Native Exchange Sharethrough Acquires UK-Based Content Platform VAN

Sharethrough, a native ad exchange headquartered in San Francisco, on Thursday announced it has acquired VAN, a UK-based content distribution platform.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

VAN -- initially known as “Viral Ad Network” but now almost exclusively called VAN -- pulled in $2 million in revenue in 2013, according to Patrick Keane, president of Sharethrough. VAN’s publishing and brand partners, including BBC, CarThrottle and UKTV, will become clients of Sharethrough, effective immediately. VAN will now operate as Sharethrough Europe.

Curt Larson, director of product at Sharethrough, told Real-Time Daily that Sharethrough’s acquisition of VAN is less about  technology and more about the people and relationships that will be acquired. Building a team was “Step One” of Sharethrough’s European expansion plans, while “Step Two” was building relationships in Europe.

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Rather than building their own team from the ground up, Larson noted that going the acquisition route ups Sharethrough’s “speed to market” in Europe; it doesn’t have to build a team organically nor does it have to build relationships by “arriving at the table and pounding it hard” to prove they are the best, said Larson -- the team and relationships are already in place. However, Sharethrough has planted its head of strategy, Nate Gosselin, in the UK for an “extended period of time” to get the VAN workers acquainted with Sharethrough’s culture.

Sharethrough’s European expansion will begin in the UK -- and its international headquarters are now in London -- but Keane told Real-Time Daily that Western Europe is the bigger picture. Specifically, the company has eyes on growing business in France and Germany next.

The founders of Sharethrough had known Christopher Quigley, former founder of VAN and now managing director of Sharethrough Europe, for “some period of time,” according to Larson, so there was familiarity between the two companies prior to Thursday’s deal.

“Not walking into a relationship cold was an important factor for us,” said Keane.

Sharethrough’s native exchange has a focus on in-feed native ads. VAN’s publishing partners will begin using Sharethrough for Publishers, while its buy-side clients will be able to plug into the Sharethrough Exchange. VAN’s technology will be phased out.

“The industry has now come to the point where it’s ready to transact native in a programmatic way,” said Larson.

Sharethrough supports both desktop and mobile native ads, and stressed the mobile component of its technology in an earlier release. “Mobile is the future of digital media and increasingly digital media is being consumed as a feed,” Alan King, managing partner at UM, is quoted as saying in Sharethrough’s release.

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