Failed U.K. Unicorn Powa Technologies Split and Sold

  • Powa Technologies' "tag-to-buy" app sold separately in deal
  • One-time tech success story fell into administration February

Two parts of Powa Technologies, a once high-flying London technology company that filed for administration last month, have been sold in separate deals.

Greenlight, a digital marketing company, said Thursday that it had acquired PowaWeb, which handles e-commerce infrastructure for several hundred brands, including Electrolux, Hoover and Harper Collins.

Andy Muldoon, who had been PowaWeb’s chief executive officer, will retain his role heading up the PowaWeb team within Greenlight. The terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

PowaTag, an app that allowed consumers to buy products by taking photos of advertisements and QR codes, has been sold to a group led by Ben White, a Powa Technologies director. The terms of that deal were also not disclosed.

Both transactions were arranged by accounting firm Deloitte, which is handling administration of Powa Technologies. Founded by Dan Wagner, Powa received about $225 million in debt and equity financing and was once valued at $2.7 billion. That made it one of the U.K.’s few "unicorns," as private technology companies with valuations in excess of $1 billion are colloquially labelled. Wagner told Bloomberg View’s Katie Brenner in 2015 that he was "making a bigger business than Alibaba," referring to the successful Chinese e-commerce company.

But Powa Technologies burned through cash developing PowaTag, while failing to bring in significant revenue.

The company struggled to make its payroll and pay creditors in recent months and filed for administration in February. Last week, administrators Deloitte cut 72 jobs at Powa Technologies’ London headquarters.

Warren Cowan, Greenlight’s CEO, said he saw great potential in PowaWeb, which unlike the rest of Powa Technologies, generates both revenues and profits. "We saw a team of people delivering sales success for brands in 55 countries," Cowan said. "Despite the turmoil that has been reported in the press around Powa and the wider ambitions it had around mobile payments, this was a successful unit."

In addition to PowaWeb’s staff, Greenlight is taking on the company’s technology and existing client relationships, Cowan said.

He said Greenlight would make sure that the Powa Web employees who are joining Greenlight are paid. "Their salaries are the main thing," he said. "We want to make sure that we secure the employees and make sure we make them feel safe and energized to carry on what they were doing and keep delivering sales success on the platform."

Greenlight currently has a staff of 150 people and serves more than 50 brands in 30 markets.

(Corrects to remove reference to management buyout in third paragraph.)
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