Equiteq advises marketing firm Zebu on sale to Flight Story

13 June 2023 Consultancy.uk 4 min. read

Communications agency Flight Story has purchased technology-driven marketing firm Zebu for an undisclosed fee. The sell-side of the deal was advised on by dealmakers from Equiteq.

Founded in 2021, Zebu Digital is a UK-based firm which was launched in a bid to take advantage of the digital boom that occurred amid the pandemic lockdown. With growing interest in the concept of Web 3.0, as well as the continuation of hype surrounding blockchain and cryptocurrencies, Harry Layard Horsfall, Jolyon Layard Horsfall and Henry Hankin created Zebu to help brands keep pace with the evolving landscape.

In the years since, Zebu has grown to a 40-person team and built a client base including brands such as Solana, Tezos, OKX and Near.

Equiteq advises marketing firm Zebu on sale to Flight Story

This client base, alongside the continued excitement in the business community around the application of metaverse and artificial intelligence technologies, has attracted interest from possible acquirers.

After a period of successful negotiations, led by Equiteq, this has seen Flight Story snap up Zebu for an undisclosed fee.

Headquartered in London, Flight Story provides strategy, content, communications, and media services to brands which are looking to make the most of digital technologies. Its pre-existing wings included R. Agency, a communications agency; Flight Performance, delivering performance marketing; Flight Studio, a creative studio; and Flight Deck, software that allows users to monitor, track, and analyse social media conversations.

Looking ahead, Zebu’s acquisition will strengthen Flight Story’s services and capabilities in Web 3.0, AI, and virtual reality strategy, content, comms, and media – with a specific focus on supporting brands in the innovation and emerging technology spaces.

Zebu has subsequently been rebranded as Flight3, billed as Flight Story’s “innovation arm”.

Commenting on the move, Steven Bartlett – who co-founded Flight Story with CEO Oliver Yonchev – said, “The total market valuation of the metaverse is forecast to be $678 billion by 2030, and ‘Web 3.0’ is already on its way to becoming a multi-trillion-dollar industry. Flight Story endeavours to be the most advanced marketing agency in the world. To do that, we need people who are native to the technology that the future will be built on. That’s why Zebu is the perfect addition to the Flight Story team.”

Web 3.0

After two years of unprecedented hype, the market for Web 3.0 seems to have peaked at present. Data from WeMeta, a metaverse analytics platform, found that values for ‘virtual real-estate’ in the metaverse plunged over a cliff in 2023, leaving previously purchased virtual land worth a fraction of its purchase price. Exemplifying this, the median transaction price on Decentraland, currently the world's largest metaverse real estate sales platform, has fallen nearly 90% from $45 in 2022 to $5.

However, as Flight Story bids to keep “brands at the very forefront of what’s possible”, Flight3 will look to revive apparently flagging interest in the industry, focusing on providing Web 3.0-focused community growth, influencer marketing, social media, content marketing, brand design and animation, and live events to customers.

At the same time, Zebu Live, the brand’s Web 3.0 conference which hosts panels to discuss key topics in the segment, will remain a core part of the Flight3 offering.

Harry Horsfall, who remains as Flight3’s CEO, said, “Since we met Steven and Oliver, we instantly connected on our excitement for the changing digital landscape. We can’t wait to become fully embedded and integrate into Flight Story’s marketing and communication services.”

The sell-side dealmaker

Equiteq advised Zebu throughout the move. According to Horsfall, the merger and acquisitions advisory firm “had the experience, expertise, and insights” needed to get Zebu to the next stage of its growth journey – with Equiteq’s team-leader Paul Collins having a long-standing knowledge of the firm.

Collins, who is the founder and chair of Equiteq, noted, “The Zebu founders have a long history in crypto and have been at the forefront of Web3 and blockchain technology from the beginning. We’ve known brothers, Harry, and Jolyon Horsfall, since before they started innovating with crypto in 2014.”

“We were delighted to advise them on their acquisition by Steven Bartlett and Oliver Yonchev’s Flight Story. We can’t think of a better home for them to lead and scale Zebu. I wish them both the best of luck for the future.”