Seven West Media's start-up strategy for long-term growth
Seven West Media is eyeing a number of new investments after it led a $22 million funding round in Australian start-up Airtasker.
The investment in Airtasker, which was revealed by Fairfax Media on Tuesday, was the latest in a strategy by Seven to invest in early stage businesses. Seven now owns 15 per cent of the company.
Seven has added more than 10 investments to its portfolio for around $50 million, in both cash and contra, in businesses across Australia, as well as the United Kingdom, United States and Singapore. These include hyper-local social media network Nabo – which Fairfax Media is also invested in – peer-to-peer lending platform Society One, online consumer health directory HealthEngine and baby boomer media brand Starts at 60.
“Our team look at a wide range of opportunities that sit within our target verticals, but are very selective in ensuring any investment meets our strategic criteria,” Seven chief executive Tim Worner told Fairfax Media.
“There are several investments currently under consideration and new areas that we are exploring. We will continue to pursue this strategy as we believe it creates value for our shareholders, maximises the utilisation of our assets and opens up new markets for our assets.”
The idea behind investing in start-ups is to diversify Seven’s business outside its television and newspaper assets. Seven is looking for investments that add value to its core businesses, as well as being able to leverage the traditional mediums to help the smaller business grow faster and stronger than they otherwise would.
“Our audience reach and presence across many media platforms – television, publishing, online, new digital applications – delivers what many of these well run businesses need: marketing horsepower and creating awareness,” Mr Worner said.
It’s a strategy that was highlighted by PricewaterhouseCoopers technology, communications and entertainment industry lead David Wiadrowski.
Traditional media, such as TV and newspapers, are facing growing competition for audience and advertising dollars, so they need to branch out to find growth.
”If a consumer sees Fairfax or Channel Seven as a publisher of newspapers or a free-to-air channel, in the long-term they won’t survive – that’s why they need to evolve their business models and they’re starting to do that,” Mr Wiadrowski told Fairfax Media during the launch of the firm’s Media and Entertainment Outlook 2016-2020.
While Seven may be playing in the Australian start-up space with a number of investments, the media company doesn’t see itself as a venture capitalist.
“I wouldn’t say we are a VC, we are a strategic partner that provides unique benefits associated with our core competency as Australia’s leading diversified media company,” Mr Worner said.
“These investments are aligned with our strategy of fuelling new growth and diversifying earnings. What’s been clear going down this path is that new emerging companies recognise the benefits of our media assets in helping them drive growth.”
The investments have delivered strong returns to date, however it is important to recognise that the majority are long-term opportunities, Mr Worner said.
“There are a number of strategic benefits that flow to both parties as part of our agreements, but at the end of the day it’s all about how we create shareholder value.”
Typically, Seven chooses investments where it can add value and expertise – the majority are consumer facing businesses, although not all.
“In the majority of cases these investments are consumer facing where we can use the power of our assets to help grow, but there are also a number of investments that are B2B or tech that also provide strategic benefits to the group or in areas where we can bring an unfair advantage,” Mr Worner said.
It rarely invests in business during the seed stage, series A at the earliest, but generally at a later stage where the company is in a position where it can grow scale.
“We assess a wide range of opportunities, both large and relatively early stage and assess these investments through a stringent process that our investment committee have in place,” Mr Worner said
“Content production has clearly been an area that has been a strategic focus for our business for a number of years. We have a diversified investment approach and will continue to evaluate opportunities in terms of strategic alignment and shareholder value creation.”
The story Seven West Media’s start-up strategy for long-term growth first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.