Mo­bile app.

Back­ing from ma­jor in­vest­ment firm, GGV Cap­i­tal, sig­nals a land­mark for Colorado

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Ethan Mill­man

Den­ver-based Ibotta in good com­pany with new back­ing from ma­jor in­vest­ment firm.

Mo­bile re­tail app Ibotta is join­ing the ranks of ma­jor on­line ser­vices like Sound­cloud, Airbnb and Pan­dora thanks to an in­vest­ment from Sil­i­con Val­ley-based in­vest­ment firm GGV Cap­i­tal.

Ibotta, started in Den­ver five years ago, is one of the largest mo­bile re­tail apps on the mar­ket. The app of­fers users cash re­bates on pur­chases from re­tail stores like Tar­get and Wal­mart, but Ibotta also works with on­line busi­nesses such as Uber and Ebay.

GGV Cap­i­tal has in­vested in nearly 150 dif­fer­ent com­pa­nies in the U.S. and China. Some of its most high-pro­file in­vest­ments in­clude e-com­merce giant Alibaba and room rental ser­vice Airbnb. But the in­vest­ment firm has also has funded Tile, which makes internet en­abled track­ing de­vices for your keys and lug­gage, and the fe­male­fo­cused on­line me­dia com­pany Bus­tle.

The in­vest­ment in Ibotta sig­nals that tech com­pa­nies no longer must work out of Sil­i­con Val­ley to ex­pand, Ibotta founder and CEO Bryan Leach said. He de­clined to say how much the firm in­vested in his com­pany.

“It’s in­creas­ingly be­com­ing the case that you can have your cake and eat it too, mean­ing that you can op­er­ate here in Den­ver and still work with lead­ing ex­ec­u­tives in the world,” Leach said. “This is the first time GGVC has in­vested in a com­pany in Colorado. It’s a land­mark for Colorado and we’re proud of that.”

GGV Cap­i­tal typ­i­cally in­vests in com­pa­nies that are based in Sil­i­con Val­ley or China. But Ibotta — and Den­ver — fit the firm well, Leach said.

“The best in­vestors know they can’t wait for teams to walk in their door and ask for money. They need to look for tal­ent,” Leach said. “Den­ver/Boul­der is a tal­ent ag­gre­ga­tor. It’s a place bring­ing in tal­ent be­cause it’s where peo­ple want to live.”

The in­vest­ment an­nounce­ment is yet an­other sign of ex­pan­sion for Ibotta. The

com­pany started to dou­ble its head­quar­ters space in late May and it wants to hire more than 90 new em­ploy­ees by the end of the year. Across the com­pany’s 23 mil­lion app down­loads, Ibotta has given more than $230 mil­lion in cash-back re­wards, ac­cord­ing to Ibotta’s web­site.

GGV Cap­i­tal man­ag­ing part­ner Hans Tung said Ibotta, like many of its high-pro­file in­vest­ments, has po­ten­tial for greater suc­cess. Tung also said that with a well-built user in­ter­face, Ibotta has cen- tral­ized cash-back re­bates, which he be­lieves plays an im­por­tant role in the ecom­merce ex­pe­ri­ence.

“His­tor­i­cally, con­sumers had to jump through hoops to get a cash re­bate,” Tung said. “What Ibotta did was make a very cen­tral­ized ex­pe­ri­ence. Shop, buy, con­sume. It’s so well-de­signed and seam­less. Very quickly, you know you got your re­bate. It makes the whole ex­pe­ri­ence much more pleas­ant.”

Tung also said Ibotta has a team of ex­ec­u­tives with ge­o­graph­i­cally di­verse back­grounds and they un­der­stand the whole coun­try. Ibotta also has demon­strated knowl­edge of the mass mar­ket.

“You can see this as a mar­ket player not just in the U.S., but out­side of the U.S. as well,” Tung said. “To do that well, it’s hard to do it in New York, Los Angeles or San Fran­cisco. It works well in the Mid­west. Bryan (Leach) chose to build in Den­ver, which was very smart and very strate­gic. We want to make in­vest­ments out­side of the typ­i­cal San Fran­cisco and L.A. mar­ket. If other com­pa­nies in Den­ver are multi­geo­graph­i­cal, mak­ing a mass-mar­ket prod­uct like Ibotta has, we want to in­vest more in Den­ver.”

Leach said the strong net­work­ing com­mu­nity within GGV Cap­i­tal gives Ibotta more op­por­tu­ni­ties to work with other large tech com­pa­nies.

“The main thing is ac­cess to com­pa­nies GGV works with around the world,” Leach said. “We can start meet­ing with them, get­ting din­ners. We can com­pare notes.”

While GGV Cap­i­tal’s in­vest­ment in Ibotta puts the com­pany next to elite tech busi­nesses from around the world, Leach said Ibotta is still far from reach­ing its lofty goals of chang­ing the con­sumer mar­ket.

“Un­til I feel like ev­ery­one has Ibotta on their front screen, un­til we’re a house­hold name, we’ve got a lot of work to do,” Leach said. “Our team is am­bi­tious. We want to change the world.”

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