LIL 2013: Where is the Value in Local Digital?

Today’s BIA/Kelsey’s Leading in Local Conference began with a pre-conference workshop on “Valuation and Funding in Local Digital Media.”

The workshop began with a rundown of BIA/Kelsey’s new M&A database, which includes an analysis of 598 deals, including 438 deals with values, totaling $16.75 billion in deal value, covering the years 2011-12. The database allows BIA/Kelsey to spot investing trends in local digital media. One example is the dramatic shift in investment from deals in 2011 to loyalty in 2012.

Next, moderators Jed Williams and Jeanne Dattilo interviewed three investors, representing angel, venture and private equity investors.

Kerry Hatch, CEO of Gocella, a start up in the SMS messaging space, represented the angel world. Hatch spent 22 years at American Express, where one of her roles was running the company’s Open small-business oriented product. Since leaving she has invested in a number of start ups, including CityMaps.

Hatch has a thesis on local, born in part from her experience at American Express. “There is no better customer out there than an SMB,” Hatch said. “If you treat them well, they are really loyal. Most companies don’t treat them well. So if you do, you will have a good business.”

So what does Hatch look for in a meeting with a potential investment?

“In 10 minutes, tell me what your business is…Tell me what you are not doing. Is the entrepreneur a learner? Do I like them? Angel is high touch. You hang out a lot. You’ve got to like them.”

Through her involvement with Gocella, Hatch has had to go out and raise money, giving her perspective from both angles.

“You have to talk to a lot of people,” she said. “It’s about networking. People invest in people they trust. You need to always mind your Ps and Qs. No one likes to ask for money, so it can contain emotions. You always need to be on your best manners.”

Hatch was followed by Ryan Moore, a partner at the VC firm Atlas Ventures. Moore’s firm does seeding rounds as well as series A and B rounds for starts ups. Like most investors, Moore looks at the team and its background. He also wants to see “a unit economic model that makes sense.” He looks for a low cost to acquire and retain customers. “Those are the investments that we are fast-tracking.”

“We are more about the SMB, it is an addressable group of customers. If you nail the acquisition and retention metrics, you will have a profitable business.”

Bill Collatos of Spectrum Equity represented the private equity investor class. His firm invests in more established private companies, typically those generating at least $5 million in EBITDA.

How does Collatos you assess a deal? He says it s not that different from a venture investor. “”We look at the efficacy of product, the quality of the team. We are just coming in at a later stage.”

Collatos says his firm likes market leaders or up and comers going after a market leader whose leadership is waning.

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