Viant (DSP) IPO: Shares Up 90%

Chris and Tim Vanderhook, COO and CEO of Viant.


Viant Technology, the latest ad tech company to go public, saw its shares surge more than 90% after the company launched its IPO on Wednesday.

Viant operates a demand-side advertising platform (DSP) called Adelphic. The price was $ 25 per share but it opened at $ 44 and the day closed at $ 47.72. The company debuted on the Nasdaq under the symbol “DSP”.

It is the youngest public entrant in a hot ad tech market. The company’s IPO comes about two weeks after digital advertising firm Taboola announced it would go public through a merger with ION Acquisition Corp, a Special Acquisition Corporation (SPAC). The sell-side advertising platform PubMatic also went public in December. And another player, Kubient, went public in August last year.

A recent announcement by MKM Partners said that Ad-Tech IPOs had a mixed track record in the public markets, but PubMatic and Magnite have recently received another “warm welcome” from investors.

Viant was founded in 1999 by the brothers Tim, Chris and Russ Vanderhook. The company acquired the social networking company Myspace in 2011. Later that year, it helped launch Xumo, the connected TV platform that Comcast acquired last year.

Time Inc. bought a 60% stake in Viant in 2016, which Meredith acquired in 2018 through its own takeover of Time. The founders of Viant took back control of the company in 2019.

The company with around 300 employees competes with players like The Trade Desk and part of Google’s ad tech business. The software is being used by marketers and their advertising agencies to centralize the buying, planning, and measurement of advertising across channels such as desktop, mobile, networked television, streaming audio, and digital billboards, the company said in its S-1 announcement before going public with.

Chris Vanderhook, COO of Viant, said the company had an “enormous” year in 2019 before being hit by the wider slowdown in advertising related to Covid last year.

“I would say the opportunity we have in the market is this programmatic opportunity,” he said in an interview with CNBC on Wednesday. “It’s growing very fast, over 20% a year. The total US advertising market is now about $ 200 billion. Only about 40% of that is programmatically or software bought.”

According to Viant, the DSP is well positioned as a “personal” platform, as opposed to a platform based on cookies that use personal information stored in your web browser. Google plans to end support for third-party cookies in its Chrome browser by next year. Instead, Viant says it uses “real-world identifiers” to identify customers. For example, the company links information such as e-mail, name, address and telephone number with digital identifiers such as a mobile advertising ID or a location. This enables Viant to target digital ads to the right audience.

CEO Tim Vanderhook added that while some DSPs are solely focused on buying, the company has built data and measurement capabilities into its software, which makes it “really sticky” for customers.

MKM Partners wrote in their recent announcement that they believe the company’s focus on “people-based marketing” and tailwinds in programmatic advertising and networked television are “clearly sustainable investment positives”.

But they also pointed out some risks and said that 2020 would be a “lumpy year” with significant annual sales declines and “a somewhat slow recovery”. They also pointed to the fragmented competition in the ad tech space from companies like The Trade Desk and Google.

Disclosure: Comcast owns NBCUniversal, the parent company of CNBC.

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