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Steven Bartlett explains Social Chain price tag amid acquisition confusion

Steven Bartlett Social Chain

Dragon’s Den star Steven Bartlett has responded to questions raised over the £7.7m price paid for Social Chain, the company he co-founded in 2014, following its acquisition by a rival digital marketing company.

The digital marketing startup was sold to rival firm Brave Bison for less than £8m last week. However, the fee has stirred confusion from those who noted the company’s previous revenue expectations of almost £1bn by the end of 2023.

Bartlett, who is also known for his Diary of a CEO podcast, co-founded Social Chain in Manchester in 2014. In 2019, Social Chain went public through a reverse merger with German online retailer Lumaland, creating Social Chain AG.

On Twitter, Bartlett explained that as of 2019, Social Chain AG had acquired more than 30 companies (five to 10 marketing agencies and around 20 ecommerce businesses).

According to Bartlett, while still co-CEO of Social Chain, he suggested to the board that the marketing and ecommerce sides of the company should be separated, which he said the board disagreed with, leading to his departure.

The Social Chain brand sold for £7.7m is distinct from Social Chain AG, which brought in revenues of around €620m in 2021.

Bartlett has previously stated that he “built a £300m business at 28 years old”. However, Bartlett appears to be citing the valuation of Social AG as a singular entity, rather than the specific business that he co-founded.

Bartlett stepped down as Social Chain CEO in December 2020.

Bartlett went on to say that without him, Social Chain AG focused on the ecommerce side of the business, meaning the bulk of the marketing agencies were sold off, despite them representing around £70m of total revenues, according to Bartlett.

This means, Bartlett said, that when Social Chain was sold to Brave Bison, it was essentially back to its original state as of 2014.

He concluded by saying Brave Bison is “a very capable marketing company with great founders” and that he is “very happy the brand is now in the hands of people with marketing in their DNA”.

Bartlett added that he had “submitted a bid to buy one such agency from Social Chain’s portfolio”.