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Deal Radar 2008: AKQA

Posted on Tuesday, Jun 10th 2008

AKQA is an interactive ad agency driven by ideas to inspire its clients to move forward in the digital era. Some of the services AKQA provides are designing interactive experiences for its clients. It also provides content creation and distribution as well as E-commerce and technology solutions for them. The company was founded in 1995 by Ajaz Ahmed and and is headquartered in San Francisco, with offices in Washington D.C., New York, London, Amsterdam and Shanghai. AKQA employs over 700 employees including graphic designers, software engineers, coders and art directors.

AKQA has been selected as a ‘Fast 50 in 2008’ by Fast Company. One of the reasons leading to this selection is that the company is very innovative and has also enjoyed over five years of fast growth and profitability. In 2007 their revenue increased 39% to $100 million. Last year the company chose to stand independently, instead of being bought out, using a $250 million investment from private equity firm General Atlantic. In 2001 Francisco Partners invested in AKQA with a five year time horizon. In 2007 the decision was made to have General Atlantic as their new partner and to buy Francisco’s share. Based on its revenues, creative and management, Adweek has given the company an A- grade in its Annual Agency Report Cards for 2007.

The company has a very impressive roster of clients on both sides of the Atlantic, a few of whom include Borders, Coca Cola, Fiat, McDonald’s and Sainsbury. Recently one of the most recognized projects was the design of the Xbox 360 user interface. Most of its competitors have been acquired by holding companies like the $1.3 billion acquisition of Digitas by Publicis, although another rival R/GA has also opened offices in San Francisco and London. And of course, aQuantive was acquired by Microsoft.

2008 also seems to be a potentially successful year for the company. They recently acquired a search engine marketing (SEM) company, SearchRev, which manages large scale SEM campaigns for big companies like Shutterfly and Coca Cola. Two of its clients, McDonald’s and Coke, are sponsoring the Olympics this year which led to the opening of their Shanghai office.

In an interview series I did with CEO and co-founder Tom Bedecarre last year, we discussed several aspects of the company and its future. He expects AKQA to go public in 2008 and has hired a new CFO to help with the preparations. AKQA’s IPO prospects are very reasonable, even though the market conditions are absolutely horrific.

This segment is a part in the series : Deal Radar 2008

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