Exclusive: AppLovin to Be Acquired by Chinese Investor for $1.4 Billion

Sep 26, 2016

Unlike most advertising technology startups, San Francisco-based AppLovin never raised any traditional venture capital. Instead, it was bootstrapped, profitable by the end of its first month and backed by just $4 million in angel funding.

Also unlike most advertising technology startups, AppLovin is now being acquired at a "unicorn" valuation.

Fortune has learned that the company has agreed to sell a majority stake to Chinese private equity firm Orient Hontai Capital at an enterprise value of $1.42 billion. The deal was announced to company employees earlier this morning, and is expected to close before year-end.

"We started the business five years ago, back before Facebook had even launched mobile advertising, because there were no good ways for app developers to promote themselves," says Adam Foroughi, AppLovin's CEO and, to date, the only member of its board of directors. "Our mission statement when we began was to help mobile app developers grow their businesses in smart and efficient ways, and it hasn't changed since."

Foroughi adds that earlier this year, he began visiting China, where he believes his company's next major growth will occur. He met with lots of potential investors and partners, but was attracted to a purchase offer from OHC because of what refers to as alignments on how to grow in China, and how to "bring Chinese companies West" via the Applovin platform. Foroughi further notes that he's "sort of a private person, and don't want to be CEO of a public company."

As for the lack of venture capital, it wasn't necessarily intentional. Instead, it was more a byproduct of Foroughi having enough personal resources to bootstrap the launch, and then the company's immediate success.

"I couldn't find anyone to give us an investment at what I thought was a reasonable starting point valuation (maybe $4 million or $5 million) and, by the end of our first year of operations, we were profitable and doing over $1 million a month in revenue," he explains. "So I put together a round with angels not really because we needed the cash, but because I thought these were influential people who could help us grow."

Inc. reports that AppLovin generated $234 million in revenue last year—a figure Foroughi does not dispute. Expectations are that it will be at least doubled for 2016 as it has done every year of its existence to date.

TechCrunch had earlier reported that AppLovin was in acquisition talks.

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