The folks at ShopCast — the teeny Toronto start-up that bagged a national in-store advertising deal with WalMart Canada — have had a hell of a rollercoaster ride for the last year as they have raised funds to get the thing moving.
The deal with WalMart was signed last September, and the ensuing months have been spent on the VC, private equity and acquisitions circuit telling a story and drumming up the necessary cash.
Many term sheets and proposals and offers later — having met a roster of suitors that ranged from media powerhouses to people my kids would call “sketchy” — they finally closed a deal last weekend that sees London, Ontario-based Ek3 buying majority ownership, and with it the media rights and technology deal to roll this out across the national WalMart estate.
It is an interesting move by the somewhat shadowy Ek3 folks, who until now have been known as a propeller-head driven shop focused on an equally hard-won deal putting screens in the national Tim Horton’s coffee and donuts chain.
A pile of companies had a run at the software and hardware piece of business, but in the end it came down to who could also step up and bankroll the thing.
This is an important rollout for the industry, particularly in Canada. Undoubtedly, many retailers will be paying attention to how third-party ad screens are received by consumers, and what the take-up is like from brand advertisers.
I got to know the people at ShopCast well in the close pursuit of this business, and I congratulate them in finally seeing five years of scrabbling away pay off for them. I hope it goes well, and has much more of a strong consumer impact than what I see when I stray by a PRN screen in U.S. WalMarts.
The deal has not yet been formally announced, but is circulating widely in local industry circles.