Moonfruit acquired by Yell

The off-the-peg website and online shop builder has been bought e-lock, stock and barrel by Yell for £18m with a £5.2m pay-out for the executive team after two years.

by Rebecca Burn-Callander
Last Updated: 19 Aug 2013
Against a backdrop of Facebook’s $100bn IPO and its $1bn attempted acquisition of Instagram, £23.5m may sound like small potatoes. But, as the ever pragmatic Moonfruit co-founder and CEO Wendy Tan White points out: ‘In the real world, valuations are based a multiple of their revenues or profits. In our case, it was a very good multiple. Our investors are very happy.’

Tan White and co-founder (and husband) Joe White have been considering offers for just over a year. And Yell wasn’t the only buyer on the table. ‘At one point, we had so many interested parties involved that we had to take on a broker to sift through the proposals,’ says Tan White.

In the end, Yell’s wasn’t the most lucrative offer Moonfruit received, but it was the most attractive. ‘I didn’t want the company I’d built over 12 years to be split up and sold off,’ reveals Tan White. ‘I’ve never done an exit before but I learned there’s so much more to consider than just the price. It’s important to me that our customers are looked after and that Moonfruit keeps growing and innovating.’

And through this acquisition, Moonfruit is going to do just that. The executive team are on a two-year earn-out during which they must grow the business. ‘It was time to scale,’ says Tan White. ‘And it was either a case of taking on a larger tranche of investment, or being acquired by a company that already had the infrastructure in place.’

Yell, a $2bn-turnover company, certainly has that infrastructure. And in return, Tan White’s innovations at Moonfruit will be rolled our across the rest of the business. ‘They are particularly interested in our social knowledge, user experience and design to complement their local eMarketplace offering,’ she explains.

But what next for Wendy and co? She’s keeping her powder very dry at the moment, but has revealed that her next start-up may be in a similar space to Pinterest. ‘I’m really interested in businesses that combine the social element with commerce and high design,’ she says.

But it won’t be another 12-year haul next time. ‘As you start and sell businesses, you become more experienced and the ventures become much bigger and more stream-lined,’ she says. ‘And I’m not afraid to fail either. In the US, having a business fail earns you a badge of respect. I subscribe to that view rather than the dogged British, ‘if it goes wrong, I won’t try it again’ attitude.

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