corporate Finance has an impressive track record, especially when considering the entire history of the individuals involved. However, what perhaps convinced us the most was that working with ox8 Corporate Finance means dealing with a team that consistently approaches every topic with a high level of dedication and expertise. This impression was noticeable from the first minute and did not diminish throughout the entire process.
M&A processes are usually very intensive phases in the entrepreneurial career of founders. How did you experience the process?
That is true, the phase is very intensive, and it is natural that it comes with ups and downs. Experienced M&A advisors play a crucial role in this regard. The more they have seen, the better it is for the process – and for the nerves of the founders.
What plans do you and your new partner have for the future?
The integration of Meetrics into Doubleverify has been completed, and all essential goals have been achieved. This allows me to be involved in new business fields. This includes, for example, Carbon Emission Measurement, which DoubleVerify offers together with our partner Scope3. Especially in the context of new reporting requirements from the EU, such as the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD), there is more and more to do in this area, and that is a good thing.