Honey cofounders

  • PayPal agreed to buy Honey, which makes a browser extension that surfaces coupons while you shop online, for $4 billion in cash last month.
  • The deal is PayPal’s biggest ever acquisition. CEO Daniel Schulman says an integration with Honey adds tremendous value for its merchants.
  • Honey’s early investors are expecting returns as high as 300 times their original investment. Many are smaller VC firms based in Los Angeles.
  • Business Insider has obtained the pitch deck that Honey used to raise a bridge round of funding in 2015. 
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“Have a promo code?”

More than 160 million online shoppers got asked this question during check-out in 2014, according to Honey, a startup that makes a browser extension for finding coupons. The problem is that many of them left the merchant’s website to search for a promo code and never came back to place their order.

In 2012, Honey’s founders set out to solve for one of e-commerce’s biggest profit eaters. When a user is online shopping, Honey scours the web for available coupons and surfaces the best ones in a browser extension. The company takes a commission on every transaction it helps close, and last year, it booked $100 million in revenue.

Honey’s promise to merchants — that it could turn shoppers into customers, lowering cart abandonment — made it an irresistible acquisition for payments company PayPal, whose services are focused on checkout. In November, the company cofounded by Peter Thiel said it agreed to buy Honey in a $4 billion cash deal, its biggest ever acquisition.

PayPal has some 24 million merchants signed up for its payments solutions. An integration with Honey makes its service more valuable to them, PayPal’s president and chief executive Daniel Schulman said in a recent analysts call. 

“Almost 40% of all e-commerce is done through some sort of trigger event,” Schulman said. “There’s a personalized offer that comes in. There’s a deal that somebody sees. … We think that Honey actually has the leading platform and capabilities around that. And that adds a tremendous amount of relevance to our consumers.”

Considering many shoppers already search for deals before placing an order, PayPal could persuade customers to check out using their PayPal account more regularly if it integrates the browser extension’s features into its checkout experience, writes Business Insider Intelligence’s Daniel Keyes.

Schulman said the transaction has “the potential to be transformative for us.”

Honey faced rejection from VCs for 2 years before raising a seed round

But before Honey sold for $4 billion, it nearly ran out of money. In 2012, the founders Ryan Hudson and George Ruan tried to raise outside capital and were mostly rejected. They struggled to convince investors to put money into a browser extension for the desktop, as mobile became the computing platform du jour. They pooled their savings to pay a small team of engineers. One founder took a day job as a product manager at an adtech company to make ends meet.

Honey’s users grew in numbers, and two years later, the company had an easier time raising funds. A small group of investors who were mostly based in Los Angeles, where Honey has its headquarters, poured $1.8 million into a seed round. Based on the company’s value in the sale to PayPal, those early investors have seen roughly 300 times returns on their original investment.

In 2015, Honey pulled in half a million dollars in a bridge round to cover their expenses before the next big raise. The founders used this 8-slide pitch deck to convince investors of their worth. Check it out:

SEE ALSO: Honey faced rejection from VCs for 2 years before a group of seed investors put in $1.8 million. Now some are celebrating 300 times returns after it sold for $4 billion.

SEE ALSO: PITCH-DECK LIBRARY: The pitch decks that helped hot startups raise millions