This interview was originally published on Morketing, a Chinese online media that reports on the businesses of technology, marketing and more.
Earlier this year, Clement Cao, the Co-founder and CEO of Mobvista, talked about three things over dinner with his old friend Tony Bai, the Founder and CEO of Reyun.
They chatted about the recent M&A between AppLovin and Adjust, which is a clear sign of change for the third-party mobile marketing platform ecosystem. Next, they shared their future plans for their respective companies. And lastly, the two exchanged their views on the future trends for the third-party marketing industry.
Soon after this dinner, a 1.5 billion RMB M&A deal was brought to the negotiation table. The preliminary paperwork was completed within the next two months.
On April 28th, Mobvista, a global technology platform, officially announced its decision to acquire Reyun, a third-party mobile measurement and marketing technology company, for a total amount of RMB 1.5 billion (including cash and stock).
Founded in 2013, Mobvista has been helping global mobile app developers achieve business growth with a unified stack of SaaS tools including analytics, user acquisition, monetization, cloud cost optimization and other technologies and products. Reyun was also founded in the same year, with a product line that covers data analytics, mobile measurement, campaign management, creative insights, fraud protection, and more, meeting customers’ needs across their entire value chain and product life cycle.
So what are the reasons behind this cooperation between the two industry leaders? What specific conditions were agreed upon for the acquisition? How will the business and strategic goals be adjusted after the acquisition? With these questions in mind, Morketing conducted an in-depth interview with Clement Cao, Co-founder and CEO of Mobvista, and Tony Bai, Founder and CEO of Reyun.
This acquisition was not an impulse decision. The whole industry is moving towards consolidation.
Morketing: What was the reason behind the Mobvista and Reyun M&A?
Clement Cao: This idea came to me when I was chatting about the AppLovin & Adjust deal with Tony. It was very shocking news to us considering that it was a leading mobile app data monitoring company being purchased by another top third-party ad platform.
Morketing: What do you think of this acquisition? Was it the catalyst for your company to buy Reyun?
Clement Cao: AppLovin and Adjust are like the “athlete” and the “referee” in the digital marketing field. The entire industry will therefore have doubts over Adjust’s neutrality after the deal is completed. However, the market and customers have come to accept the diversity of the third-party mobile marketing platforms.
First of all, the past year has seen intensive consolidations in the global mobile marketing industry. Secondly, Adjust, which has been maintaining its independent development after the acquisition, has not had a negative impact on existing customers. Thirdly, the role of “referee” in the industry has been constantly changing, while the values upheld by mobile app data monitoring and marketing companies such as Adjust and Reyun continue to evolve.
With the release of iOS 14.5, Apple has limited the ability and scope of third-party data tracking. Post-IDFA, the value of third-party marketing technology companies lies in their abilities to optimize the clients’ products, rather than simply playing their role as industry referees. Products that can help developers on user behavioral analysis, A/B testing, and multi-dimensional market insights will bring greater opportunities for the whole marketing tech sector.
Currently, some data monitoring and marketing companies are able to provide extra analysis on the specific contribution of each user conversion for their clients based on Apple attribution results, i.e. by removing the direct source channel or by calculating the specific contribution of different channels. In the context of iOS 14.5, Apple seems to be the final judge.
The Post-IDFA world opens up opportunities for mobile app data monitoring and marketing companies to evolve. The identity of third-party platforms is bound to become more diverse in the future. From a market demand perspective, this trend of “integrations” within the third-party mobile marketing industry is also an important reason for our cooperation.
Integration means that the service being provided within the indutry is to be further streamlined. Developers can use a single platform to meet all their needs right from the start, such as data analytics, user growth, monetization and cloud cost optimization. This allows them to plan their growth strategy more efficiently.
Compared with siloed services, a full-stack solution is more efficient as data can form a closed loop: for example, partnering with a full-stack solution provides give you the ability to connect your data from sales with the data from your UA marketing campaign. That way, it is much easier to optimize your future UA strategies, and once your campaigns can be optimized, it will drive down UA costs and improve ROI.
Morketing: What do you think about AppLovin, IronSource and other third-party mobile marketing platforms’ continuous acquisitions of game companies to build a closed-loop ecosystem in this vertical?
Clement Cao: I don’t think there is any good or bad strategy in this case. Different companies make different choices. In the long run, Mobvista will keep providing B2B services and avoid competing with our customers in the B2C realm.
Morketing: What is the core reason for Reyun to accept the M&A instead of developing independently?
Tony Bai: The biggest concern for us is time. Over the past three years, Reyun has maintained 50%-100% year-on-year revenue growth. In April last year, we tried to get listed on the A-share GEM board, and the preliminary preparation took us eight months to complete. However, due to the overall slowdown of the A-share market and changes in the industry, our team chose to delay our plans to go public.
We believe that it will take too much time for us to develop MarTech and AdTech together based on the dual growth targets in terms of profit and revenue. Although our current products and business model have been recognized by the market, more time means more uncertainty.
At the moment, M&A is a very suitable choice for us to accelerate our business. The main reason for agreeing to merge with Mobvista is that they can offer capabilities that Reyun doesn’t have, which can be very beneficial to our future development. Going public was never my end goal. To make Reyun a better company is what I want most as the founder.
Clement Cao: Since its establishment, Reyun has been growing at lightning speed in the MarTech field. However, the current domestic IPO requirements for corporate revenue and profit growth are in conflict with Reyun’s objective to achieve a fast breakthrough in the global market. After joining Mobvista, Reyun will be able to focus on the strategies to deploy a better product line and bring more value to customers.
Morketing: Going back to the deal, last October, Reyun received tens of millions in Series C funding from Orient Securities Capital, with a pre-investment valuation of RMB 800 million and a post-investment valuation of RMB 900 million. And now the M&A is priced at RMB 1.5 billion, does it mean that Reyun’s valuation grew by 600 million in less than a year? Why did Mobvista approve this price?
Clement Cao: I have been asked the same question by many peers, who think the transaction amount is too high. But there are in fact several rationales behind the 1.5 billion price.
First, Reyun’s SaaS services are a key revenue driver. Reyun has excellent customer retention, repurchase and incremental purchase rates. It is evident that there is an efficient flow from product R&D to commercialization, plus strong cross-selling capabilities among Reyun’s many products.
Secondly, since last year’s Series C financing, Reyun has upgraded its overall company strategy, offering a clearer plan for product iterations as well as a three-pronged strategy of public domain, private domain and standardized tools. These prove that the company has great potential.
Morketing: Is Reyun paid in both equity and cash? What is the percentage of each?
Tony Bai: For this RMB 1.5 billion M&A, Reyun is mainly paid with Mobvista’s shares. Our team believes that this acquisition will offer more than the amount of the transaction, since our company is bound to grow further upon the merger. We agreed on this price because we are confident about Mobvista’s overall market performance in the future.
A joint venture to build full-stack services
Morketing: This acquisition has surprised a lot of industry insiders, who weren’t aware of any connection between the two companies. Did you have any kind of interaction before the deal?
Clement Cao: Mobvista has focused on the overseas market so far, while Reyun is mostly a domestic service provider. Nevertheless, the two companies have a lot of overlap in terms of our Chinese clients, with Reyun helping them grow domestically and Mobvista helping them expand overseas.
In fact, back in 2017, Mobvista proposed the concept of “Glocal” – or Global+Local – which supports our overseas clients by helping them enter the Chinese market. We have designed a better and more actionable set of marketing solutions to help overseas developers tap into the huge and complex Chinese market. Mobvista currently serves clients from over 85 countries and regions. With Reyun on board, our service capabilities will be further enhanced thanks to its full suite of SaaS marketing solutions.
Morketing: For both companies, what were the needs and values that made this acquisition possible?
Clement Cao: There are three main reasons for us to push forward the acquisition.
First, there is an overlap in the two companies’ client bases. The merger will allow us to not only serve our shared clients better, but to also share our other customer segments with each other through our respective products and business lines, providing them with greater value.
The second reason lies in our global planning. While the focus of our business is on the overseas markets, Reyun is mostly a domestic market player. For app developers, they have to take into account the global market from the moment their product is born, which means that they have to find partners to work with in each country and region. However, this is exactly the opposite of the current trend of global market integration. From a regional deployment perspective, this M&A is basically an integration of Mobvista’s overseas capabilities and Reyun’s domestic competence. This will enhance our global business deployment and technological capabilities to offer seamless services to our customers around the world.
Thirdly, from a product line perspective, Mobvista’s strength lies in AdTech, and most of our core products are focused on DSP, SSP and ad exchange. In terms of MarTech, we acquired GameAnalytics, a European game data analysis platform in 2016. Although it has developed rapidly in the past few years, it mainly serves the overseas markets, providing free and professional in-game player behavioral data analysis for mobile game developers, helping them analyze game retention and traffic profitability.
Of course, we have found that the demand for MarTech continues to rise as developers seek to acquire more users and commercialize their products.
In the past, the third-party MarTech tool used most by developers was tracking, which has been replaced by one-stop management tools that offer ad creatives analysis and cross-channel campaign management. Since we did not put most of our resources into MarTech, Mobvista has been somewhat lagging behind in this field.
In contrast to Mobvista, Reyun happens to be a company with full-cycle MarTech tools, including tracking, campaign management, creative analysis and data management. Our company GameAnalytics also plans to carry out a larger round of product iterations this year. By integrating Reyun’s products, we will accomplish our goal of building a more comprehensive product line and increasing customer retention rate.
Once the M&A process is complete, Mobvista will also provide a large amount of capital, cloud computing, and big data support for Reyun, so as to quickly establish a more well-rounded and competitive line of products and services. This will allow us to create a full-stack marketing solution and provide better one-stop services for developers.
Tony Bai: Most of Reyun’s core business is in China. From over 10,000 free customers to more than 2,000 paid customers, we have found that user traffic is becoming less and less profitable, while the developers’ demand for user acquisition is constantly changing. This is why we try to keep up with the changes in the industry to meet our developers’ ever-evolving needs.
Compared to four or five years ago, developers are now more willing to use and pay for SaaS tools. And this demand is not just for a single tool, it also applies to customer acquisition, A/B testing, anti-fraud, and a variety of analysis requirements.
There is a market for SaaS tools as long as they can help developers improve their efficiency, save costs, and control budgets. The SaaS market has been divided by multiple vendors, but now Reyun is working with Mobvista to build a full-stack marketing solution for developers.
Morketing: After the M&A is completed, will Reyun continue to run independently or will there be some adjustments?
Clement Cao: Reyun will be a wholly-owned subsidiary of Mobvista after the acquisition, operating as an independent brand. Since thousands of active Reyun customers are mobile developers whose IT infrastructures are cloud-based, we intend to let Reyun support the commercialization of SpotMax – our SaaS product for cloud cost management – while taking full advantage of Reyun’s mature cross-selling system.
In addition, given that Mobvista has started to issue independent business reports for its sub-brands, we will combine the revenue of Reyun with that of GameAnalytics and SpotMax in our SaaS business reports.
Morketing: Does that mean that Mobvista will separate the AdTech revenue from its SaaS revenue? If so, why?
Tony Bai: In the future, AdTech and MarTech will come together and support each other at the business level. However, if we look at their revenue composition and business models, it would be better to split them up for the sake of the company’s business plans and valuation in the capital market.
Clement Cao: It doesn’t mean that they have to be completely isolated. We are doing this for the market to better understand the structure and growth logic for each of our business units.
Morketing: What will be the short-term and long-term focus for the two companies after the merger?
Clement Cao: In the short term, we will focus on the coordination and integration of the two teams and our company cultures. In order to give Reyun sufficient room and time for development, we will not start merging the two teams at the product and technology level for the time being.
In the long term, we will work with Reyun to establish global full-stack solutions, from standardized tools to the ones that support private hosting, covering developers’ whole marketing life cycle in the global market.
Morketing: You have mentioned earlier that Reyun is working on private hosting, what are the reasons behind this?
Tony Bai: Given our existing products and technology, it is natural for us to expand into the private hosting.
Even though most of Reyun’s clients are game developers, the latest data suggest that the proportion of customers outside the gaming industry has surpassed it, including verticals like catering, luxury goods, consumer goods, real estate, and finance. All of these sectors have tremendous demand for private hosting services, which is why we are moving in this direction.
The future of third-party mobile marketing platforms is not a “walled garden”, but an open ecosystem.
Morketing: We have talked about how the third-party platforms have been “integrating”. Does that mean that mobile marketing services in the future will be divided into a bunch of “walled gardens”, from which the developers can only choose one as their main playing field?
Clement Cao: First of all, the top mobile marketing service providers have to build their own ecosystems, which is also the dominant industry trend. Third-party platforms with full-stack service capabilities, will, in the long run, have an advantage as integration becomes the norm.
Meanwhile, having a complete ecosystem does not mean that it must be a closed environment. An ecosystem is valuable to the developers only when it is open to the public. This is especially true for third-party mobile marketing companies. It can be difficult for the tools within a single ecosystem to satisfy every market, scenario, or demand.
We let the developers themselves choose the tools and technologies that meet their needs based on their development stage and industry characteristics. Of course, offering full-stack services and having an open ecosystem are not mutually exclusive. We can provide full-stack services while making our products compatible with other software. This is the only way for us to maintain a healthy and symbiotic relationship with all partners and competitors while bringing more revenue, opportunities, and possibilities for the developers.
Lastly, technology in-housing is another major trend. By placing the products and technology in the virtual private cloud (VPC), we can ensure our clients’ data privacy and security.
At the end of the interview, Morketing asked Cao and Bai about their ambitions for the future. Here is what they said.
Enterprise digitalization is a long race. One might think that Amazon is an established company since it has been running for decades. However, if you place it in the larger historical context, it is still a relatively new product. Similarly, Mobvista and Reyun are also newcomers in terms of enterprise digitalization.
We are aware that if we want to become the top player in this field, we have to plan ahead with a global vision and more well-rounded strategies. This acquisition is exactly what we need to get the ball rolling.