Adthena

Year founded 2012
HQ Location London
Sector Search Marketing
Staff count 80
Turnover £5m-10m
Founder Ian O’Rourke credits backer Mel Morris of CandyCrush fame with helping Adthena to build on its strong machine-learning foundations so its clients can reach new customers via search.
www.adthena.com
We are going to grow north of 100% this year, and the US is our biggest growth market.

Ian O’Rourke

Founder

Building a confident business with a money-back guarantee

Adthena’s mission aims to revolutionise search marketing for businesses through “unrivaled competitive clarity”. At its core, the company gives clients a “whole market view” through a patent-protected tech platform, says founder Ian O’Rourke

“This shows clients what their world looks like, what their competitors are doing, the category, and where the opportunities are,” he says. “We are so confident we can help clients reach new customers that we have a money-back guarantee,” says O’Rourke.

It’s a bold move, he says, that has seen incredible sales uplift and more than 90% of clients experience strong results. That’s why today, global brands such as Eurostar, HSBC, and Burberry rely on Adthena’s whole-of-market view to grow their customer base.

 

Leveraging tech into a strong business  

O’Rourke came across the idea when he saw a friend’s business in London that, he says, “basically did arbitrage between search and web traffic”.

“They were trying to commercialise some internal tech,” he says. “And the more I looked at it, the more I could tell that if you revamped it into a different product for a different audience we could really make a strong business out of it.”

O’Rourke then bought the tech, arranged a patent application, hired some engineers and moved his family from Australia to London. The team’s growth was fuelled by profits, “every time we made sales, we could hire more people,” says O’Rourke.

 

Benefitting from an angel’s touch

By 2013 the company had a turnover of “around £1m”, the team of three had grown to 15, and was growing 100% each year.

But O’Rourke knew there was more potential. So in 2016 chairman Chris Underhill introduced the team to Mel Morris, the former chairman of King Digital, the creator of hit game Candy Crush.

Morris was more than simply an early investor in one of the world’s most successful online games. He came with a wealth of experience that O’Rourke knew could boost Adthena’s growth.

“Mel had created a lot of B2B, online dating and anti-virus businesses. And when you meet a guy like that you see he’s a proper operator,” says O’Rourke. “He’d already done six times what we were trying to do.”

We hope the relationship will keep going from strength to strength. And we want to keep it a happy marriage.

Ian O’Rourke, Adthena

Boosting growth with angel money

The team had a number of venture capital (VC) term sheets on the table and were considering investment. “But we didn’t take them up because Mel offered to do it himself in place of a VC investor,” says O’Rourke.

There is no doubt, according to O’Rourke, that Morris brought much higher value that a VC investor would have. “He sits on our board, has accelerated our sales, and gave us the idea for the money-back guarantee. He’s offering so much that really I should be paying him.”

Today the company has a team of 80, and O’Rourke is looking to the US as the biggest growth market. The company also has offices in Sydney, London and Austin, Texas. O’Rourke predicts growth “north of 100%” for this year and the company has already had signings from big US brands such as Autotrader.

“But having Mel was the turning point,” he says. “We hope the relationship will keep going from strength to strength. And we want to keep it a happy marriage.”

Lead Partner Support

Smith & Williamson

Building a confident business with a money-back guarantee Adthena’s mission aims to revolutionise search marketing for businesses through “unrivaled competitive […]

Find out more

Key Metrics

65%/35%

Domestic/export sales

Sydney and Austin, Texas

International offices

£6m

Total capital raised

Sources of capital
Supported By
Government Support
  • Enterprise Investment Scheme

Related Stories

BBOXX
BBOXX's highly scalable solar-powered battery power utilities for people in the developing world have boosted the company’s revenue to $28m, proving that positive social impact can also be a great investment. Read more...
The Lakes Distillery
When entrepreneurs Paul Currie and Gary Thornton with a vision for a world-class whisky distillery in Cumbria met expert retailer Nigel Mills, the scene was set to create a retail and export business, and award-winning tourist destination Read more...
Blaze
Laurencekirk-based Blaze Manufacturing Solutions is a true Scottish offshore oil and gas industry success story, but co-founder Ann Johnson says there were turbulent times when the family business could have collapsed. Read more...
Greenwood Campbell
In the fast-moving world of digital technologies and shifting customer appetite, full-service digital agency Greenwood Campbell maintains a highly fluid approach to its intellectual capital while remaining committed to the human factor. Read more...
Rosebourne
A group of successful serial entrepreneurs had the well-earned credibility to attract maximum EIS investment for their garden centre business, but raising funds outside the EIS market can be challenging for some growth companies. Read more...
Vision Direct
Selling contact lenses online might have little to do with a Japanese arcade game, but CEO Michael Kraftman credits the company’s success to its acquisitive “Pac-Man” strategy. Read more...