Mumbai-born brothers sell ad tech company to Chinese investors for $900m
Two Mumbai-bred siblings turned billionaires on Monday when they sold their advertising technology startup to Chinese investors for $900 million. The 34-year-old Divyank Turakhia and his older brother Bhavin, 36, who grew up in the suburbs of Juhu and Andheri and turned web entrepreneurs in their teens struck an all-cash deal to divest their company Media.net, merging it with the China-listed Beijing Miteno Communication Technology. This makes it one of the largest M&As in the ad tech industry beating Google’s $750 million acquisition of AdMob and Twitter’s MoPub purchase for $350 million.
What’s noteworthy is that while most ad tech firm are struggling globally, including Media.net’s home grown rival InMobi, which is backed by Softbank Corp, the Turakhia brothers have been able to pull off this transaction amid an overall slowing market. The payout for the brothers from the deal may be staggered, people familiar with the details of the acquisition said.
The younger Divyank who runs Media.net will continue to steer it post the buyout while Bhavin, 36, will manage the Mumbai head quartered Directi, which operates four startups in the web communications and payments space. This is not the first exit for the Turakhia brothers, who had in 2014 sold Directi’s domain registration businesses like BigRock, LogicBoxes and Reseller Club, for $160 million to NASDAQ-listed Endurance International Group.
Founded six years ago, Media.net is based jointly in Dubai and New York, providing technology backbone to contextual advertising offered by likes of Yahoo and Microsoft. It clocked about $230 million in revenue last year. “The businesses we manage are worth $1.4 billion after today’s transaction,” Divyank said over the phone from the US. A non-resident Indian, he is based in Dubai and admits to being passionate about flying and scuba diving. The Media.net acquisition is a two-staged one. In the first leg, Beijing Miteno Communications chairman Zhang Zhiyong will lead a consortium of investors to buy Media.net and acquirers would later effect a reverse merger with Zhiyong’s publicly traded firm.
Divyank and Bhavin attended Arya Vidya Mandir school in Bandra, and have rolled out 11 startups under the Directi umbrella till now. They started helping Indian companies build websites and intranet services in late 1990s. Divyank went to Narsee Monjee while Bhavin finished his undergraduate studies from Sydenham college. “We enrolled for BCom but never really attended college. It was not required. You would get distinction if you attended exams,” Divyank said reminiscing about the days when they mixed entrepreneurship with studies. A person who has seen the brothers closely said they are brilliant coders who don’t have an engineering degree. “They’ve learned everything including how to code themselves,” the person said.
“Media.net gets 90% of its revenue from the US market and the remaining from Canada and UK. China is the second biggest online advertising market and the fastest growing. This deal gives us an opportunity to build a growth story there,” Divyank said.