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A brief history of the SVG, Gruner+Jahr, Seventy Nine, Networkplay relationship

Earlier today, Bertelsmann group company Gruner+Jahr sold back SeventyNine to SVG Media (Smile Vun Group), along with the digital agency NetworkPlay. The companies involved in the transaction, and indeed, those involved with the companies, have had a few transactions over the past few years, ever since G+J bought Networkplay. In a way, this is also the story of G+J’s entry into, and exit from the ad-tech business in India:

2008: WebChutney and Capital18 incubate Networkplay:
NetworkPlay was founded by a team of ex-Yahoo India employees, Rammohan Sundaram, Sunil Punjabi, Ampreet Singh and Viren Anand. It was incubated by WebChutney and funded by Network18’s venture capital arm Capital18.

Manish Vij

July 2011: SVG incubates SeventyNine
SeventyNine was incubated by Smile Vun Group (a JV between Manish Vij’s Vun and Harish Bahl’s Smile Group) in July 2011. It started commercial operations in April 2012 with a focus on rich media inventory especially videos. It also launched a mobile app analytics service in July 2012.

March 2012: Gruner+Jahr acquires Networkplay
It was a 100% buyout, and the company, we were told, was valued at around $8-10 million. NetworkPlay had reported revenues of Rs 19.84 crore, and net loss of Rs 2.88 crore for the year ended March 31, 2012.

November 2nd, 2012: NetworkPlay acquires SeventyNine from SVG
for an undisclosed amount. Post acquisition, SeventyNine worked as an independent business unit under the Networkplay umbrella, with its management reporting directly into the board. SeventyNine co-founders Chirag Shah and Deven Dharamdasani continued to lead the business post the buy-out.

November 5th, 2012: NetworkPlay co-Founder & CEO Rammohan Sundaram quits
Ampreet Singh is made NetworkPlay CEO. Another co-founder, Sunil Punjabi, quits soon after, saying that they had options for part exits in December 2012 and December 2013, and “Ram and I exercised the option for exiting in December 2012. We have received fair value for the exit.”

March 2013: Smile Vun Group launches PlatformPlay with Rammohan Sundaram
Smile-Vun Group had a majority stake in PlatformPlay, with Smile-Vun co-founder Manish Vij on its board. The idea was to help launch international businesses in India. It tied up with AOL to bring TechCrunch events to India (which apparently didn’t go well), with NLPCaptcha and BrizzTV for selling ads.

September 2013: NetworkPlay buys yoCAPTCHA
yoCAPTCHA is a captcha-based ad platform, bought for an undisclosed amount. its co-founders Dhruv Sogani and Ankit Gupta join NetworkPlay.

May 2014: PlatformPlay merged with SVG Media, Sundaram moves on
PlatformPlay is “merged” with SVG Media’s digital marketing data provider PrecisionMatch. While PlatformPlay employees were transferred to companies under SVG Media, Sundaram became the CEO of Ibibo Group’s advertising business ibiboAds.

July 2014: NetworkPlay CEO Ampreet Singh exits the venture in strange circumstances
We got an oddly worded note, and Networkplay said it cannot confirm any of the reasons or future announcements mentioned in a note about Singh’s departure. Viren Anand become the only remaining co-founder at NetworkPlay. Anand had then told MediaNama that “the Board and Management is currently deliberating upon the scope of re-structuring that will be proposed shortly.” Read the note and NetworkPlay’s statement here.

August 2014: SeventyNine founders quit NetworkPlay
Co-founders Chirag Shah and Deven Dharamdasani also left SeventyNine, apparently after their earn-out. Following this, Siddharth Kelkar was appointed as the new lead for the business.

December 2014: SVG Media buys SeventyNine and Networkplay from Gruner+Jahr
For a reported $15 million.

(with inputs from Nikhil Pahwa)

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