WhaleShark Media seeks to dominate the deal industry

CEO and Founder of WhaleShark Media Cotter Cunningham


By Eoghan McCloskey
Special Contributor to Silicon Hills News

The popularity and success of daily deal sites such as Groupon and Living Social have created opportunities for others like WhaleShark Media.
The Austin-based startup connects consumers with multiple daily deal and coupon services like Deals.com and CouponShare.com as well as deal sites outside of the U.S. like Gutschein-Codes.de.
Founded in 2010, WhaleShark Media has received $300 million from several venture capital firms including Austin Ventures, Google Ventures, and Institutional Venture Partners. In less than two years, WhaleShark Media has evolved into a profitable and quickly growing company, generating 30 percent growth in site traffic and 50 percent revenue growth. WhaleShark Media’s rapid growth stems, in part, from a series of major acquisitions of other coupon vendors, most importantly RetailMeNot.com, the single largest online coupon site in the world, and VoucherCodes.co.uk, the UK’s top online deal site.
WhaleShark makes money from advertising on its sites from more than 300 million visits to its web properties, said Brian Hoyt, WhaleShark Media’s communications director. It also makes a small commission off thousands of retailers whose offers the company helps merchandise and facilitate sales for via the coupons and deals clicked on its site, he said.
“This relationship goes beyond big box retailers and includes thousands of other large and midsize merchants,” Hoyt said.
Last year, WhaleShark Media made more than $70 million in revenue as part of the $1.7 billion in sales generated for its merchant clients.

WhaleShark's workplace

WhaleShark Media’s workplace just south of downtown Austin on Congress Avenue is vibrant, laidback and youthful. Employees get a budget to decorate work areas with art, most employees dress casually and CEO Cotter Cunningham occupies a modest desk in a corner of the common work area, a symbolic reflection of his personality and the company’s philosophy. Cunningham’s personality and his success as an executive ultimately helped investment firm Austin Ventures decide to back the company. Cunningham previously served as CEO in residence at Austin Ventures, founder and CEO of Smallponds and Chief Operating Officer of Bankrate Inc.
“We originally invested in WhaleShark because of the enormous potential for growth we thought was there, as well as the ability to innovate within the online coupon and deals space,” said Austin Ventures Partner Thomas Ball. “We also had a relationship with Cotter, who we believe is a great executive.“
Jules Maltz, General Partner at Institutional Venture Partners (IVP), reflected Ball’s view.
“IVP looks to back premier late-stage companies and management teams,” said Maltz. “WhaleShark is the leading online coupon company with strong profitability and tremendous growth potential. We’re excited to back Cotter and help WhaleShark continue to expand.”
WhaleShark Media is also focused on hiring technology talent locally and worldwide to fuel its expansion, Hoyt said. The company has 170 employees worldwide, including 120 in the U.S., with most of them based in Austin. Last week, it announced that Matt Howitt would join the company as vice president of engineering.
“We recognize there is a limited talent pool in Austin and we want to keep them in Austin,” Hoyt said.
WhaleShark Media plans to hire another 50 people this year, he said. The company is also taking over another floor at its downtown headquarters. It currently occupies the seventh floor at 301 Congress and it’s expanding to the eighth floor.
Late last year, WhaleShark Media received $150 million in venture capital, which it plans to use to increase its market share in the retail deal industry. The company plans a series of product innovations and is concentrating on expanding its presence in the mobile coupon and deal market, Hoyt said.
“We’re looking at growth inside the U.S. and Europe,” Hoyt said. “We’re also looking at the Asia market.”
WhaleShark Media doesn’t have any short term plans to go public, Hoyt said.
“Right now we’re focused on building our business.”

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