Customer Data: The Intangible Asset You Did Not Realize You Have

Customer Data: The Intangible Asset You Did Not Realize You Have

Customer data is more than just addresses, phone numbers, zip codes, and work phones. In the age of programmatic media buying, customer data is quantified and codified down to screen behavior, social behavior, geo-location, favorite foods, favorite vacation spots, and much more. The evolution of customer data is the major driver behind creating business value and yet one of the most elusive.

Jahani and Associates analyzed over 500 M&A transactions among technology giants. We determined that 100% of the marketing and advertising acquisitions were driven by customer data capabilities. Technology giants use customer data to improve media buying. The acquired customer data capabilities:

  1. Increased the number of customer data interfaces for the acquirer. For example, Alphabet’s acquisition of Famebit.
  2. Increased the processing power of the acquirer’s customer data. For example, Alphabet’s acquisition of DeepMind, which provides deep learning solutions. Ray Kurzweil, director of engineering at Google, said that he wants to build a search engine so advanced that it could act like a “cybernetic friend.”

Companies seeking to maximize their value in the technology space must intimately understand their data and how it can be used to improve both collection and processing to generate insights. Jahani and Associates use our experience in tech M&A and investment banking to understand how our clients will increase their competitive advantage around customer data.

We have developed this expertise from serving large $100 Million technology clients and partnering with large VC firms. Our findings consistently show how successful customer data strategies overlap with either a lucrative business model or the business model of a strategic partner. Our three-step process that identifies, develops, and monetizes intangible assets will measure your competitive advantages, such as customer data monetization. This provides consistent and repeatable results for maximizing value.
You can learn more about our three-step process in the below articles.

Part 1: Identifying Intangibles In Ad Tech M&A Value

Part 2: Developing Intangibles In Ad Tech M&A Value

Part 3: Monetizing Intangibles In Ad Tech M&A Value


Part 1: Identifying Intangibles in Ad Tech M&A Value

Part 1

Identifying Intangibles in Ad Tech M&A Value

Identifying Intangibles is the first article in our series about intangible assets.

Part 2: Developing Intangibles in Ad Tech M&A Value >
Part 3: Monetizing Intangibles in Ad Tech M&A Value >

What makes your company special, unique, or valuable? As a business owner, you will be asked this question countless times when you are talking to potential buyers for your ad tech company. But the value of a company is not inherently defined; value is defined differently by parties based on their respective goals, biases, and objectives. For a banker, this discussion is the foundation for all buy-side and sell-side M&A conversations. Based on our experiences and research at Jahani and Associates (J&A), intangible assets make up over 90% of M&A value. There are simple, repeatable processes you can use to increase your company’s value, especially in the ad tech industry (J&A, “Understanding Ad Tech M&A Value”). So how to identify intangibles for M&A?

How Accounting Standards Codification (ASC) 805 Can Be Used to Maximize M&A Value

In 2014, the Financial Accounting Standards Board released an update to ASC 805 addressing how to account for intangible assets in business combinations. ASC 805 is the basis for the financial reporting of intangible assets post-acquisition. Although it is not necessary for you to follow the ASC 805 framework, if you do not utilize it to uncover and measure your company’s intangible assets, you will ultimately limit that value. Businesses can use FASB’s ASC 805 as a framework for maximizing their value prior to beginning M&A conversations.

Step 1: Define the Most Valuable Intangible Assets for Your Ad Tech Business

The first step to maximizing your company’s value is to determine which intangible assets are the most valuable. In order to do so, you must define your desired business objectives. If you are not sure where to start, begin by asking yourself the following questions:

  • Who are my customers?
  • How is the strength of my customer relationship measured?
  • What will my revenue stream rely on over the next one to five years?

Your business’ relationship with its customers is a symbiotic one: your company exists to serve your customers and your customers are the ones who keep your company in business. Utilizing valuable intangible assets will only enhance the business-customer relationship.

For example, if your desired business objective is to increase the number of users who click the ads placed on your platform (in other words, increase conversion), you need to provide more relevant ads to the user. Tracking cookies from a user’s browser history to service these ads is a common practice to accomplish this relevant placement. This is also known as retargeting. At its core, retargeting is accomplished by increasing the number of data interfaces an ad publisher uses to determine which ads are shown to a user.

Therefore, driven by the objective to increase conversion, data interfaces are intangible assets. Collecting this browser history allows ad publishers to uncover novel patterns, enhance ad relevance, and create new solutions that increase conversion. According to an analysis conducted by Gallup, “companies that apply the principles of behavioral economics outperform their peers by 85% in sales growth and more than 25% in gross margin.”

Data interfaces are just one example. As an owner, you must determine the most valuable intangible assets for your business objectives.

Step 2: Determine How the Most Valuable Intangible Assets Affect Your Revenue Streams

Once you have defined your company’s most valuable intangible assets, you must document the way those intangibles affect your company’s revenue streams. How many events must take place for your intangible asset to create revenue? At J&A, we refer to these as “steps removed” in a process flow. For example, when a user clicks on an ad, the platform owner generates revenue. Therefore, if the intangible asset is a data interface and the presence of more data interfaces increases conversion and revenue, then that asset is one step removed from revenue. Social connections are a more complex example. The presence of social connections on a platform encourages a user to spend more time on the platform, and the more time a user spends on a platform, the more ads the user will click over time. This is two steps removed. The number of steps removed in a process flow completely depends on the business model and business objectives employed. Conversion is important for multiple types of businesses, but the steps between conversion and data interfaces can be drastically different for an infrastructure company and a platform company.

We chose to use revenue in this example because our objective was conversion. Other objectives can include reducing costs, managing risk, or increasing cash flow.

Once you have determined which intangible assets are the most valuable, it is important to measure the outcomes for the selected business purpose over time. Generally, intangible asset data and key performance indicators (KPIs) should be measured for at least one year. Business owners need to determine the right KPIs and track them regularly. The KPIs most related to encouraging conversion are traffic, traffic sources, the technology used to serve ads, and the data that determines when an ad is served.

Knowing how and what to measure is essential to increasing your company’s value. Certain interfaces are more valuable than others. A valuable interface must enhance a desired business objective. Therefore, if your goal is to increase conversion and a certain interface supports that, it is an intangible asset. A popular example of this in the M&A world is Facebook’s purchase of Instagram. Facebook approached Instagram for purchase because Facebook’s application program interfaces (APIs) were increasingly being pinged by Instagram users. Before the acquisition, a Facebook API made Instagram more valuable because it allowed Instagram to use Facebook’s large pool of customer data to enhance its own platform. J&A’s research has also shown that more data interfaces lead to higher purchase price premiums (J&A, “Understanding Ad Tech M&A Value”). Before the acquisition, this integration did not necessarily increase the value of Facebook.

Conclusion About Identifying Intangibles

Measuring important aspects of your business and tying them together with corporate financial statements is powerful. Data analyses conducted for thousands of M&A transactions confirm that they can be used to maximize the transactional value for both sides of an M&A before the sale is closed (J&A, “Understanding Ad Tech M&A Value”).

As a business owner, you can utilize the information herein to maximize your company’s value. When developed correctly, this material can significantly impact the value of your organization. Along with specialized bankers, you are uniquely positioned to develop the relationship between intangible assets and corporate financial metrics. Defining the assets that are valuable and then measuring those assets over time is the simplest yet most effective process you can use to increase the overall value of your company.

Part 2: Developing Intangibles in Ad Tech M&A Value >
Part 3: Monetizing Intangibles in Ad Tech M&A Value >


Photo by Neven Krcmarek on Unsplash


Cornell Systems Seminar: Using Systems Engineering to Maximize Corporate Value by Measuring and Developing Intangible Assets

Cornell Systems Seminar

Using Systems Engineering to Maximize Corporate Value by Measuring and Developing Intangible Assets

The rise of intangible assets is well underway. Since 1995 and the dot-com boom, the value of companies has shifted from their financial statements and into their intangible assets. The narrow definition of intangible assets by regulators and investors causes innovative companies to be consistently undervalued. This undervaluation exacerbates the difficulty innovators have when aligning their competitive advantages, such as operational efficiencies, competitive business combinations, and cutting-edge technology with the business needs of a market. Systems engineering represents a powerful framework for solving this problem.

Joshua Jahani is a Cornell alum, NYU lecturer, and owner of Jahani and Associates, an investment banking firm focused on identifying and developing a company’s intangible assets to maximize its value. The firm’s Intangible Asset Methodology™ (IAM) is built on systems engineering principles to identify, develop, and monetize intangible assets across a variety of verticals. Utilizing proven qualitative and analytical skills driven by business objectives and up-to-date technology, he has spearheaded the movement towards rapid evolution and sustainable growth using rigorous profitability, ROI, and TCO analysis for organizations of all sizes. Working with exciting startups in digital advertising or large Fortune 500 companies keeps him traveling all over the world.

Joshua Jahani earned his M.Eng. in Systems Engineering from Cornell University in 2012 and teaches courses on strategy, finance, and entrepreneurship at NYU. His current research interests are intangible assets, goodwill calculation and sustainability, the customer franchise value in subscription businesses, and value-based healthcare systems and technology. He has a passion for uncovering how to create corporate value that is not shown on financial statements.


Enhance Your Company’s Strategic Assets to Increase Value

Enhance Your Company’s Strategic Assets to Increase Value

What are a Company’s Strategic Assets?

A company’s strategic assets sit at the intersection of tangible and intangible assets and create recurring benefits, are unique, and difficult to imitate. Such strategic assets can include intellectual property, customer relationships, proprietary business processes and algorithms, novel revenue streams, and brand value.

Why focus on strategic assets?

The definition of strategic assets is related to the accounting term goodwill, which is an intangible asset that results from the acquisition of a company at a premium value. The premium is the amount an acquiring company pays for a target company in excess of the target company’s book value. Strategic assets have historically been difficult to quantify, but are known to make a company more valuable.

Corporate buyers have been placing increased emphasis and value on strategic assets compared to tangible assets like property, equipment, and manufacturing facilities. Corporate resources applied to build a robust set of a company’s strategic assets are increasingly providing a higher return on investment than those focused strictly on earnings growth.

High-profile transactions such as Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp, AT&T’s purchase of DirecTV, and Campari’s acquisition of Wild Turkey all demonstrated the high percentage of purchase price allotted to goodwill due to the seller’s strong set of strategic assets.

According to research by Carol Corrado, “companies put far more money into non-physical assets, such as customer databases, than in building new factories. In 2014, companies invested the equivalent of 14% of the private sector’s gross domestic product in intangible/strategic assets. The investment in physical assets was about 10% of that sum, which is essentially the reverse of 40 years ago when 13% of the private sector GDP went to tangible/physical assets and only 9% to intangible/strategic assets.”

There is currently more than $2.5 trillion in goodwill on corporations’ balance sheets (source: Time magazine). Why? As corporate awareness of intangible asset value is increasing, fewer companies are pursuing acquisitions to add production facilities and other tangible assets. For example, when Microsoft bought LinkedIn, it was almost exclusively for their intangible and strategic assets, such as their brand, website platform, user/customer data, and perhaps the management team and their connections (e.g., Reid Hoffman!).

How to determine which company’s strategic assets to pursue?

Over the past few months, Gates and Company, in conjunction with Jahani and Associates, have been working to determine the strategic assets that help companies achieve premium valuations that can be identified and developed. Knowing that the concept of strategic assets would not benefit every business, and would certainly vary sector by sector, the team began by reviewing M&A deals in the tech sector. Over 500 transactions that closed between 2010 and 2016 were analyzed to determine strategic asset characteristics and goodwill drivers.

Some of the tech M&A deals reviewed for this initiative included:

  • Google acquired Waze for $969 million and allocated $843 million to goodwill
  • Yahoo! paid $990 million for Tumblr, with $750 million going toward goodwill, including $182 million for customer contracts and relationships
  • Facebook’s $17.2 billion acquisition of WhatApp had an astonishing $15.3 billion recorded as goodwill
  • Microsoft acquired LinkedIn for $27 billion and allocated $16.7 billion of its purchase price to goodwill; and when it acquired Skype for $8.6 billion, $7.1 billion went to goodwill

In each of these examples, the target company’s strategic assets (IP, customer relationships, brand, etc.) were valued significantly higher than their tangible/physical assets (plants, property, equipment, etc.). Results from the tech sector analysis indicated that companies with recognizable strengths in social media, web advertising, and data analytics consistently received valuations above market. Additionally, an active user/subscriber base was a driver in over 60% of the acquisitions.

Corporate leaders, business owners, and investors face a critical issue: in order to maximize value, they must enhance the set of strategic assets in their company and/or portfolio of businesses. A thorough analysis of transactional data to identify strategic asset characteristics and goodwill drivers must be considered in conjunction with corporate core competencies, market dynamics, and economic trends to build out the most relevant value-enhancing strategic assets.

About Gates and Company

With offices near Philadelphia and Munich, Germany, Gates and Company is an investment banking and management consulting firm dedicated to helping companies grow. With an impressive track record of helping numerous companies reach their goals, Gates and Company specialize in M&A, market research/analysis, growth strategy formulation, business plan development, product/venture launch, and financial advisory services.

Gates and Company’s management consulting team has invested significant time and resources to refine and validate its methodology of determining strategic asset characteristics and goodwill drivers in the tech sector. Current efforts are underway in the health IT sector. By reviewing market dynamics and hundreds of M&A deals on a sector-by-sector basis, Gates and Company offer these insights to their clients so they can better understand how to identify and develop an optimized set of strategic assets. Gates and Company’s investment banking team helps companies seeking liquidity with comprehensive M&A services to sell businesses or business units, including identifying and assessing those potential buyers most likely to be attracted to a company’s current and developing set of strategic assets.

For more information about Gates and Company, visit gatesandcompany.com.

Company’s Strategic Assets to Increase Value Articles


Startup Valuations and Intangibles: Take Back the Power

Startup Valuations and Intangibles: Take Back the Power

Startups are at the mercy of investors when it comes to seeking large amounts of capital for scaling their business. The solution? Startups must identify how their intangible assets will be monetized in a respective market through intelligent investment banking analysis and services.

Owners are in a better position to value their intangible assets and competitive advantages than any investor. This is because the real value of a startup isn’t found in the financial statements, financial terms, or traditional financial metrics that are used by investors on a regular basis. Startup assets are fundamentally intangible. These intangible assets are always unique to an industry and in many cases unique to a company.

Examples of these intangible assets are daily active users (DAUs), customer data to improve pricing, sales funnel optimization, and costs of customer acquisition.

Startups must work to identify, develop, and monetize their intangible assets by generating a narrative for predictable and repeatable processes. Additionally, they need a pro forma that allows the startup to monitor and improve corporate performance based on intangible metrics.

When these two goals are met, the power is in the owner’s hands. Now there is a clear way to define value, show how the market responds to it, and then maximize it to increase the value of the company.

Contact Jahani and Associates today. Take back the power and no longer be at the mercy of investors when seeking funds.

Read our next article: Identify, Develop, and Implement Intangible Assets to Maximize Your Value


How Do I Maximize My Company’s Sale Price? (I’m a Business Owner)

How Do I Maximize My Company’s Sale Price? (I’m a Business Owner)

Jahani and Associates have been asked “How do I maximize my company’s sale price?” time and time again. The answer is always simple but the execution is never easy. Owners looking to sell their company must understand the fundamental dynamics of identifying, developing, and monetizing corporate value.

An acquisition price includes five parameters: tangible assets, intangible assets, cash, liabilities, and goodwill. Companies maximize their value by creating clarity around cash and tangible assets, having clean and transparent financial statements, and pitching themselves in a way that demonstrates sustainable value.

But that is not the key to maximizing your company’s sale price. The facts show that the vast majority of investment decisions are made based on intangible assets and goodwill. Through extensive research and market experience, Jahani and Associates have identified goodwill drivers specific to a company’s industry and competitive advantage. Whether you are selling to a mid-market private equity company or selling to Apple, you will maximize your company’s value by increasing transparency around intangibles and goodwill drivers.

Jahani and Associates will identify, develop, and monetize your high-value intangible assets and goodwill drivers to maximize your company’s sale price.

Intangible investments have been dominating the industry since 1995 and the subsequent dot-com boom. Intangible assets are consistently undervalued, particularly for small companies at the mercy of large players. This is where we come in.

We utilize our intangible asset framework to systematically and rigorously maximize a company’s sale price.

The process starts well in advance of the transaction execution date to definitively build and identify value. Business owners will maximize their company’s value by partnering with Jahani and Associates, an investment banking firm that understands the true value of a company and how to maximize it.

Read our article: Identify, Develop, and Implement Intangible Assets to Maximize Your Value


Digital Health: Competition for VC Dollars

Digital Health: Competition for VC Dollars

Digital health is an exciting area, ripe with growing Medicare reimbursements, new technologies, and real potential to improve the frustrating healthcare consumer experience in the USA.

Jahani and Associates analyzed over 200 M&A transactions and equity investments in digital health from 2013 to 2016. Our results showed a 20% decrease in investment funds per company in 2016 versus 2015. Despite a 604% growth in Medicare reimbursements from 2006 to 2016 and a 62% increase in telehealth consultation over the same period, digital health companies must carefully develop their competitive advantages to both increase access to capital and decrease their cost of capital.

By analyzing companies that maintain competitive advantages such as Welltok, SnapMD, Pager, and Teledoc we elicited two opportunities for creating value:

There are opportunities for digital health returns, but companies must respond to a saturating market by focusing on improving the customer experience while at the same time optimizing the business model of existing healthcare giants.

Jahani and Associates recommends digital health companies focus on four major intangible assets to accomplish the value goals listed above:

  1. Optimize member access via subscription contracts, members per client, providers per network, and the visits offered to members based on contracts.
  2. Create a revenue model driven by customer engagement. Digital health companies are much closer to their consumers than traditional healthcare companies.
  3. Create a scalable and flexible business model that responds to seasonality, subscription fees, and access fee changes.
  4. Consistently provide regulatory compliant solutions in response to existing and expected reforms such as HIPAA one and two, HITECH, ACA, and BPCI.

This is all predicated on the ability to identify, develop, and monetize intangible assets using the Jahani and Associates’ intangible asset framework.

Read our article: Identify, Develop, and Implement Intangible Assets to Maximize Your Value


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