| SAN FRANCISCO
SAN FRANCISCO Feb 28 Vantage Media, a top
search advertising agency, has named a new chief executive and
taken $70 million in private equity funds to expand into Europe
and new industry segments, the company said on Wednesday.
Vantage said it had hired Steve Jillings, the former chief
executive of anti-SPAM company Frontbridge Technologies, to
become CEO of Vantage. He led FrontBridge when Microsoft Corp.
(MSFT.O) agreed to acquire the security company in 2005.
Vantage also said it has completed a $70 million "Series A"
preferred financing round by Montgomery & Co., which helped
sell MySpace to News Corp. NWSa.N and has been active in a
string of deals with Google Inc., Yahoo Inc. and Sony Corp.
Scale Venture Partners, Tudor Ventures and Integral Capital
Partners also took part in the financing round, Vantage said.
Montgomery & Co. Chief Executive Jamie Montgomery said his firm
had invested $25 million with other firms.
Several members of Frontbridge's former executive team have
joined Vantage along with Jillings. Vantage Media founder Mark
DiPaola will remain as president of the firm.
"We are now able to expand the company globally. We do
intend to move into Europe," Jillings, a New Zealand native who
has worked in the United States for two decades, said in a
Vantage, which employs about 50 people, earns well over $1
million per employee a year, and he vowed to double headcount
this year and do "$100 million in revenue, or better."
The company, which DiPaola originally financed on his
credit card and has never taken outside funding, has been
profitable from day one, the founder said.
Asked whether the funding sets the stage for an initial
public stock offering, Jillings said: "We think an IPO could
definitely be in our future. It is not going to be a 2007
event, that is for sure. It could be 2008."
Founded five years ago, Vantage is one of the largest
providers of so-called performance-based Web marketing
services, which advertisers use to generate live sales leads.
Vantage has built its business by reselling hot search
terms from pay-per-click advertising providers Google (GOOG.O)
and Yahoo (YHOO.O) to online education companies University of
Phoenix Online UOPX.O, Corinthian Colleges Inc. COCO.O,
Career Education Corp. (CECO.O) and Westwood College.
Vantage manages more than 40 million keywords on Web search
advertising systems. It only gets paid when consumers fill out
Web forms to apply to the programs of its online education
customers. Two million did so last year, DiPaola said.
DiPaola and Jillings said Vantage planned to expand into
three new pay-for-performance categories, including financial
services, where sales lead generation is crucial.
Vantage is based in the beachside town of Venice,
California, and Montgomery is based in nearby Santa Monica.
As part of the financing deal, Jamie Montgomery, along with
Rory O'Driscoll, managing director of Scale Venture Partners,
have agreed to join the Vantage board of directors.
Montgomery said in a phone interview that beyond expanding
into new markets, Vantage would also consider partnerships or
acquisitions to fuel its growth.
"We can increase the company by three or fourfold just in
the market they already are in. They can also grow from there,
both geographically and vertically," Montgomery said.
"We think it can double its business without doing anything
complicated," he added. "We can get acrobatic later."