Rightster: Charlie Muirhead

A £20.4m fundraising via today's AIM listing in the bag, Growing Business takes a closer look at video marketing platform Rightster

With £20.4m in its back pocket after one of the most anticipated UK tech IPOs of the year, Rightster has eyes on global growth.

The video marketing and distribution platform’s content garners in excess of 160 million views a month, revenues already exceed £4m, and the flotation on the London Stock Exchange’s AIM market has given it an institutional stamp of approval and platform to make more noise.

Founded by 38-year-old serial entrepreneur Charlie Muirhead, Rightster has grown in just two years to become one of the hottest properties on the market and early trading today suggested there’s appetite with the market cap hitting just shy of £70m and share price rising. Time will tell.

But what exactly is Rightster, who is Muirhead, and why is this IPO big news for tech start-ups across the UK?

What is Rightster?

Muirhead, who has previous with public markets having taken his first company to America’s NASDAQ at the height of the late 1990s dotcom boom, is no longer the precocious twentysomething who started music rental business Orchestream but an entrepreneur with a series of launches behind him.

With high-speed internet rising to near-ubiquity in the last 10 years, video content on the web has never before been so popular or widespread. The increasing proliferation and ease of creation of video content helped by hosting sites such as YouTube has, however, created its own challenges.

“It’s complex, because online is such a fragmented space,” Muirhead told the Guardian in a video interview last year. “It’s hard to get your content in front of the right audience, it’s hard to build a loyal following around your content, and selling advertising is a challenge in its own right.”

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Rightster was formed in May 2011 by Muirhead in an attempt to address these issues; by offering a unified software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform, media companies can target audiences, monetise content, micro-manage geographic rights to videos and network with publishers who are part of the Rightster network.

“We saw the opportunity to create a services business that could provide a turnkey solution for content producers and publishers, who wanted to focus their time on actually making great content,” Muirhead said.

The tech entrepreneur has stated Rightster’s ultimate aim is to automate every single aspect of content dissemination on the web, spanning distribution, marketing and monetisation. “Basically, it’s all about speed to revenue, and ultimately, speed to profit [for content producers],” explained Muirhead.

Claiming to be the only service of its kind in the world, Rightster has developed its offering by entering content genres (otherwise known as ‘industry verticals’) by securing high-profile rights deals for live content – covering events including the Royal Wedding and the Leveson Inquiry – and recruiting more publishers and content owners off the back of the exposure generated.

In what the company terms the ‘network effect’, every deal concluded in this way makes Rightster’s offering more compelling to other potential customers in the sector, allowing it to very quickly become an industry standard.

This approach has yielded dividends for the fast-growing company. Initially targeting the fashion sector with the British Fashion Council (BFC) as its first customer, it has since expanded to encompass the sports, news, entertainment and viral video genres and now claims to generate more than 160 million views a month, with 200 staff in 9 countries managing the service.

With revenues approaching £5m, Rightster has further consolidated its offering by concluding a number of acquisitions; in October 2012, it acquired 25% of viral marketing company VML (known as ‘Viral Spiral’) to become its exclusive monetisation and distribution partner for content uploaded to third-party hosting platforms (such as Youtube).

Rightster marked two further major deals this year as it acquired assets belonging to UK display advertising sales company Sports Syndicator and purchased film trailer distributor Preview Networks outright for €2.1m. This month, it was listed as one of the 63 UK tech companies with £100m revenue potential by Silicon Valley Comes to the UK.

Who is Charlie Muirhead and where did Rightster come from?

With a successful career spanning both sides of the dotcom boom, serial entrepreneur Charlie Muirhead is one of the UK’s tech industry veterans, with a particular reputation for raising finance.

His first business, data management company Orchestream, was founded in 1996 when the 21-year-old Muirhead was studying at Imperial College London; he soon dropped out to focus on the business full-time. This proved to be an astute decision, as just three years later the company was worth an estimated £1bn – having raised over £50m in VC funding – and was listed on NASDAQ.


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