0 Comments |  Technology |  PRINT | 

ROKT raises $US8 million: How they did it and what their investors wanted to know

Wednesday, 27 November 2013 | By Rose Powell

ROKT, a digital marketing start-up launched last year, has been valued at $US50 million ($54.4 million) and received $US8 million in investment from Square Peg Capital, Greg Roebuck, Lachlan Murdoch and John Ho.


The digital referral platform generates millions of referrals for advertisers each month. Clients include eBay, Gumtree, Australia Post, Webjet and OZSALE. The team of 45 is servicing clients in Australia, New Zealand and Singapore


Chief executive Bruce Buchanan told StartupSmart he was excited and relieved as he signed the deal on Friday after a couple of big months. The funds will go towards a rapid international roll out.


Buchanan, who used to be the chief executive of Jetstar, says they decided to seek out expertise before funds, but the two came hand-in-hand.


“We identified some people who would help us with the US expansion, and it progressed from there. It wasn’t a typical round process where you go out armed with financial advisors and shop it around. We went and sought out people whose advice would be really valuable to us,” Buchanan says.


Buchanan describes the investors who backed them as having a similar approach to assessing their investment options.


“They all definitely had a sense of the how sustainable the business model is, and how defensible it is. There was a lens on that,” Buchanan says.


“The other piece they really honed in on was all about the people. They spent a lot of time about the quality and transparency of the management team, and how ability to execute on the opportunities we were presenting.”


In a statement, Square Peg Capital co-founder Paul Bassat said: “We invest in passion and we can see that the team at ROKT have the vision to deliver a world-class product and be a disruptive player in digital marketing. We’ve undertaken a rigorous analysis before making this investment and we believe that ROKT has the potential for growth that could make it a global player in a very short space of time.”


The ROKT team will be focused on rolling out their offering in the United States, and then a series of international markets.


“We’ve got a number of markets we’re really interested in, and a roll out plan in our heads. We’ve researched which ones will be easier and harder, and how we want to sequence them,” says Buchanan, adding they’re targeting the United States first as it’s the largest digital advertising market by a fair bit.


Buchanan says as an Australian start-up they are mindful of the rich opportunities in big digital markets such as China and Japan.


“We’ve grown fivefold in the last 12 months, and plan to continue that rate of growth, but we don’t want to rush in Asia,” Buchanan says. “My experience with Jetstar and Asia is that the right partners are absolutely critical, so we want to make sure we get the perfect partners and the right local backing first.”


Gavin Appel from Square Peg Capital and John Ho will join the ROKT board.


In a statement, Hong Kong-based Janchor Partners chief information officer Ho said: “Bruce has a strong track record and I have a lot of confidence in the management team. ROKT has the right people and platform to excel in this space”.


Buchanan adds the business model fundamentals established by the original founders have set the company up well, and the rapid growth has come from those and the strength of the team.


“When you’re growing this fast you’re outlaying a lot of cash. Combine that with the need to get best possible people on board as quickly as you can, and you’ve got an interesting challenge you have to juggle,” Buchanan says.