Abu Dhabi’s IHC acquires minority stake in US rideshare and taxi ad start-up Firefly

Companies also agree to form a joint venture to bring Firefly's technology to the Middle East

Kaan Gunay, Firefly’s chief executive and co-founder, and Onur Kardesler, chief technology officer and co-founder of the company. Courtesy IHC
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Abu Dhabi-based International Holding Company's subsidiary, Multiply Marketing Consultancy (MMC), acquired a minority stake in rideshare and taxi ad start-up Firefly for an undisclosed amount.

The pair are also planning to expand San Francisco-based Firefly's operations to the Middle East "through a joint-venture office based within MMC's headquarters" in the emirate, IHC said in a statement on Sunday to the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange, where its shares trade.

Founded in 2017, San Francisco-based Firefly has digital advertising boards that sit on top of taxis and ride-sharing vehicles. The company has been backed by investors such as Google Ventures, NFX and Stanford University’s StartX Fund.

“Firefly’s investment will bring more value to all advertisers seeking to personalise their messaging and hyper-target their audiences,” Samia Bouazza, founder and chief executive of MMC, said.

“Investments in our communications vertical ensure that our media teams are servicing our local clients with the latest, most innovative and analytically-precise technology available on the market,” she added.

Firefly operates across major US cities including San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Dallas, Austin, Chicago and Miami. It works with taxi companies and rideshare drivers to install its proprietary advertising displays on top of their vehicles, offering an additional revenue stream.

Its screens are seen by millions of people every month, the company said.

The Firefly investment will sit within Multiply Group’s communications vertical, which also includes a minority stake in New York-based Yieldmo, one of the world's fastest-growing digital advertising and attention analytics companies.

“Our investments are chosen to meet several criteria that are true to our philosophy. They are future-focused, efficient and scalable; and they empower at least one stakeholder to reach their full potential through technology,” Ms Bouazza said.

IHC, which is majority owned by Abu Dhabi's PAL Group of Companies, last week reported a 1,233 per cent increase in net profit for the first quarter of 2021 as revenue surged on the back of recent acquisitions.

In the past few months, it has steadily expanded its portfolio by acquiring businesses in emerging technologies, real estate and health care, among others.

Last month, it completed a 45 per cent stake purchase in Alpha Dhabi Holding, a real estate and construction sector-focused company previously known as Trojan Holding.

In terms of visibility, Firefly’s screens ensure over millions of impressions per month. courtesy Firefly
In terms of visibility, Firefly’s screens ensure over millions of impressions per month. courtesy Firefly

It acquired a stake in California-based aerospace company SpaceX through a private equity fund and has invested in UK-based DNA sequencing company Oxford Nanopore technologies.

IHC also has investments in Quantlase Imaging Lab, the company behind the rapid Covid-19 screening system operated on the border between Abu Dhabi and Dubai at Ghantoot and Tamouh Healthcare.