Sources: Vector Capital Seeks To Sell Off Sizmek

Less than two years after Vector Capital sealed its $122 million deal to acquire Sizmek, the private equity firm is already looking to divest.

Multiple sources with direct knowledge told AdExchanger that Vector has been shopping Sizmek, possibly as early as April, and just a year and a half after the deal closed.

Vector denied that it’s pursuing the sale.

Adobe is among those to kick the tires on Sizmek’s tech, possibly attracted by its ad server and dynamic creative capabilities, AdExchanger sources say. Adobe declined to comment on the rumor.

According to one source, Vector is hoping to unload Sizmek entirely but would consider selling it in parts if that’s the only way to do a deal. Sizmek has a multitude of assets, and it’s not clear which are adding or detracting value. Consider that Acxiom showed the most value when its LiveRamp business was disconnected from its Marketing Solutions division.

And Sizmek is very much a frankenstack, capped off by Sizmek’s acquisition of Rocket Fuel in July 2017.

Vector supplied Sizmek, which claims to be profitable, with the resources to take Rocket Fuel off the public market for $125.5 million in cash, with plans to couple Sizmek’s ad server and rich-media infrastructure with Rocket Fuel’s demand-side and data management platforms.

A few months later, Sizmek sunsetted the Rocket Fuel brand and integrated its DSP and DMP into a single demand-side stack under the Sizmek name.

The combined company was meant to create what Sizmek CEO Mark Grether described in an October interview with AdExchanger as a “data and AI-powered decisioning layer sitting on top of the entirety of the media plan.”

But Rocket Fuel was long reliant on IO-based media services to pay the bills, despite recent attempts to grow its platform solutions business.

And when the company became a part of Vector through the Sizmek acquisition, PE likely did what PE does best: It loaded Rocket Fuel with debt and cut services to try and optimize profits. Without service fees to rely on, revenue plummeted, leading Vector to lose faith in its investment thesis.

Yet independent ad servers are having a moment, thanks to recent business decisions by Google.

In late April, Google, citing privacy concerns, said it would no longer share user IDs outside of its own ad server. Bye-bye, independent attribution on Google’s platform. But ad servers, Sizmek among them, sniff opportunity in Google’s move as agencies and advertisers consider alternative tracking solutions.

Perhaps a company like Adobe or Oracle might be keen to grab Sizmek to shore up its analytics offering.

Whatever Sizmek’s next chapter holds or where its next home is, with or without Rocket Fuel, it’s been quite the journey for the nearly 20-year-old company. Sizmek is the poster child for ad tech rollups.

(Deep breath.)

Sizmek started life as a rich-media ad server called Eyeblaster in 1999. In 2010, Eyeblaster rebranded to MediaMind and started focusing on ad delivery and dynamic creative. Content management and distribution platform DG acquired MediaMind the following year and combined it with its broadband distribution network Unicast.

Shortly thereafter, DG acquired rich-media company EyeWonder. DG bought semantic tech company Peer39 in 2012, rebranded to Sizmek in 2014 and bought mobile tracking tool Aerify that same year. Next up, in 2015, Sizmek bought mobile DSP StrikeAd and dynamic creative platform PointRoll.

Finally, Sizmek got scooped up by Vector in 2016 before grabbing Rocket Fuel last July.

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  1. The “rich media” ad server market originally (in 2005) consisted of:

    Doubleclick Motif

    Along the way Klipmart was acquired by Doubleclick and Doubleclick was acquired into Google but kept their branding

    Unicast was acquired by DG as part of DG’s expansion into online advertising

    Eyeblaster was renamed to MediaMind

    EyeWonder was acquired by Limelight Networks and merged with Chors (which both operated under the EW name and independently)

    DG acquired MediaMind and EyeWonder within 2 months of each other. They paid more for MediaMind, so they basically got rid of everything re: Unicast and EyeWonder, mass layoffs everywhere, lots of good technology and employees let go. They sold off Chors to Xaxis.

    DG then got acquired by ExtremeReach, and Sizmek was spun off.

    Sizmek then lost their way for a bit, wandered in the desert, which led to their stock price dropping like a rock, which led to private equity buying it up.

    This is when I left…

    Looks like they hired some better technical management. The current CTO and CDO worked at EyeWonder/Chors pre-DG acquisition, so hopefully they infused some brains into the former MediaMind operations. The developers were OK at MediaMind (not the greatest though), but their technical management left a lot to be desired.

    When I left (my decision), I literally gave a month and said “here’s a job offer I have. It pays less than Sizmek. It’s a lot riskier than Sizmek. But, at least I’ll be doing something. You are literally paying me 6 digits to sit on Facebook all day. Find me something meaningful where I can kick ass on your behalf”. They came up with bullshit ideas. A month, and they couldn’t come up with ANYTHING to use a senior technology employee’s who was there at 10 years at that point (albeit, from an acquisition whose technology was thrown away in the garbage without even looking at it). So I left… did the startup thing… startup failed, and ended up getting hired elsewhere outside of the online ad industry (now on the TV side of things — oddly enough working for someone I actually interviewed for a position at Sizmek)

    Sizmek… I’m surprised they still exist.

  2. Wow man your story is almost a splitting mirror of mine. The path is so clear for Sizmek, invest in making their product engineers to make the UX really cool, and efficient with lots of drag and drops and very visual. Think of the end users in all the agencies, something opposite to DCM. They are just so far gone unless they kick it into high gear.