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

LendInvest
LendInvest has secured a strong position in the UK property finance market after raising £760m of lending capital, and is taking on the established bank market with its technology-driven model and its increasingly diverse and cost-effective capital base. Read more...
ThinkAnalytics
Personalised content recommendations company ThinkAnalytics has more than 250m subscribers, and founder and CTO Peter Docherty credits lessons learned in the “hard early years” with its success today, including winning an Emmy. Read more...
Ten Lifestyle Group
Trust and integrity have underpinned AIM-listed Ten Lifestyle Group's unrelenting ambition to become the ‘most trusted service company in the world’. Read more...
Stylus
After founding and selling trend-forecasting company WGSN, CEO and founder Marc Worth started again by self-funding Stylus, an innovation research and advisory firm that has scaled to reach a turnover of over £10m. Read more...
The Intern Group
The Intern Group began in 2011 with three friends who arranged for a dozen volunteers to work at the Under-20 World Cup in Colombia, scaling up to become a £10m cashflow-funded business. Read more...
Lantum
Founder Melissa Morris set up Lantum with the ambition to help save the NHS £1bn in medical staff recruitment agency fees each year and, after rapid growth, has achieved over £10m of savings to date. Read more...