The venture arm of Channel Four Television will invest $6.5 million (£3.5 million) for a 20 per cent stake in Airtasker's (ASX: ART) UK business, giving the Sydney-headquartered group access to the audience of Britain's largest free streaming service.
The sum will be paid in contra media advertising, with Airtasker having the option to repurchase the shares for scrip or cash at the end of FY28.
Airtasker, an online services marketplace founded by its CEO Tim Fung in 2012, expects its UK subsidiary to accelerate growth through Channel 4's monthly reach of more than 47 million people, or 78 per cent of the UK population.
"We are super excited to welcome 4 Ventures as a strategic partner in Airtasker UK," says Fung, whose company will soon have a new chair with Cass O'Connor starting in July, replacing early investor and Vocus Communications founder James Spenceley.
"In Australia, we were able to leverage the power of television to make Airtasker a household brand and achieve 20x revenue growth over five years together with Seven West Media (ASX: SWM) - and we believe we can do even better with Channel 4 in the UK."
4 Ventures head Vinay Solanki is also excited about the partnership and looks forward to working with the Australian group.
"We’re looking forward to partnering with Airtasker to help support the launch of this unique marketplace in the UK," Solanki says.
"A key strength of Airtasker is that it enables people to earn additional income through flexible working on their own terms which will no doubt be a benefit to audiences during the current economic climate.
"We hope that Airtasker’s brand will quickly realise the significant reach and awareness that is only possible through the powerful medium of TV advertising."
The investment forms part of Channel 4 Ventures' media-for-equity model, which since 2015 has completed more than 40 investments in consumer and SME-focused brands including Pinterest, Carwow, Impress, what3words, Strike, Meatless Farm, Vitl, Getagent, Boomin, Crowdcube and Rated People, working alongside leading institutional investors.
Compared to Airtasker's Australian marketplaces comprising its eponymous brand and Oneflare which generated a combined $21.4 million in the December 2022 half, the group's international marketplaces in the UK and the US brought in a total of approximately $400,000 - a low figure but up 116.4 per cent year-on-year.
In its half-yearly report, Airtasker reported steady growth in the UK marketplace, with trailing 12-month gross marketplace volume (TTM GMV) rising 83.1 per cent to reach £3.58 million.
"In the UK, Airtasker has developed meaningful liquidity in the London city marketplace and this city is now viewed as being in the "one to 100" phase of marketplace development," the company wrote in the report.
"In this phase, in addition to a continued focus on growing customer demand (posted tasks), there is a focus on ensuring adequate supply (tasker offers) and the successful matching of supply and demand to drive GMV.
"During 2H23, Airtasker plans to focus on growing brand awareness, acquiring new users, balancing marketplace supply and demand and growing local partnerships. Airtasker intends to grow brand awareness through the combination of an above-the-line brand campaign, organic social content and press relations."
An all-new outdoor and radio brand campaign was due for launch in the UK spring, with new users to be acquired through a combination of organic social and search, performance marketing and user incentives.
"Marketplace supply and demand will be balanced through a combination of financial incentives and community management initiatives," Airtasker reported.
"Finally, Airtasker will continue to invest in its local partnership with Dunelm - UK’s leading home furnishings retailer - as well as launching a Tasker Fuel Perk - which enables taskers to access lower cost fuel - with Esso."
Since those results were posted, the company announced a cost-cutting plan in April involving redundancies for 20 per cent of staff, and for the March quarter reported a 61.4 per cent increase in TTM GMV in the UK at £3.6 million, while revenue in the UK was up 128.3 per cent year-on-year at £439,000. Nonetheless, its new marketplaces including the US ran at a $2.2 million loss, compared to an EBITDA of $6.8 million for its established marketplaces in Australia.
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