AppLovin cashed in on the money pouring into the mobile gaming industry with an IPO Thursday which valued the company at $25 billion as trading began, making cofounder and CEO Adam Foroughi a billionaire.
AppLovin, which helps mobile app developers market their businesses and has more recently started to build its own applications, priced its stock at $80 per share Wednesday night but started trading in the afternoon Thursday at about $70, making Foroughi’s 7.8% stake worth $1.96 billion. The IPO is a capstone on a 10-year journey for AppLovin, which began with no venture capital funding despite “countless meetings” when it was founded in 2011, Foroughi wrote in a letter in its registration filing.
In 2016, AppLovin announced it was selling a majority stake to Chinese private equity firm Orient Hontai Capital, but that deal was restructured a year later, with Orient Hontai buying just a 10% equity stake for $140 million and contributing another $841 million in debt financing. Reuters reported the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States pushed back on the original deal due to the then-new Trump administration’s reluctance at the time to approve deals involving Chinese firms.
It turned out to be a fortuitous break for Foroughi, 40, who kept control of the company and oversaw rapid growth in the last half-decade. Its first main product was AppDiscovery, which launched in 2012 and is geared toward assisting developers, but it pivoted to go directly to the consumer as well in 2018 after raising $400 million from private equity giant KKR at a reported $2 billion valuation. AppLovin began acquiring mobile games studios and launched AppLovin Apps that year, and has developed more than 200 games.
The company has been on a buying spree since 2018, spending more than $1 billion on 15 acquisitions and partnerships, according to its public offering filing with the SEC. Its largest deal in 2020 was a $329 million acquisition of game developer Machine Zone last May. AppLovin revenue grew 46% to $1.45 billion in 2020, though it incurred a net loss of $125 million. KKR turned its $400 million investment, made three years ago, into a stake worth nearly $8 billion.
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Several gaming entrepreneurs have become billionaires in recent months, including Huang Yimeng, who founded Chinese gaming platform XD Inc., game engine Unity Software’s Joachim Ante and Skillz cofounder Andrew Paradise. Epic Games founder Tim Sweeney’s fortune swelled to $7.4 billion after a funding round valued the Fortnite maker at $28.7 billion earlier this week.
Foroughi graduated from the University of California-Berkeley in 2001 and began his career as a derivatives trader before becoming an entrepreneur. He founded two mobile technology and marketing companies called Lifestreet Media and Social Hour before started AppLovin. A spokesperson for AppLovin did not immediately reply to a request for comment.