The  HBD venture capital fund founded by billionaire Mark Shuttleworth has invested R15m in IncuBeta, an internet marketing company. IncuBeta will use the cash to expand its presence in the US and UK and to grow towards its long-term plan of listing on the JSE or the London Stock Exchange. HDB will pump another R10m into the company later.

  IncuBeta was founded four years ago by entrepreneur Vinny Lingham, based on the placing of advertisements related to the key words used in Google searches. It places more than 50-million targeted advertisements every month, and has grown to employ 50 staff in offices in Cape Town, Johannesburg and London who generate an annual turnover of more than R50m.

The investment from HBD would allow several goals to become reality, said its CEO, Giles Douglas. "Our first priority is to open offices in the heartland of technology in Silicon Valley so we can be closer to our major search partners, Google and Yahoo, and our US clients. A physical presence in the States will allow us to build a stronger brand and accelerate our growth prospects." The company would also strengthen its European presence ready for a listing within the next two years, Douglas said.

Search engine marketing is growing at more than 40% a year as the internet becomes a method of socialising as much as an information source. In the next few years Douglas expects it to move on to cellphones, television and in-car navigation systems, and the cash from HBD would help incuBeta prepare its technology for that.

HBD Venture Capital was very excited about the investment, said its portfolio manager, Eben van Heerden. "This is a truly South African company with no real local competition. It is rated as one of the top three internet marketing companies in the world by Commission Junction, part of the Nasdaq-listed ValueClick."

The company's home-grown technology gave it a sound platform for future expansion, and it claimed many of the world's biggest online retailers as its clients, Van Heerden said. "We plan to work closely with IncuBeta to ensure exponential growth happens quickly."

Business Day