Austin-based Tiger Pistol Makes a Big Noise for Small Businesses

Steve Hibberd, co-founder of Tiger Pistol , based in Austin.

By LAURA LOREK
Reporter with Silicon Hills News

A tiger pistol shrimp is the planet’s loudest creature. With one claw larger than the other, when it snaps that claw, the sound can reach 218 decibels -louder than a gunshot.

And that’s why Steve Hibberd and his co-founder Troy Townsend named their startup, Tiger Pistol, when they founded it in 2011 in Melbourne, Australia. They were focused on helping small businesses have a big impact with customers in social media.

They had a global vision for the social advertising tech company from the start.

“Our focus is on delivering amazing outcomes for small business,” Hibberd said. “We’ve been small business operators ourselves. When small businesses are spending a dollar, they want something tangible in return.”

And Tiger Pistol is succeeding. “Tiger Pistol is the largest publisher of Facebook ads for small and medium-sized business globally,” Hibberd said. “No one publishes more SMB ads than Facebook itself,” he said. It became a Facebook small business marketing partner in early 2013, and then expanded to the U.S. in 2015.

Last year, Tiger Pistol relocated its headquarters from Los Angeles to Austin and it has been growing dramatically since, Hibberd said. They hired 20 people in the last three months in Austin, he said.

“We are super excited about how it’s worked out and the people we’ve been able to attract,” Hibberd said.

The company, with 30 employees in a 6,000-square foot space at Sixth and Brazos, is continuing to hire to accommodate its growth, he said. Tiger Pistol also has 60 employees altogether with offices in Los Angeles and Melbourne, Australia.

Tiger Pistol is a software as a service company that sells its software to small and medium sized business resellers to create, deploy, manage and optimize Facebook and Instagram ads at scale. Tiger Pistol’s platform delivers campaign automation, creative testing, and real-time machine-learning to maximize performance, Hibberd said. The platform saves ad campaign managers a lot of time and allows them to get a better performing campaign, he said.

“Our software platform is focused on scale and how to make it possible for every small business to get more value from social ads,’’ Hibberd said.

Small businesses in 423 different industries use Tiger Pistol’s software. Some of the biggest categories are lawyers and real estate agents, health and wellbeing businesses and party planners. Newspapers also use Tiger Pistol’s software to serve small businesses and help them drive sales from Instagram and Facebook ads.

“It’s a really exciting time because of the number of organizations providing Facebook and Instagram ads is in huge demand,” Hibberd said.

Tiger Pistol, which bootstrapped until a few years ago, has taken on two rounds of capital for a total investment of $5 million. Its investors are high net worth individuals in Australia and the U.S., Hibberd said.

Last year, Tiger Pistol grew 300 percent over 2015, Hibberd said. And this year, the company is expected to grow up to another 300 percent, he said.

“Facebook is continuing to experience incredible growth and the ad spend by small businesses represents 80 percent of the growth,” Hibberd said. And Instagram advertising is growing, he said.

“Small businesses are getting value from social today,” Hibberd said. “We’re only in business if the florist or the plumber gets value for the money they are spending.”

Tiger Pistol is one of a handful of tech companies to move to Austin recently with ties to Australia. Eddie Machalaani and Mitch Harper founded BigCommerce in 2009 in Sydney, Australia and opened an Austin office that same year. It is now based in Austin with two locations and 285 employees. Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar founded Atlassian in 2002 in Sydney, Australia. They have a 75,000-square foot office in downtown Austin and more than 300 employees. And Katie May, Austin native and serial entrepreneur, relocated ShippingEasy from Sydney, Australia to Austin in 2012. Last year, Stamps.com bought the company for $55 million.

Tiger Pistol knows it made the right move relocating its headquarters to Austin, Hibberd said.

“The people in Austin are so genuine and nice and helpful,” Hibberd said. “For a company moving into Austin, you could have that competitive wariness, but the welcoming nature of the people is striking. That’s an important factor. That’s something for Austin to be extremely proud about.”

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