AppLovin CEO Rejected by Venture Firms Is Now Worth $1.8 Billion
(Bloomberg) -- Less than three years ago, Adam Foroughi made the unusual move of tapping the leveraged-loan market to finance his mobile-app startup, AppLovin Corp.
The $820 million loan allowed Foroughi, 40 as of late February, to pay off debt and invest in the business without sacrificing his own equity. It was a solid bet as his stake in AppLovin is now worth about $1.8 billion during the company’s first day of trading. Shares were down 6.6% to $65.40 at 2:08 p.m. in New York, a lackluster start for the business, which had priced its stock at $80.
“I was a derivatives trader when I started my career, I know that you can’t control what’s outside of your control,” Foroughi said about the decline in an interview with Bloomberg TV.
Still, the Palo Alto, California-based business has a market value of about $24 billion, 12 times its implied valuation when KKR & Co. bought a 33.9% stake in 2018. AppLovin, whose name was partly inspired by the swashbuckling high-schooler in the movie “Superbad,” helps independent developers market and monetize their apps. It had $1.45 billion in revenue last year, a 46% increase from 2019.
“Without venture capital, we committed to profitable growth from Day 1,” Foroughi wrote in a letter included in the company’s prospectus, describing how his vision was spurned by every venture capitalist he met with in the startup’s early days.
The rejections forced him to bootstrap the company, though profits have been inconsistent. AppLovin turned a profit in only one of the last three years, filings show, with a net loss of $125.9 million in 2020. Along with other gaming-focused companies, like Fortnite-maker Epic Games, AppLovin is beholden to Apple Inc.’s App Store and Google Play for distribution and subject to their payment-processing fees.
Mobile games, which form the core of AppLovin’s business, have exploded in popularity in recent years, accounting for 72% of the value of all app-store purchases, according to Sensor Tower. In addition to partnering with developers to help them grow their audiences and boost the number of paying users, AppLovin has launched 200 of its own free-to-play mobile games.
Born in Iran, Foroughi’s family fled after the revolution, arriving in the U.S. in 1984. To make the move, his father had to abandon his job heading one of the country’s largest real estate developers, a sacrifice Foroughi said impressed upon him the importance of career success.
“In typical immigrant fashion, when your parents were successful and have to leave that behind, the children usually have the necessity to work hard and succeed to make up for the fact that their parents had to give up a lot,” he said in a 2018 interview.
Foroughi joins the growing ranks of entrepreneurs who’ve cemented huge fortunes in recent months through public offerings. The co-founders of Coinbase Global Inc., Brian Armstrong and Fred Ehrsam, had a combined fortune valued at more than $16 billion at the end of the cryptocurrency exchange’s first day of trading Wednesday. The listings of dating app Bumble Inc. and food-delivery business DoorDash Inc. also made billionaires of their founders, though both companies are now trading below their IPO prices.
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