Vivaki Ventures Is Done Chasing Equity Deals with Startups

A Publicis Groupe unit that traded consulting services for an equity stake in advertising start-ups has moved away from that model.

The division, Vivaki Ventures, is no longer pursuing equity arrangements with early-phase companies. Instead it’s focused on integrating its existing portfolio companies with Vivaki’s tools and operations. Those companies include social media marketing firm Buddy Media, Adap.tv, Aggregate Knowledge, and Tumri, among others.

Vivaki Ventures has also appointed a new director, Sean Kegelman, in the wake of previous director Tim Hanlon’s departure in October. The role is an add-on to Kegelman’s existing job as head of partnerships and corporate development for Vivaki.

Vivaki Ventures has no dedicated staff, and Kegelman’s existing team — along with Publicis’s legal and financial departments — will manage operations.

The changes cap an uncertain year for Vivaki Ventures, which was first established under sister unit Denuo, an elite consulting arm created in 2006. The idea was that Denuo would identify and court new ad technology firms such as GoldSpot Media and ViTrue — two of its early vehicles. It would provide these companies with advisory services in exchange for a stake of the business and, sometimes, “first mover rights” for clients.

Tim Hanlon provided the secret sauce for the ventures practice at Denuo, keeping tabs on early-phase technology and media companies and tapping into them for Publicis. He would also make introductions between these firms and Denuo’s in-house experts, Kegelman said.

The unit was later transferred to Vivaki Nerve Center, along with Hanlon.

With the transition its mission has changed from providing advisory services to its portfolio companies to helping those firms integrate their products with Vivaki’s Nerve Center operations.

Kegelman said the priority shift for Vivaki Ventures came down to “a question of focus.”

“We want to make sure the portfolio has good strategic alignment with the product and platform focuses of the Nerve Center,” said Kegelman. “It’s going to be about how do these companies connect, so we can focus more on product interfaces than people interfaces.”

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