RANKED: The hottest pre-IPO ad tech startups of 2015

Read full story

Tomer Bar Zeev IronSourceLinkedIn/Tomer Bar Zeev Tomer Bar Zeev, co-founder and CEO of IronSource.

The majority of ad tech companies on the public markets may have fared badly in recent months, but behind the scenes there are some seriously interesting pre-IPO ad tech startups

This ranking looks at the hotter companies subject to IPO (or at least big exit deal) rumors right now. Our data comes from CrunchBase, LinkedIn, our own reporting, and that of other business publications. We've tried to rank them by revenues, but have also taken into account headcounts, venture funding, and recent news and whispers.

See our methodology at the end.

View As: One Page Slides

27. Sharethrough: The largest "native" ad exchange

27. Sharethrough: The largest "native" ad exchange

CEO: Dan Greenberg

Employees: 160

Estimated revenues: We believe around $30-$40 million, net.

Total venture funding: $28 million

Comment: The company operates a "native" ad exchange and is targeting annual revenue of $100 million by the end of the year. It is profitable.

26. Taykey: Supported by Google's Eric Schmidt

26. Taykey: Supported by Google's Eric Schmidt

CEO: Amit Avner

Employees: 90

Estimated revenues: We estimate around $30 million

Total funding to date: $32 million

Comment: Taykey's latest funding round was led by Eric Schmidt's venture arm Innovation Endeavors. The company, which plugs its software into more than 50,000 social sources — such as YouTube, DailyMotion, and BuzzFeed — to provide insights to marketers on what is trending now for their desired audiences says it has grown revenue by 600% since January 2013. Avner told us he expects this triple digit growth to continue into 2015.

25. Socialbakers: A well-respected young CEO and huge client base

25. Socialbakers: A well-respected young CEO and huge client base

CEO: Jan Rezab

Employees: 330

Estimated revenues: Greater than $30 million.

Total venture funding: $34 million

Comment: Rezab was named one of Forbes' "30 under 30" in marketing and advertising earlier this year. His social media management and analytics company has more than 2,700 clients, and is considering the possibility of going public. Rezab says the Prague-based company has doubled in size every year "for a while now," and this year it is concentrating its efforts on US expansion.

24. Unruly: Benefiting from the shift of ad dollars from TV to digital video

24. Unruly: Benefiting from the shift of ad dollars from TV to digital video

CEO: Scott Button

Employees: 190

Estimated revenues: $42 million in 2014

Total venture funding: $25 million

Comment: The London-based video ad tech company increased revenue by 23% year on year, helped by the continued shift of ad dollars from TV to digital. Last year Unruly opened an APAC HQ in Singapore, and it launched new products including a programmatic media trading platform to guarantee the viewability of video ads, a skippable pre-roll ad format, and a native in-feed format.

23. Sojern: Has 200 million travelers in its files

23. Sojern: Has 200 million travelers in its files

CEO: Mark Rabe

Employees: 180

Estimated revenues: $70 million, gross

Funding: $42.5m

Comments: Sojern has an unusual niche in ad tech: it specializes in ad targeting for the travel industry. The company claims to be able to reach 200 million traveler profiles in its database. Sojern opened an office in London about a year and a half ago under managing director Stephen Taylor. This year the company opened offices in Singapore and Dubai (it previously had sites in San Francisco, Omaha and New York.)

22. Kenshoo: Plans to IPO in the US in 2015

22. Kenshoo: Plans to IPO in the US in 2015

CEO: Yoav Izhar-Prato

Employees: 500

Estimated revenues: ~$50 million to $100 million in 2014.

Total venture funding: $49.7 million

Comment: The Tel Aviv-based company handles tens of billions of dollars worth of search, local, and social media advertising. It is one of Google's biggest clients in terms of buying shopping ads. Its chief executive said it is planning on a US IPO in 2015, that could value the company at $750 million, adding in an interview with Bloomberg "it's healthy for us to be a public company."

21. Tapjoy: App developers' best friend

21. Tapjoy: App developers' best friend

CEO: Steve Wadsworth

Employees: 275

Estimated revenues: ~$100 million, around the same as in 2011.

Total venture funding: $65 million

Comment: Tapjoy helps app developers make money through its advertising platform. Its software is embedded in more than 270,000 apps and it reaches more than 520 million monthly active users. Last year Tapjoy acquired Korean startup 5Rocks, as part of its aims to become a one-stop-shop for mobile app developers.

20. Kargo: $0 venture funding

20. Kargo: $0 venture funding

CEO: Harry Kargman

Employees: 120

Estimated revenues: We estimate greater than $80 million.

Total venture funding: $0

Comment: Unusually for an ad tech company, Kargo has raised zero venture funding to date, which places it in a prime position for outside investor interest. Kargo has built its business on a publisher platform that combines content with native brand advertising from the likes of McDonald's, AT&T, Unilever — 150 customers in total. It began trading on mobile viewability last year, guaranteeing advertisers 80% in-view ads or their money back.

19. OpenX: Expect an IPO very soon

19. OpenX: Expect an IPO very soon

CEO: Tim Cadogan

Employees: ~350

Estimated revenues: $100 million net revenue in 2014

Total venture funding: $75.5 million

Comment: Cadogan has previously told Business Insider he declines to rule out an IPO, and there are whispers in the industry that the company may now be close to filing. Milestones this year include achieving the top spot in Pixalate's global seller trust index and posting "double digit EBITDA." OpenX is second only to Google's DoubleClick when it comes to the amount of ad impressions served, according to data from Evidon.

18. Sprinklr: Hugely ambitious and a likely IPO candidate.

18. Sprinklr: Hugely ambitious and a likely IPO candidate.

CEO: Ragy Thomas

Employees: 800+

Estimated revenues: Believed to be aiming for $100 million this year

Total venture funding: $123.5 million

Comments: Last year Sprinklr — an enterprise social media management company — acquired TBG Digital, one of Facebook's largest ad-buying clients. Combined, the companies process more than $100 million in annual media spend for clients including Microsoft, Vodafone, Intel, and Dell. Sprinklr has also acquired four companies since. A source told Business Insider in April 2014 that Sprinklr was planning an IPO, and CEO Thomas is known to want to build a "$10 billion company."

17. Centro: Helping smaller advertisers get into programmatic

17. Centro: Helping smaller advertisers get into programmatic

CEO: Shawn Riegsecker

Employees: 600

Estimated revenues: Projected ~$100 million this year, according to industry sources

Total venture funding: $22.5 million

Comment: Centro's advertising platform is used by advertising agencies to manage the workflow of their digital campaigns. The company launched a demand-side platform in May, which claims to be mobile-first. The Centro DSP was specifically designed to meet the needs of smaller advertisers that find it hard to develop relationships with the bigger demand-side platforms due to minimum spends and set-up fees. Centro claims to have 2,500 customers and sources tell us the company is looking to raise more funding this year.

16. DataXu: Powered by MIT scientists, and aiming to solve the cross-device issue

16. DataXu: Powered by MIT scientists, and aiming to solve the cross-device issue

CEO: Mike Baker

Employees: 300

Estimated revenues: $118.4 million in 2013

Total venture funding: $55.8 million

Comment: In March DataXu launched a new platform called OneView that aims to solve one of marketers' biggest mobile headaches: targeting and measuring consumers as they switch from device to device. The company, which was founded by MIT astronautics and aeronautics scientists, who wrote the programs that guided NASA's Mars mission plans, now has over 400 customers including Vodafone, Ford, and General Mills. Baker claims the company grew revenue by 50% year over year in 2014.

15. xAd: Location-focused and making key hires

15. xAd: Location-focused and making key hires

CEO: Dipanshu Sharma

Employees: 200+

Estimated revenues: We estimate around $130 million.

Total venture funding: $74 million

Comment: The location-focused advertising network claims to allow nearly 1 million advertisers to reach 300 million unique people each month. The company itself is growing worldwide, having recently announced it had hired agency veteran Brand Starkoff to lead its US sales team, and expanded into Spain and Italy. Prior to that it has also poached executives from Twitter, Facebook, Google, and Posterscope this year. Because the company is laser-focused on location, we predict it is more likely a M&A target than an IPO candidate.

14. PubMatic: All signs point towards solid growth

14. PubMatic: All signs point towards solid growth

CEO: Rajeev Goel

Employees: ~600

Revenues: ~$130 million revenue run rate in 2014

Total venture funding: $63 million

Comments: PubMatic said its revenue increased 90% year on year in 2014, while "doubling its rate of profitability." Last year the company expanded into new markets including Japan, Singapore, Italy, Brazil, the Middle East, and North Africa.

13. AdRoll: Lots of ex-Googlers, and working with Apple

13. AdRoll: Lots of ex-Googlers, and working with Apple

CEO: Aaron Bell

Employees: 494

Revenues: ~$150 million annual run-rate

Total venture funding: $89 million

Comment: AdRoll is one of the partners of Apple's move to bring programmatic ad buying to its iAd platform for the first time. More than 15,000 advertisers use its retargeting platform worldwide. And lots of ex-Googlers work there.

12. Collective: Its sell is transparency, one of the biggest issues in ad tech right now.

12. Collective: Its sell is transparency, one of the biggest issues in ad tech right now.

CEO: Joe Apprendi

Employees: 400

Revenue: ~$200 million

Total venture funding: $86.4 million

Comment: Apprendi suggested to Business Insider recently that the company was not in the market for an IPO: "Being well-capitalized and private is better than 'open kimono' right now," referring to the performance of the large ad tech companies on the public market. Collective prides itself on offering clients transparency about how their money is spent, the cost of inventory bought, and the results they get. Last year it divested its dynamic creative optimization tech — branded Ensemble — to Adobe.

11. Quantcast: High-profile recent hires and a clear focus

11. Quantcast: High-profile recent hires and a clear focus

CEO: Konrad Feldman

Employees: 650

Estimated revenues: We estimate a ~$200 million net revenue annual run rate

Total venture funding: $61.2 million

Comment: Quantcast hired a new CFO, and its first SVP of engineering in December — big hires from The Weather Company and Amazon, respectively. Back in October it made a big acquisition: Struq, a London-based cross-device retargeting company. Quantcast is focusing its efforts on programmatic ads, and it keeps on growing, all while staying EBITDA positive, we are told.

10. Undertone: Has taken the leap into programmatic and has a differentiated offer by focusing on creative

10. Undertone: Has taken the leap into programmatic and has a differentiated offer by focusing on creative

CEO: Corey Ferengul

Employees: 343

Estimated revenues: ~$200 million

Total venture funding: $40 million.

Comment: Undertone focuses its efforts on the creative, media, and tech that allows advertisers to create video ads that work across all different sizes of screen. It recently acquired a programmatic company called Upfront, and in April began selling its splashy video ad format programmatically.

9. Mediaocean: Expanding into programmatic TV

9. Mediaocean: Expanding into programmatic TV

CEO: Bill Wise

Employees: 800

Estimated revenues: Owler estimates more than $233 million

Total venture funding: $40.5 million

Comment: Mediaocean runs $100 billion in media spend through its platforms for more than 80,000 advertisers. It's one of the first partners to Facebook's Atlas ad platform, and recently it extended its platform to cover TV advertising through a partnership with iSpot.tv. The company was reportedly worth $1.5 billion back in 2012.

8. Outbrain: An IPO is imminent

8. Outbrain: An IPO is imminent

CEO: Yaron Galai

Employees: 400

Estimated revenues: $260 million in 2014, according to AmigoBulls

Total venture funding: $99 million

Comment: The content recommendation company has been expected to file an IPO "imminently" since last year. But in November the company filed confidentially with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, seeking preliminary approval to list on the Nasdaq, according to the Wall Street Journal. The WSJ's sources say Outbrain is expected to seek a valuation of around $1 billion. But nothing else related to the IPO has surfaced publicly since.

7. InMobi: Rumored to have been subject of an acquisition bid by Google

7. InMobi: Rumored to have been subject of an acquisition bid by Google

CEO: Naveen Tewari

Employees: 900

Estimated revenues: $400 million, according to The Economic Times of India.

Total funding to date: $220.6 million

Comment: Rumors emerged back in March that InMobi was subject to an acquisition offer from Google. Tewari quickly dismissed these rumors saying "there is no reason to sell," although he has long-hinted that the company may be preparing for an IPO. However, the company has struggled recently to raise interest from investors beyond Japanese internet company SoftBank, and is yet to turn a profit, according to sources.

6. Videology: A specialist in the fastest-growing area of online advertising

6. Videology: A specialist in the fastest-growing area of online advertising

CEO: Scott Ferber

Employees: 350

Estimated revenues: ~$300 million in 2014

Total venture funding: $134.2 million

Comment: Ferber has previously told Business Insider the company was "preparing" for an IPO in 2015, but the market has changed a lot since March 2014, so it may not happen. The video ad tech company said earlier this month it had seen programmatic mobile video campaigns jump 81% in Q1 — one of the rising trends in advertising.

5. MediaMath: The industry's favorite

5. MediaMath: The industry's favorite

CEO: Joe Zawadzki

Employees: 600+

Estimated revenues: $300 million to $400 million (according to our estimates.)

Total venture funding: $207.5 million

Comment: Last year we asked a bunch of executives which company they thought was the hottest ad tech startup, and MediaMath's name kept coming up. The company claims to be profitable and said sales last year reached $311 million. In October it acquired social advertising firm Upcast, building out its ad tech stack to social channels like Facebook.

4. Taboola: Expanding internationally at a great clip

4. Taboola: Expanding internationally at a great clip

CEO: Adam Singolda

Employees: 270

Estimated revenues: $300 million+ annual revenue run-rate.

Total venture funding: $117+ million

Comment: Singolda tells Business Insider that we shouldn't expect an IPO any time soon. Instead the company wants to expand into new geographies and keep growing its market share. Taboola's content discovery platform is huge. Its sponsored content reaches more desktop users in the US than Facebook, Yahoo, and YouTube, according to comScore's syndicated ad rankings. It's expanding globally too, having recently signed investment and partnership deals with Yahoo Japan and Baidu in China.

3. IronSource: An Israeli unicorn

3. IronSource: An Israeli unicorn

CEO: Tomer Bar Zeev

Employees: 500

Estimated revenues: ~$350 million gross revenue run rate

Total venture funding: $105 million

Comment: IronSource is a Tel Aviv-based mobile ad tech company, offering user acquisition, conversion, monetization, analytics, and optimization tools. It announced the opening of a London office in April to better serve its European customers, and it is strongly tipped to go public late this year or early next, with a valuation of more than $1 billion.

2. AppNexus: Struck a mega partnership with WPP that will secure long-term ad revenue

2. AppNexus: Struck a mega partnership with WPP that will secure long-term ad revenue

CEO: Brian O'Kelley

Employees: 920

Estimated revenues: We estimate greater than $250 million and maybe as much as $300 million

Total venture funding: $250 million

Comment: In September last year WPP, the world's largest ad agency holding company, announced it was investing $25 million in AppNexus, taking its stake from 1% up to 15%. The deal basically saw WPP commit to funneling its clients' ad money through AppNexus, securing future revenue. In addition, AppNexus also acquired WPP's profitable Xaxis for Publishers unit (a product that serves ads for website publishers) as part of the deal. In March AppNexus acquired analytics company Yieldex for $100 million in cash and stock to further grow out its ad tech stack.

1. Pinterest: Valued at $11 billion and making strides on mobile

1. Pinterest: Valued at $11 billion and making strides on mobile

CEO: Ben Silbermann

Estimated revenues: We don't know, but analysts predict the company will generate $500 million in revenues by 2016.

Employees: 500+

Total funding: $1.3 billion

Comment: Pinterest has been fundraising at a remarkable clip. The company's co-founder Evan Sharp told Business Insider it plans to spend the coming year focusing on international growth and making its Pins more "actionable." About 80% of its traffic comes from mobile, and last year it launched a "guided search" function to help people narrow down their results. Many people may think of Pinterest as a social network, but it's valuable war chest of intent data — products users are thinking about or aspire to buying — make it an extremely useful advertising tool.

Methodology: How this list is ranked

Methodology: How this list is ranked

We looked at the following factors when we adjust our rankings and publish a new version of the list:

Revenues: This is the single most important factor in our ranking. Companies with robust businesses have revenues they can talk about in dollars (not blind percentage "growth" claims.) Companies that are modest about their revenues are usually modest for good reason.

Total employees: Companies tend to hire more people because they're handling more business. Headcount is a good proxy for growth — although having too many employees can drive down margins.

Funding: Investors tend to want their money back. So companies that have taken a lot of investment funding are under greater pressure to IPO than those that have not.

Reputation: It's great that some companies like to grow quietly without the distraction of the media spotlight — we're happy to ignore them.

Add Comment()

Comments ()

X
Sort By:
Be the first one to comment.
We have sent you a verification email. This comment will be published once verification is done.