Building a 10 million dollar company is hard, but how can you build a 10 million dollar ad network with only 2 thousand dollars of cash? Read the article to find out more about Clickyab, an Iranian Ad Network with a story which inspires every entrepreneur.
Companies are not built overnight. Building a 10 million dollar startup requires experience, knowledge, dedication, persistence, determination and many other essential factors. Only a few can combine all these factors or at least have the luck to gather a team to take over all the aspects of a startup. And not everyone has the same journey throughout building a successful startup. Probably your journey is far different in details from the journey that we are sharing with you today but we can all agree on one thing, that we can learn or get inspired by each entrepreneur’s journey.
The journey that we are sharing with you, is a journey of a young entrepreneur who built, Clickyab one of the leading ad networks of Iran. This is interesting because ad networks are tech-heavy startups and Clickyab was developed all in-house without getting any help from foreign ad networks. In the past few years, due to the sanctions, Iranians forced to reverse engineer tech products or services and built everything from scratch. Whether it’s an online retail company, AdTech company or a marketplace, it doesn’t matter, Iranians are developing their platform without getting help from foreign companies. That’s the case here with Clickyab.
The founder behind Clickyab is Pooya Rajamand who has extensive experience throughout these years. Let’s get into Pooya’s life from early age to grasp the whole picture.
Pooya’s Journey to AdTech
Pooya had a talent for programming from an early age. He started coding when he was 15. Similar to all the young entrepreneurs he had some successful and unsuccessful startups. His first successful business was a domain shortener website which he launched when he was 18. However, he was forced to sell it to get back to studying. This was Pooya’s first successful startup which drove him toward new endeavors.
After his first startup, while Yahoo360 was closing down, he started working on a social network website named Webzzz. According to him, this website reached to 250,000 members after two years. After this period, Pooya put his efforts with his friends and merged their businesses to start a new company named Khavarzamin in 2009.
The team had three plans, one for an incubator and one for an ad network, which was the inception of Avatech and Anetwork. The third plan was Iran Web Festival which merged with Iran Mobile Festival a few years later. At Khavarzamin, he helped Anetwork to get off the ground while developing one of the first custom t-shirt printing websites in the country named Picuu in 2011. Two years later, in 2013, he sold Picuu to Albasco, one of Iran’s e-commerce companies.
In late 2013, due to a conflict between him and his co-founder at Anetwork, he sold his shares. And after six months, in May 2014, Pooya started his own ad network, Clickyab. After three years since the launch of Clickyab, Pooya is still working on Clickyab to keep this ad network on the list of top ad networks in the country.
2014: Clickyab Started with Only 2 Thousand Dollars
When Pooya sold his shares of Anetwork, he was 25 years old. It took him 6 months to make up his mind to start his own ad network. The time that we are talking about is late 2013. It’s around the time that Iran started to invest in its ICT sector and internet infrastructure. You can see in the following chart that in 2013 Iran had a jump in its internet penetration rate. More importantly, in 2014, the internet penetration had 10% increase, which indicates the time that Rightel’s exclusivity on the 3G network has ended and other two mobile network operators started to launch their 3G and even 4G network right away. This is really important since the internet’s role in people’s daily lives has increased, therefore it had an impact on digital advertising.
When I was talking to Pooya about his initial investment in Clickyab, I was kind of surprised, “I started Clickyab with only 2 thousand dollars and only two employees in a rented office which was a very small room,” he said.
Now, after 3.5 years to be exact, Clickyab has more than 47 employees.
Pooya had an active role in developing Anetwork, therefore he had a great experience in the sector. He took that experience and used it in order to not make the same mistakes in developing his ad network. “I wanted to implement Real Time Bidding which other co-founders of Anetwork refused to do so or Anetwork’s unusual pricing based on filters (targeted ads) instead of supply and demand method” he mentioned as some of the mistakes in Anetwork. This wasn’t enough for Pooya, he wanted to build an ad network based on international standards. He went through ad networks’ documentarians to bring more international standards to his ad network such as Floor CPM, Frequency Capping and so on.
Late 2014: 20 Thousand Dollars Per Month in Revenue
It took 8 months to develop Clickyab and when it was launched, only in the first month, they sold 5 thousands dollars worth of ads. After 6 months, in late 2014, the company reached to 20 thousand dollars per month in revenue with 8 employees. One of the main reasons behind Pooya’s success was that the market wasn’t mature enough and he took advantage of it. Clickyab had 463 million impressions and 420 thousand clicks per month at this time.
Winning Sharif VC Cup
This growth rate got the company into trouble after a while, they headed into some financial, legal and customer care problems since the company’s infrastructure couldn’t take over all the demands. This is around the time when Clickyab won the Sharif VC Cup —one of the prestigious startup competitions in Iran— in December 2014, as the fastest growing startup in the country.
Winning the competition attracted many investors to Clickyab. “I went to meetings with at least 15 different investors, basically all the players in the market,” Pooya added. From all the investors, only PeykeBartar —a media group consisting of 30 printed and digital media— could sign a contract with Clickyab for its first round of investment.
Late 2015: A Million Dollar Investment From PeykeBartar
PeykeBartar made a deal with Clickyab for one million dollars in capital commitment in September 2015. Most of the capital was injected to Clickyab over time to help the company expand its market.
PeykeBartar is the largest active yellow page company in Iran which is active in many cities in the country, such as Tehran, Mashhad, Karaj and Isfahan. According to Pooya Rajamand, PeykeBartar has almost 90% market share in the mentioned cities. The company started its work nearly 16 years ago and expanded its market with its accumulated profit. It’s worth to mention that PeykeBartar has one of the strongest sales departments with over 600 sales force. Parallel to Clickyab’s sales force, the company uses PeykeBartar employees as well to sell ad inventories to small and medium sized businesses and even big corporates.
Mid 2016: 200 Thousand Dollars Per Month in Revenue
After the investment from PeykeBartar, Mehdi Rashidian, one of the senior sales managers of PeykeBartar joined Clickyab to help and boost Clickyab’s sales.
Only after six months, Rashidian boosted sales from 20 thousands dollars to 200 thousand dollars, 10 times more than what it was before.
Clickyab’s main Focus is on CPC pricing model. According to Pooya, Clickyab is the leader of the market in CPC pricing model in Iran with nearly 40% market share and over 3 billion impressions per month. Pooya considers SabaVision their main competitor, considering that Saba Vision is one of the oldest players in the online advertising industry and has Aparat as one of their main assets.
Currently, the company has native advertising with its platinum publishers (launched two months ago), video ads (launched six months ago), a mobile ad network (with Android SDK) and an ad exchange which is under development and will be deployed soon.
Today: 10 Million Dollars Valuation
I was eager to know the current valuation of Clickyab. So I asked Pooya about his company’s valuation. “If we want to estimate our valuation based on Clickyab’s brand position, market share and average monthly revenue, it would be around 10 million dollars right now,” said Pooya.
Recently, the company has nearly broken even and they are ready for their next round of investment to take Clickyab to the next level. The investment mostly will be needed for media development, acquiring more media, expanding the ad exchange platform and programmatic advertising.
Iran’s Adtech is in its infancy, maybe 4 to 5 years behind the US.
“Iran has a promising market in AdTech, Iranian’s user behavior is changing really fast toward being online. Already many big brands inside Iran are dedicating around 10% to 15% of their budget to online advertising in their 360-degree campaigns,” added Pooya.
Considering tech-savvy Iranians and their love for technology and being online, soon this sector could pass TV, billboards and printed ads. Reaching to 48 million smartphones in mid-2017 from 2 million in 2014 in the country shows that this change is not that far.