Flippa raises $11M to match online asset and business buyers, sellers

Flippa, an online marketplace to buy and sell online businesses and digital assets, announced its first venture-backed round, an $11 million Series A, as it sees over 600,000 monthly searches from investors looking to connect with business owners.

OneVentures led the round and was joined by existing investors Andrew Walsh (former Hitwise CEO), Flippa co-founders Mark Harbottle and Matt Mickiewicz, 99designs, as well as new investors Catch.com.au founders Gabby and Hezi Leibovich; RetailMeNot.com founders Guy King and Bevan Clarke; and Reactive Media founders Tim O’Neill and Tim Fouhy.

The company, with bases in both Austin and Australia, was started in 2009 and facilitates exits for millions of online business owners that operate on e-commerce marketplaces, blogs, SaaS and apps, the newest being Shopify, Blake Hutchison, CEO of Flippa, told TechCrunch.

He considers Flippa to be “the investment bank for the 99%,” of small businesses, providing an end-to end platform that includes a proprietary valuation product for businesses — processing over 4,000 valuations each month — and a matching algorithm to connect with qualified buyers.

Business owners can sell their companies directly through the platform and have the option to bring in a business broker or advisor. The company also offers due diligence and acquisition financing from Thrasio-owned Yardline Capital and a new service called Flippa Legal.

“Our strategy is data,” Hutchison said. “Users can currently connect to Stripe, QuickBooks Online, WooCommerce, Google Analytics and Admob for apps, which means they can expose their online business performance with one-click, and buyers can seamlessly assess financial and operational performance.”

Online retail, as a share of total retail sales, grew to 19.6% in 2020, up from 15.8% in 2019, driven largely by the global pandemic as sales shifted online while brick-and-mortar stores closed.

Meanwhile, Amazon has 6 million sellers, and Shopify sellers run over 1 million businesses. This has led to an emergence of e-commerce aggregators, backed by venture capital dollars, that are scooping up successful businesses to grow, finding many through Flippa’s marketplace, Hutchison said.

Flippa has over 3 million registered users and added 300,000 new registered users in the past 12 months. Overall transaction volume grows 100% year over year. Though being bootstrapped for over a decade, the company’s growth and opportunity drove Hutchison to go after venture capital dollars.

“There is a huge movement toward this being recognized as an asset class,” he said. “At the moment, the asset class is undervalued and driving a massive swarm as investors snap up businesses and aggregate them together. We see the future of these aggregators becoming ‘X company for apps’ or ‘X for blogs.’ ”

As such, the new funding will be used to double the company’s headcount to more than 100 people as it builds out its offices globally, as well as establishing outposts in Melbourne, San Francisco and Austin. The company will also invest in marketing and product development to scale its business valuation tool that Hutchison likens to the “Zillow Zestimate,” but for online businesses.

Nigel Dews, operating partner at OneVentures, has been following Flippa since it started. His firm is one of the oldest venture capital firms in Australia and has 30 companies in its portfolio focused on healthcare and technology.

He believes the company will create meaningful change for small businesses. The team combined with Flippa’s ability to connect buyers and sellers puts the company in a strong leadership position to take advantage of the marketplace effect.

“Flippa is an incredible opportunity for us,” he added. “You don’t often get a world-leading business in a brand new category with incredible tailwinds. We also liked that the company is based in Australia, but half of its revenue comes from the U.S.”

#advertising-tech, #amazon, #artificial-intelligence, #blake-hutchison, #ecommerce, #enterprise, #flippa, #funding, #mark-harbottle, #matt-mickiewicz, #nigel-dews, #oneventures, #online-marketplace, #online-retail, #recent-funding, #saas, #shopify, #startups, #tc

Tips for managing growth across iOS updates

“I’ve seen startups spend thousands of dollars inefficiently as a result of not having optimal signal in their paid acquisition campaigns. I’ve also spent millions at companies such as Postmates refining our signal to the best possible state,” says growth marketer Jonathan Martinez in a guest column for Extra Crunch this week. “I’d like every startup to avoid the painful mistake of not having this set up correctly, instead making the most of every important ad dollar.”

The TechCrunch team has been busy this past week, especially with Disrupt next week and the iOS 15 release date quickly approaching. If you haven’t already registered for Disrupt, it’s not too late to get a ticket. We’re excited for all of the sessions, including “The Subtle Challenges of Assessing Product-Market Fit” on Tuesday, September 21 from 2:05 PM – 2:45 PM EDT the Extra Crunch stage. The marketing world was full steam ahead this past week, Martinez covered how to optimize signal and Miranda Halpern spoke with Vivek Sharma, CEO of Movable Ink about the impact that iOS 15 will have on email marketers. We also had guest posts from Bryan Dsouza of Grammarly and Xiaoyun TU of Brightpearl. More details below.

Help TechCrunch find the best growth marketers for startups.

Provide a recommendation in this quick survey and we’ll share the results with everybody.

If you didn’t already hear, we’re giving away one free ticket to Disrupt, through the Experts survey. Check out the schedule for Disrupt, and read on to learn about the giveaway details:

  • Have you already submitted a recommendation? That’s great — we’re counting all previous survey submissions as an entry for the Disrupt ticket.
  • We’ll also enter the next 100 survey submissions into the giveaway.
  • Do you want to submit 10 recommendations to increase your chance at winning? We love the enthusiasm, but we ask that you only submit one recommendation for each marketer that you’ve worked with.
  • Don’t know what to say in your recommendation? Start with what traits they had, what they did to help your company, how their work affected your business and go from there!
  • We manually go through all entries, so please don’t copy and paste the same response multiple times.
  • Have a question about the giveaway? Send us an email at ec_editors@techcrunch.com.
  • The survey will stay open, but we won’t be counting submissions as entries to this giveaway after Sunday, September 19, 11:59 pm PT.

Marketer: Andrew Race, Juice
Recommended by: Orin Singh, Merchant Industry
Testimonial: “We were referred to Juice by a family friend of my company’s owner and as a personal courtesy they said they were giving us their best guy. Naturally we thought that is what everyone says but they were not kidding. Andrew was singularly leagues above our previous marketing company. Having someone so knowledgeable and willing to learn a new industry proved to be the turning point for us.”

In growth marketing, signal determines success: Martinez learned from his mistakes, and share the lessons learned with us. From selecting the signal, to how to enhance it, Martinez covers key aspects including how to take advantage of iOS 14. He says, “So how do you stay ahead and continue moving the needle on your growth marketing campaigns? First and foremost, constantly question the events you’re optimizing for. And second, leave no stone unturned.”

Marketers should plan for more DIY metrics as iOS 15 nears: The release of iOS 15 will change that playing field for marketers. They’ll have to rely on metrics that use zero and first-party data rather than relying on email open rates as the main metric. Miranda spoke with Sharma about how this release will impact the industry and what marketers should focus on. One tip from Sharma is, “Focus on down funnel metrics like clicks and conversions — that’s what it really comes down to and that’s the truest indicator of engagement.”

(Extra Crunch) Demand Curve: How to get social proof that grows your startup: Nick Costelloe, head of content at Demand Curve, dives into social proof and how startups can use it to their advantage. On social proof, Costelloe says, “Have you ever stopped to check out a restaurant because it had a large lineup out front? That wasn’t by chance. It’s common for restaurants to limit the size of their reception area. This forces people to wait outside, and the line signals to people walking past that the restaurant is so good it’s worth waiting for.”

(Extra Crunch) 5 things you need to win your first customer: Dsouza, product marketing lead at Grammarly, walks us through how to win your first customer. He includes explanations, how-tos, and practice use cases. Dsouza says,” . . .ask any founder what really proves their startup has taken off, and they will almost instantly say it’s when they win their first customer.”

(Extra Crunch) 4 ways to leverage ROAS to triple lead generation: TU, global director of demand generation at Brightpearl, walks us through ways to use return on advertising spending (ROAS). She says, “When you choose a return metric, you need to make sure it matches your company goal without taking ages to get the data.”

Tell us who your favorite startup growth marketing expert to work with is by filling out our survey.

#advertising-tech, #ec-growth-marketing, #growth-marketing, #growth-roundup, #marketing, #startups, #tc, #tc-experts, #verified-experts

Marketers should plan for more DIY metrics as iOS 15 nears

Apple is planning to remove developer access to important user data as part of its iOS 15 release on Monday, leaving email marketers in a dilemma about how they will figure out metrics. To find out how the industry is approaching this problem, we spoke with Vivek Sharma, CEO of Movable Ink, a software consultancy that helps marketers act on the data they’re collecting.

This conversation builds on our Extra Crunch post from August exploring how email marketers can prepare for Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection changes.

The game-changer for email marketers with this update is that as an Apple Mail user, you’ll have the option to hide your IP address.

How can marketers pivot their tactics to remain in control of their metrics? Sharma feels we’ll see more focus on downstream metrics rather than the open rate — on clicks, conversions and revenue. “That sounds great and everything, but you have less of that data. But by definition, that funnel kind of narrows; there are fewer people to get to at that point, so it might take you longer to know if something is working or not working for you.”

Help TechCrunch find the best growth marketers for startups.

Provide a recommendation in this quick survey and we’ll share the results with everybody.

Sharma says zero and first-party data is something that businesses have been focused on. “There are two components: There’s ‘open’ as a metric, and there’s some of the information you’re getting at open time, like the IP address, the time of day, and the inferred weather — that is perceived as data leakage. These are just a couple of the data points. [This data] tend to be things that [marketers] have already been investing in, and they’ve been earning the right to learn more about the customer,” he says.

The challenge, according to Sharma, is: How can marketers collect zero-party data in an interesting, visually appealing way, and then personalize its contents for every customer at scale?

One way that Movable Ink has collected zero-party data is displayed below:

Sharma says, “Everything in here is a polling question: ‘What do you typically shop for?’ ‘What’s your shoe size?’ And they’re giving you loyalty points in return, so there’s an exchange of value happening here. They’re learning about you in a clear way and giving you an easy way to engage with the brand you’re interested in.”

Once you have the data, the question is: How do you use it? Below we see an example from JetBlue.

Sharma outlines three takeaways from iOS 15 for email marketers:

  1. Focus on down-funnel metrics like clicks and conversions — that’s what it really comes down to and it’s the truest indicator of engagement.
  2. Invest in your zero and first-party data assets. True personalization is what people experience and what they see. You can do that from your zero and first-party assets.
  3. Email is a great channel to engage your customers, because it’s a mature one that’s been invested in. Email is an awesome channel for building a one-to-one relationship with your customer, and far more. It has gone through lots of changes over the last 10 or 15 years. The industry will evolve and we’ll find that balance of privacy and personalization.

#advertising-tech, #apple-privacy, #email-marketing, #growth-marketing, #ios-15, #movable-ink, #online-privacy, #privacy, #startups, #tc, #tc-experts, #verified-experts

Extra Crunch roundup: Adtech investing, Intuit buys Mailchimp, ideal customer profiles

Major gains in online advertising have boosted valuations for adtech startups since the pandemic began, but one insider says investors are missing the party.

“Adtech is having a moment,” writes industry veteran Casey Saran.

“And while much of the oxygen has been soaked up by large legacy companies hitting the public market, there have been smaller deals that indicate a hunger for better creative adtech.”

Saran shares five reasons “why VCs should consider ratcheting up their investment into adtech startups building the next generation of creative tools.”


Full Extra Crunch articles are only available to members
Use discount code ECFriday to save 20% off a one- or two-year subscription


On Wednesday, September 22 at 9:05 a.m PT, I’m moderating “The Path for Underrepresented Entrepreneurs,” a panel discussion at Disrupt 2021.

Our conversation will examine some of the unique challenges facing founders from historically marginalized groups, the strategies they used along the way, and the disruptive changes we need to consider if we want to see fundamental change.

I’ll be speaking with:

  • Hana Mohan, founder & CEO, MagicBell
  • Leslie Feinzaig, founder & CEO, Female Founders Alliance
  • Stephen Bailey, co-founder & CEO, ExecOnline

I hope you’ll attend; we’ll take audience questions after our discussion concludes. Thanks very much for reading Extra Crunch this week, and have a great weekend.

Walter Thompson
Senior Editor, TechCrunch
@yourprotagonist

5 things you need to win your first customer

Putting the final building block onto the top of a rising pile signifying success and achievement

Image Credits: AndrewLilley (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Congratulations on shipping your product, but how much do you know about your target customers?

Companies that haven’t created an ideal customer profile and performed a SWOT analysis are making big bets on guesswork and intuition. Sometimes that works out, but more frequently, it leads to tears.

In a guest post that walks readers through the fundamentals of creating customer personas that map to your company’s goals, Grammarly product marketing lead Bryan Dsouza shares five basic requirements for customer acquisition.

“Understanding and executing on these things can guarantee you that first customer win, provided you do them well and with sincerity,” he says.

“Your investors will also see the fruits of your labor and be comforted knowing their dollars are at good work.”

4 ways to leverage ROAS to triple lead generation

Someone pops the tab on a soda can, releasing a mist/spray

Image Credits: joshblake (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

In school, it’s highly unethical to copy someone else’s work and pass it off as your own. In business, however, it is expected.

Xiaoyun TU, global director of demand generation at Brightpearl, wrote a comprehensive guide for how to use the key metric of return on advertising spend (ROAS) to triple your company’s lead generation.

“A ‘good’ ROAS score is different for each company and campaign,” she says. “If your figure isn’t where you’d like it to be, you can leverage ROAS data to create targeted campaigns and personalized experiences.”

3 strategies to make adopting new HR tech easier for hiring managers

Steps with Check Mark on Chalkboard

Image Credits: porcorex (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Most of us prefer to trust our instincts instead of letting automated tools help us make decisions, particularly when it comes to hiring. But that’s not smart.

If your startup relies on an ad hoc hiring process, you’re probably not tracking candidates properly, there’s likely little consistency regarding how they’re treated, and bias can play a major role in who gets hired.

It’s fine to be skeptical of automated hiring tools — but not ignorant.

What could stop the startup boom?

In yesterday’s edition of The Exchange, Anna Heim and Alex Wilhelm speculated about the conditions that could combine to cool off a hot startup market currently fueled by low interest rates and a sweeping digital transformation.

“From where we stand, the factors underpinning the startup fundraising boom appear solid and unlikely to unwind overnight. Still, no golden period shines forever, and even today’s luster will eventually tarnish.”

Intuit’s $12B Mailchimp acquisition is about expanding its small business focus

Signage for financial software company Intuit at the company's headquarters in the Silicon Valley town of Mountain View, California, August 24, 2016. (Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images).

Image Credits: Smith Collection/Gado / Getty Images

Before news broke this week that Intuit was acquiring Mailchimp for $12 billion, the ’80s-born fintech giant’s biggest buy was spending $7.1 billion last year for Credit Karma.

In the last few years, Mailchimp “has been expanding upon its core email marketing functionality” with offerings like web design and CRM, writes enterprise reporter Ron Miller.

The industry watchers he interviewed said the move signals Intuit’s interest in acquiring and serving more SMB customers with a variety of tools:

  • Laurie McCabe, co-founder and partner, SMB Group
  • Brent Leary, founder and principal analyst, CRM Essentials
  • Holger Mueller, analyst, Constellation Research

Forge’s SPAC deal is a bet on unicorn illiquidity

“One of my favorite long-term issues with the late-stage startup market is that it is far better at creating value than it is at finding an exit point for that accreted value,” Alex Wilhelm writes for The Exchange. “More simply, the startup market is excellent at creating unicorns but somewhat poor at taking them public.”

That’s good news for Forge Global, a technology startup that operates a market for secondary transactions in private companies, with Alex dubbing its plans to go public via a SPAC combination “perfectly reasonable.”

Dear Sophie: Should I apply for citizenship if I have a conviction?

lone figure at entrance to maze hedge that has an American flag at the center

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin/TechCrunch

Dear Sophie,

At Burning Man a few years ago, I was arrested and charged with a misdemeanor for smoking marijuana in public (in my car) and driving under the influence.

I currently have a green card and want to apply for U.S. citizenship next year.

Can I? If so, how should I handle my criminal record?

— Remorseful About the Reefer

Atlanta’s sundry startups join in global VC funding boom

Alex Wilhelm and Anna Heim continued their tour of U.S. cities after hitting up Chicago and Boston in recent weeks.

This time, they dug into Atlanta’s booming startup scene, which is seeing record capital inflows.

“The picture that forms is one of a city enjoying a rising tide of venture activity, boosted by some local dynamics that may have helped some of its earlier-stage companies scale for cheaper than they might have in other markets,” they write.

#adtech, #advertising-tech, #business, #ec-roundup, #entrepreneurship, #extra-crunch-roundup, #finance, #growth-marketing, #intuit, #lawyers, #mailchimp, #private-equity, #sophie-alcorn, #startups, #venture-capital, #verified-experts

Ketch raises another $20M as demand grows for its privacy data control platform

Six months after securing a $23 million Series A round, Ketch, a startup providing online privacy regulation and data compliance, brought in an additional $20 million in A1 funding, this time led by Acrew Capital.

Returning with Acrew for the second round are CRV, super{set} (the startup studio founded by Ketch’s co-founders CEO Tom Chavez and CTO Vivek Vaidya), Ridge Ventures and Silicon Valley Bank. The new investment gives Ketch a total of $43 million raised since the company came out of stealth earlier this year.

In 2020, Ketch introduced its data control platform for programmatic privacy, governance and security. The platform automates data control and consent management so that consumers’ privacy preferences are honored and implemented.

Enterprises are looking for a way to meet consumer needs and accommodate their rights and consents. At the same time, companies want data to fuel their growth and gain the trust of consumers, Chavez told TechCrunch.

There is also a matter of security, with much effort going into ransomware and malware, but Chavez feels a big opportunity is to bring security to the data wherever it lies. Once the infrastructure is in place for data control it needs to be at the level of individual cells and rows, he said.

“If someone wants to be deleted, there is a challenge in finding your specific row of data,” he added. “That is an exercise in data control.”

Ketch’s customer base grew by more than 300% since its March Series A announcement, and the new funding will go toward expanding its sales and go-to-market teams, Chavez said.

Ketch app. Image Credits: Ketch

This year, the company launched Ketch OTC, a free-to-use privacy tool that streamlines all aspects of privacy so that enterprise compliance programs build trust and reduce friction. Customer growth through OTC increased five times in six months. More recently, Qonsent, which developing a consent user experience, is using Ketch’s APIs and infrastructure, Chavez said.

When looking for strategic partners, Chavez and Vaidya wanted to have people around the table who have a deep context on what they were doing and could provide advice as they built out their products. They found that in Acrew founding partner Theresia Gouw, whom Chavez referred to as “the OG of privacy and security.”

Gouw has been investing in security and privacy for over 20 years and says Ketch is flipping the data privacy and security model on its head by putting it in the hands of developers. When she saw more people working from home and more data breaches, she saw an opportunity to increase and double down on Acrew’s initial investment.

She explained that Ketch is differentiating itself from competitors by taking data privacy and security and tying it to the data itself to empower software developers. With the OTC tool, similar to putting locks and cameras on a home, developers can download the API and attach rules to all of a user’s data.

“The magic of Ketch is that you can take the security and governance rules and embed them with the software and the piece of data,” Gouw added.

#acrew-capital, #advertising-tech, #api, #cloud-computing, #crv, #data-protection, #data-security, #enterprise, #funding, #ketch, #privacy, #recent-funding, #ridge-ventures, #silicon-valley-bank, #software-developers, #startups, #superset, #tc, #theresia-gouw, #tom-chavez

4 ways to leverage ROAS to triple lead generation

Businesses that don’t invest in their future may not have a future to look forward to.

Whether you’re investing in your human resources or in critical tech, some outlay in the short term is always needed for long-term success. That’s true when it comes to marketing as well — you can’t market your product or service without investing in advertising. But if that investment isn’t turning into leads and conversions, you’re in trouble.

A “good” ROAS score is different for each company and campaign. If your figure isn’t where you’d like it to be, you can leverage ROAS data to create targeted campaigns and personalized experiences.

It’s vital to identify and apply the most suitable metrics based on business goals, and there’s no one best practice or one-size-fits-all method.

However, smart use of the return on advertising spend (ROAS) data can triple lead generation, as I discovered when I joined Brightpearl to restructure the marketing campaigns. Let’s take a look at some of the ways Brightpearl used ROAS to improve campaigns and increase lead generation. The key is to work out what represents a healthy ROAS for your business so that you can optimize accordingly.

Use the right return metric

It is paramount to choose the right return metric to calculate your ROAS. This will depend partly on your sales cycle.

Brightpearl has a lengthy sales cycle. On average it’s two to three months, and sometimes up to six months, meaning we don’t have tons of data on a monthly basis if we want to use new customer’s revenue data as the return metric. A company with a shorter sales cycle could use revenue, but that doesn’t help us to optimize our campaigns.

We chose to use the sales accepted opportunity (SAO) value instead. It usually takes us about a month to measure, so we can get more ROAS data at the same time. It’s the last sales stage before a win, and it’s more in line with our company goal (to grow our recurring annual revenue), but takes less time to gather the data.

By the SAO stage, we know which leads are good quality­ — they have the budget, are a good fit, and our software can meet their requirements. We can use them to measure our campaign performance.

When you choose a return metric, you need to make sure it matches your company goal without taking ages to get the data. It also has to be measurable at the campaign level, because the aim of using ROAS or other metrics is to optimize your campaigns.

Accept that less is more

I’ve noticed that many companies harbor a fear of missing out on opportunities, which leads them to advertise on all available channels instead of concentrating resources on the most profitable areas.

Prospects usually do their research on multiple channels, so you might try to cover all the possible touch points. In theory, this could generate more leads, but only if you had an unlimited marketing budget and human resources.

#advertising-tech, #column, #customer-relationship-management, #ec-column, #ec-how-to, #ec-marketing-tech, #lead-generation, #marketing, #roas, #sales, #search-engine-optimization, #social-media, #sql, #startups

Facebook revamps its business tool lineup following threats to its ad targeting business

Facebook today is announcing the launch of new products and features for business owners, following the threat to its ad targeting business driven by Apple’s new privacy features, which now allow mobile users to opt out of being tracked across their iOS apps. The social networking giant has repeatedly argued that Apple’s changes would impact small businesses that relied on Facebook ads to reach their customers. But it was not successful in getting any of Apple’s changes halted. Instead, the market is shifting to a new era focused more on user privacy, where personalization and targeting are more of an opt-in experience. That’s required Facebook to address its business advertiser base in new ways.

As the ability to track consumers declines — very few consumers are opting into tracking, studies find — Facebook is rolling out new features that will allow businesses to better position themselves in front of relevant audiences. This includes updates that will let them reach customers, advertise to customers, chat with customers across Facebook apps, generate leads, acquire customers and more.

The company earlier this year began testing a way for customers to explore businesses from underneath News Feed posts by tapping on topics they were interested in — like beauty, fitness, and clothing, and explore content from other related businesses. The feature allows people to come across new businesses that may also like, and would allow Facebook to create its own data set of users who like certain types of content. Over time, it could possibly even turn the feature into an ad unit, where businesses could pay for higher placement.

But for the time being, Facebook will expand this feature to more users across the U.S., and launch it in Australia, Canada, Ireland, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, and the U.K.

Image Credits: Facebook

Facebook is also making it easier for businesses to chat with customers. They’re already able to buy ads that encourage people to message them on Facebook’s various chat platforms — Messenger, Instagram Direct, or WhatsApp. Now, they’ll be able to choose all the messaging platforms where they’re available, and Facebook will default the chat app showcased in the ad based on where the conversation is most likely to happen.

Image Credits: Facebook

The company will tie WhatsApp to Instagram, as well, as part of this effort. Facebook explains that many businesses market themselves or run shops across Instagram, but rely on WhatsApp to communicate with customers and answer questions. So, Facebook will now allow businesses to add a WhatsApp click-to-chat button to their Instagram profiles.

This change, in particular, represents another move that ties Facebook’s separate apps more closely together, at a time when regulators are considering breaking up Facebook over antitrust concerns. Already, Facebook interconnected Facebook’s Messenger and Instagram messaging services, which would make such a disassembly more complicated. And more recently, it’s begun integrating Messenger directly into Facebook’s platform itself.

Image Credits: Facebook

In a related change, soon businesses will be able to create ads that send users directly to WhatsApp from the Instagram app. (Facebook also already offers ads like this.)

Separately from this news, Facebook announced the launch of a new business directory on WhatsApp, allowing consumers to find shops and services on the chat platform, as well.

Another set of changes being introduced involve an update to Facebook Business Suite. Businesses will be able to manage emails through Inbox and sending remarketing emails; use a new File Manager for creating, managing, and posting content; and access a feature that will allow businesses to test different versions of a post to see which one is most effective.

Image Credits: Facebook

Other new products include tests of paid and organic lead generation tools on Instagram; quote requests on Messenger, where customers answer a few questions prior to their conversations; and a way for small businesses to access a bundle of tools to get started with Facebook ads, which includes a Facebook ad coupon along with free access to QuickBooks for 3 months or free access to Canva Pro for 3 months.

Image Credits: Facebook

Facebook will also begin testing something called “Work Accounts,” which will allow business owners to access their business products, like Business Manager, separately from their personal Facebook account. They’ll be able to manage these accounts on behalf of employees and use single-sign-on integrations.

Work Accounts will be tested through the remainder of the year with a small group of businesses, and Facebook says it expects to expand availability in 2022.

Other efforts it has in store include plans to incorporate more content from creators and local businesses and new features that let users control the content they see, but these changes were not detailed at this time.

Most of the products being announced are either rolling out today or will begin to show up soon.

#advertising-tech, #app-store, #australia, #canada, #canva, #computing, #facebook, #instagram, #ireland, #malaysia, #messenger, #new-zealand, #philippines, #private-message, #singapore, #social, #social-media, #software, #south-africa, #technology, #united-kingdom, #united-states, #whatsapp

SmarterTravel sheds HopJump name, begins a new journey with $9.5M round

Travel startups continue to rake in venture capital dollars as more people become comfortable traveling amid the global pandemic. The latest is SmarterTravel, which brought in $9.5 million in Series B funding co-led by Link Ventures and Second Alpha, with existing investors also participating.

In addition to the fundraise, the company, a provider of personalized travel recommendations and targeted travel content, announced its name change from HopJump, which reflects the company’s renewed vision of providing an informative online travel experience, CEO Jordan Staab told TechCrunch.

Jordan Staab, CEO of SmarterTravel. Image Credits: SmarterTravel

SmarterTravel has 7 million email newsletter subscribers and uses proprietary artificial intelligence fixes to give customers travel information and discounts. The company writes articles on every facet of travel to inform customers, especially now with airlines, hotels and countries placing certain restrictions on travel.

“The travel consumer is changing how they absorb information,” Staab said. “The consumer is coming to us instead of visiting 20 websites before they book. Before, you might have combed through reviews, but now you just want an expert to tell you, and that is what we are.”

HopJump was started in 2018 by Staab as a digital marketing agency helping big brands with user acquisition campaigns. As it was building up to an initial public offering, Staab said the company wanted to move into building its own brand and saw an opportunity in travel, which accounts for a big market — 10% of global gross domestic product, he added.

The company went on to provide hotel discount travel prices to consumers but found it to be challenging. There are a lot of nuances and different approaches for offering four-star hotel rooms for two-star prices and bundling tactics, Staab explained.

“We fell in love with uncomplicating the process,” he said. “Consumers just want a good price from a company they trust, and that is what we set out to solve.”

In January 2020, the company launched its first product and had 60 members join in the first few months, but then the global pandemic hit. Suddenly, HopJump went from managing rapid growth to managing how the company might shut down.

Still eager to stay in travel, the company pivoted back to marketing so it could continue examining the travel industry, he said. While the company was figuring out its next move, Staab said folks at SmarterTravel were helpful to them, and when he heard that its parent company, TripAdvisor, was needing to make layoffs, and that division was going to be let go, he decided to purchase that asset along with seven others, including Airfarewatchdog, Family Vacation Critic and Oyster. The deal closed in 2020.

Lisa Dolan, managing director at Link Ventures, said that SmarterTravel’s growth was one of the drivers of her firm’s investment. When no one was traveling due to COVID, the company acquired travel companies and made it through the pandemic while other startups in the space were struggling.

She also cited its strong revenue-generating business on the email side and that it capitalized on the fact that even in the pandemic, people were conducting web searches for car rentals, things to do in certain cities and looking for vacation inspiration.

SmarterTravel is going after a U.S. travel and tourism industry valued at $580.7 billion in 2019. It is also not the only one to gain investor attention recently. For example, just over the past month companies like Thatch raised $3 million for its platform aimed at travel creators, travel tech company Hopper brought in $175 million, Wheel the World grabbed $2 million for its disability-friendly vacation planner and Elude raised $2.1 million to bring spontaneous travel back to a hard-hit industry.

Meanwhile, the funding will drive SmarterTravel’s aim to grow rapidly in terms of getting its name out there, building new travel products and hiring key staff. The company already has 50 people, but needs more, Staab said.

“Travel has had a tough couple of years, but some pockets of it are back, and we are seeing that,” he added. “In a year that should have been a bad year, our growth has been good. We were up eight times in revenue in the past 12 months. We are growing, profitable and have extra funding to lean into the growth. It is not going to be easy growth, but we are well-positioned to understand how to do it.”

 

#advertising-tech, #artificial-intelligence, #digital-marketing, #ecommerce, #funding, #hopjump, #jordan-staab, #link-ventures, #lisa-dolan, #recent-funding, #second-alpha, #smartertravel, #startups, #tc, #tourism, #travel, #travel-industry, #travel-startups, #travel-tech, #tripadvisor

Creative ad tech is on the cusp of a revolution, and VCs should take note

2021 has been a good year to be an ad tech investor. Valuations are surging, Wall Street is happy and exits are frequent and satisfying. It’s the perfect time to double down and invest in an area that has been largely ignored but is poised for major upside in the next few years: Digital creative ad technology.

Think about it. When was the last time we saw a major ad tech funding round that was directed at the actual ads themselves — the messages people actually see everyday? I’d argue that now is the perfect time.

The adtech startups that can figure out how to adapt ads that can interact with the remote control, a synced smartphone or voice commands — maybe even make them shoppable — can theoretically produce a game-changer.

Here are five reasons why VCs should consider ratcheting up their investment into ad tech startups building the next generation of creative tools:

Creative tech is far from being saturated

Consider how much has been spent over the 15 years on digital advertising mechanics such as targeting, serving, measuring and verification. Not to mention the trillions that have gone toward helping brands keep track of customer data and interactions — the marketing clouds, DMPs and CDPs.

Yet you can count the number of creative-centric ad tech companies on one hand. This means there is a lot of room for innovation and early leaders. VideoAmp, which helps brands make ads for various social platforms, pulled in $75 million earlier this year. Given how fast platforms like TikTok and Snap are growing, it won’t be the last.

Digital ad targeting is being squeezed

Ads need to do more work today. Between regulation, cookies going away and Apple locking down data collection, we’ve seen a renewed interest in contextual advertising, including funding for the likes of GumGum, as well as identity resolution firms like InfoSum.

But the digital ad ecosystem can’t get by only using broader data-crunching techniques to replace “retargeting.” The medium is practically crying out for a creative revival that can only be sparked by scalable tech. The recent funding for creative testing startup Marpipe is a start, but more focus is needed on actual tech-driven ideation and automation.

#advertising-tech, #column, #digital-advertising, #digital-marketing, #e-commerce, #ec-column, #ec-marketing-tech, #ecommerce, #machine-learning, #startups, #targeted-advertising, #tc, #venture-capital

Use creative automation software to amp up your brand’s lower-funnel assets

With the holiday season around the corner, growth marketers are gearing up for their busiest time of the year. E-commerce brands are now leaning heavily on social sales and digital advertising, but should also expect an omnichannel shopper — 62% of shoppers plan to purchase both online and in-store this holiday season, according to Celtra.

The marketplace is crowded. Digital marketing requires high volumes of on-brand creative assets, and it is tough to produce them fast enough without compromising on brand equity or storytelling. While marketing channels have exploded in volume, most creative production workflows are the same as they were 50 years ago.

But marketing is a monster that feeds on creative assets, requiring more and more each quarter.

The reality is, any paid impression is also a brand impression and a chance to differentiate in the market. In fact, paid impressions are often the only chance you get to influence some shoppers. That’s why creative — your brand, your design and your message — matters. In growth marketing, traffic, subscriptions, direct-to-consumer channels, testing and, ultimately, revenue all rely on creative to succeed.

Yet, lower-funnel assets are rarely brilliant in branding or even remotely interesting. Teams are limited in meeting global demands across more channels than ever, and the creative they produce is suffering. Brands don’t have the luxury of spending time on design craft and storytelling at scale. Conversely, most creative automation solutions that can assist with efficiency aren’t currently equipped to scale high-quality creative that prioritizes branding and design excellence.

Enterprises are suffering from a creative gap where their content and asset needs are growing fast while team resources and budgets are stagnant or even declining.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a magic AI bullet to solve the challenge. You can’t just buy creative technology in the hopes that it alone will bridge the gap. You need to rethink workflows and team collaboration. If you’re serious about elevating your growth marketing creative, you need to invest in tools that are built for scale and brand governance at once.

#advertising-tech, #artificial-intelligence, #brand-management, #column, #digital-advertising, #digital-marketing, #ec-column, #ec-ecommerce-and-d2c, #marketing, #marketing-automation, #online-advertising, #tc

Trade promotion management startup Cresicor raises $5.6M to keep tabs on customer spend

Cresicor, a consumer packaged goods trade management platform startup, raised $5.6 million in seed funding to further develop its tools for more accurate data and analytics.

The company, based remotely, focuses on small to midsize CPG companies, providing them with an automated way to manage their trade promotion, a process co-founder and CEO Alexander Whatley said is done primarily manually using spreadsheets.

Here’s what happens in a trade promotion: When a company wants to run a discount on one of their slower-selling items, the company has to spend money to do this — to have displays set up in a store or have that item on a certain shelf. If it works, more people will buy the item at the lower price point. Essentially, a trade promotion is the process of spending money to get more money in the future, Whatley told TechCrunch.

Figuring out all of the trade promotions is a complicated process, Whatley explained. Companies receive data feeds on the promotions from several different places, revenue data from retailers, accounting source data to show how many units were shipped and then maybe data directly from retailers. All of that has to be matched against the promotion.

“No API is bringing this data back to brands, so our software helps to automate and track these manual processes so companies can do analytics to see how the promotions are doing,” he added. “It also helps the finance team understand expenses, including which are valid and those that are not.”

What certain companies spend on trade promotions can represent their second-largest cost behind manufacturing, and companies often end up reinvesting between 20% and 30% of their revenue into trade promotions, Whatley said. This is a big market, representing untapped growth, especially with U.S. CPG sales topping $720 billion in 2020.

“You can see how messy the whole industry is, which is why we have a bright future and huge TAM,” he added. “With this new funding, we can target other parts of the P&L like supply chain and salaries. We also provide analytics for their strategy and where they should be spending it — which store, on which supply. By allocating resources the right way, companies typically see a 10% boost in sales as a result.”

Whatley started the company in 2017 with his brother, Daniel, Stuart Kennedy and Nikki McNeil while a Harvard undergrad. Since raising the funding back in February, the company has grown 2.5x in revenue, while employee headcount grew 4x over the past 12 months to 20.

Costanoa Ventures led the investment and was joined by Torch Capital and a group of angel investors including Fivestars CTO Matt Doka and Hu’s Kitchen CEO Mark Ramadan.

John Cowgill, partner at Costanoa, said though Cresicor raised a seed round, the company was already acquiring brands and capital before releasing a product and grew to almost a Series A company without any outside capital, saying it “blew me away.”

Cresicor is the “perfect example” of a company that Costanoa would get excited about — a vertical software company using data or machine learning to augment a pain point, Cowgill added.

“The CPG industry is in the middle of a rapid change where we see all of these emerging, digital native and mission-driven brands rapidly eating share from incumbents,” he added. “For the next generation of brands to compete, they have to win in trade promotion management. Cresicor’s opportunity to go beyond trade is significant. It is just a starting point to build a company that is the core enabler of great brands.”

The new funding will be used mainly to hire more talent in the areas of engineering and customer success so the company can hit its next benchmarks, Alexander Whatley said. He also intends to use the funding to acquire new brands and on software development. Cresicor boasts a list of customers including Perfect Snacks, Oatly and Hint Water.

The retail industry is valued at $5.5 trillion, and one-fifth of it is CPG, Whatley said. As a result, he has his eye on going after other verticals within CPG, like electronics and pet food, and then expanding into other areas.

“We are also going to work with enterprise companies — we see an opportunity to work with companies like P&G and General Mills, and we also want to build an ecosystem around trade promotion and launch into other profit and loss areas,” Whatley said.

#advertising-tech, #alexander-whatley, #api, #artificial-intelligence, #brand, #business-intelligence, #costanoa-ventures, #cresicor, #enterprise, #food, #funding, #john-cowgill, #machine-learning, #marketing, #recent-funding, #software, #software-development, #startups, #tc, #torch-capital

Amagi tunes into $100M for cloud-based video content creation, monetization

Media technology company Amagi announced Friday $100 million to further develop its cloud-based SaaS technology for broadcast and connected televisions.

Accel, Avataar Ventures and Norwest Venture Partners joined existing investor Premji Invest in the funding round, which included buying out stakes held by Emerald Media and Mayfield Fund. Nadathur Holdings continues as an existing investor. The latest round gives Amagi total funding raised to date of $150 million, Baskar Subramanian, co-founder and CEO of Amagi, told TechCrunch.

New Delhi-based Amagi provides cloud broadcast and targeted advertising software so that customers can create content that can be created and monetized to be distributed via broadcast TV and streaming TV platforms like The Roku Channel, Samsung TV Plus and Pluto TV. The company already supports more than 2,000 channels on its platform across over 40 countries.

“Video is a complex technology to manage — there are large files and a lot of computing,” Subramanian said. “What Amagi does is enable a content owner with zero technology knowledge to simplify that complex workflow and scalable infrastructure. We want to make it easy to plug in and start targeting and monetizing advertising.”

As a result, Amagi customers see operational cost savings on average of up to 40% compared to traditional delivery models and their ad impressions grow between five and 10 times.

The new funding comes at a time when the company is experiencing rapid growth. For example, Amagi grew 30 times in the United States alone over the past few years, Subramanian said. Amagi commands an audience of over 2 billion people, and the U.S. is its largest market. The company also sees growth potential in both Latin America and Europe.

In addition, in the last year, revenue grew 136%, while new customer year over year growth was 44%, including NBCUniversal — Subramanian said the Tokyo Olympics were run on Amagi’s platform for NBC, USA Today and ABS-CBN.

As more of a shift happens with video content being developed for connected television experiences, which he said is a $50 billion market, the company plans to use the new funding for sales expansion, R&D to invest in the company’s product pipeline and potential M&A opportunities. The company has not made any acquisitions yet, Subramanian added.

In addition to the broadcast operations in New Delhi, Amagi also has an innovation center in Bangalore and offices in New York, Los Angeles and London.

“Consumer behavior and infrastructure needs have reached a critical mass and new companies are bringing in the next generation of media, and we are a large part of that growth,” Subramanian said. “Sports will come on quicker, while live news and events are going to be one of the biggest growth areas.”

Shekhar Kirani, partner at Accel, said Amagi is taking a unique approach to enterprise SaaS due to that $50 billion industry shift happening in video content, where he sees half of the spend moving to connected television platforms quickly.

Some of the legacy players like Viacom and NBCUniversal created their own streaming platforms, where Netflix and Amazon have also been leading, but not many SaaS companies are enabling the transition, he said.

When Kirani met Subramanian five years ago, Amagi was already well funded, but Kirani was excited about the platform and wanted to help the company scale. He believes the company has a long tailwind because it is saving people time and enabling new content providers to move faster to get their content distributed.

“Amagi is creating a new category and will grow fast,” Kirani added. “They are already growing and doubling each year with phenomenal SaaS metrics because they are helping content providers to connect to any audience.

 

#accel, #advertising-tech, #amagi, #avataar-ventures, #baskar-subramanian, #cloud, #cloud-computing, #computing, #content-creators, #developer, #enterprise, #funding, #india, #mayfield-fund, #media, #norwest-venture-partners, #recent-funding, #shekhar-kirani, #startups, #streaming-video, #tc, #video-content

After years of inaction against adtech, UK’s ICO calls for browser-level controls to fix ‘cookie fatigue’

In the latest quasi-throwback toward ‘do not track‘, the UK’s data protection chief has come out in favor of a browser- and/or device-level setting to allow Internet users to set “lasting” cookie preferences — suggesting this as a fix for the barrage of consent pop-ups that continues to infest websites in the region.

European web users digesting this development in an otherwise monotonously unchanging regulatory saga, should be forgiven — not only for any sense of déjà vu they may experience — but also for wondering if they haven’t been mocked/gaslit quite enough already where cookie consent is concerned.

Last month, UK digital minister Oliver Dowden took aim at what he dubbed an “endless” parade of cookie pop-ups — suggesting the government is eyeing watering down consent requirements around web tracking as ministers consider how to diverge from European Union data protection standards, post-Brexit. (He’s slated to present the full sweep of the government’s data ‘reform’ plans later this month so watch this space.)

Today the UK’s outgoing information commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, stepped into the fray to urge her counterparts in G7 countries to knock heads together and coalesce around the idea of letting web users express generic privacy preferences at the browser/app/device level, rather than having to do it through pop-ups every time they visit a website.

In a statement announcing “an idea” she will present this week during a virtual meeting of fellow G7 data protection and privacy authorities — less pithily described in the press release as being “on how to improve the current cookie consent mechanism, making web browsing smoother and more business friendly while better protecting personal data” — Denham said: “I often hear people say they are tired of having to engage with so many cookie pop-ups. That fatigue is leading to people giving more personal data than they would like.

“The cookie mechanism is also far from ideal for businesses and other organisations running websites, as it is costly and it can lead to poor user experience. While I expect businesses to comply with current laws, my office is encouraging international collaboration to bring practical solutions in this area.”

“There are nearly two billion websites out there taking account of the world’s privacy preferences. No single country can tackle this issue alone. That is why I am calling on my G7 colleagues to use our convening power. Together we can engage with technology firms and standards organisations to develop a coordinated approach to this challenge,” she added.

Contacted for more on this “idea”, an ICO spokeswoman reshuffled the words thusly: “Instead of trying to effect change through nearly 2 billion websites, the idea is that legislators and regulators could shift their attention to the browsers, applications and devices through which users access the web.

“In place of click-through consent at a website level, users could express lasting, generic privacy preferences through browsers, software applications and device settings – enabling them to set and update preferences at a frequency of their choosing rather than on each website they visit.”

Of course a browser-baked ‘Do not track’ (DNT) signal is not a new idea. It’s around a decade old at this point. Indeed, it could be called the idea that can’t die because it’s never truly lived — as earlier attempts at embedding user privacy preferences into browser settings were scuppered by lack of industry support.

However the approach Denham is advocating, vis-a-vis “lasting” preferences, may in fact be rather different to DNT — given her call for fellow regulators to engage with the tech industry, and its “standards organizations”, and come up with “practical” and “business friendly” solutions to the regional Internet’s cookie pop-up problem.

It’s not clear what consensus — practical or, er, simply pro-industry — might result from this call. If anything.

Indeed, today’s press release may be nothing more than Denham trying to raise her own profile since she’s on the cusp of stepping out of the information commissioner’s chair. (Never waste a good international networking opportunity and all that — her counterparts in the US, Canada, Japan, France, Germany and Italy are scheduled for a virtual natter today and tomorrow where she implies she’ll try to engage them with her big idea).

Her UK replacement, meanwhile, is already lined up. So anything Denham personally champions right now, at the end of her ICO chapter, may have a very brief shelf life — unless she’s set to parachute into a comparable role at another G7 caliber data protection authority.

Nor is Denham the first person to make a revived pitch for a rethink on cookie consent mechanisms — even in recent years.

Last October, for example, a US-centric tech-publisher coalition came out with what they called a Global Privacy Standard (GPC) — aiming to build momentum for a browser-level pro-privacy signal to stop the sale of personal data, geared toward California’s Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), though pitched as something that could have wider utility for Internet users.

By January this year they announced 40M+ users were making use of a browser or extension that supports GPC — along with a clutch of big name publishers signed up to honor it. But it’s fair to say its global impact so far remains limited. 

More recently, European privacy group noyb published a technical proposal for a European-centric automated browser-level signal that would let regional users configure advanced consent choices — enabling the more granular controls it said would be needed to fully mesh with the EU’s more comprehensive (vs CCPA) legal framework around data protection.

The proposal, for which noyb worked with the Sustainable Computing Lab at the Vienna University of Economics and Business, is called Advanced Data Protection Control (ADPC). And noyb has called on the EU to legislate for such a mechanism — suggesting there’s a window of opportunity as lawmakers there are also keen to find ways to reduce cookie fatigue (a stated aim for the still-in-train reform of the ePrivacy rules, for example).

So there are some concrete examples of what practical, less fatiguing yet still pro-privacy consent mechanisms might look like to lend a little more color to Denham’s ‘idea’ — although her remarks today don’t reference any such existing mechanisms or proposals.

(When we asked the ICO for more details on what she’s advocating for, its spokeswoman didn’t cite any specific technical proposals or implementations, historical or contemporary, either, saying only: “By working together, the G7 data protection authorities could have an outsized impact in stimulating the development of technological solutions to the cookie consent problem.”)

So Denham’s call to the G7 does seem rather low on substance vs profile-raising noise.

In any case, the really big elephant in the room here is the lack of enforcement around cookie consent breaches — including by the ICO.

Add to that, there’s the now very pressing question of how exactly the UK will ‘reform’ domestic law in this area (post-Brexit) — which makes the timing of Denham’s call look, well, interestingly opportune. (And difficult to interpret as anything other than opportunistically opaque at this point.)

The adtech industry will of course be watching developments in the UK with interest — and would surely be cheering from the rooftops if domestic data protection ‘reform’ results in amendments to UK rules that allow the vast majority of websites to avoid having to ask Brits for permission to process their personal data, say by opting them into tracking by default (under the guise of ‘fixing’ cookie friction and cookie fatigue for them).

That would certainly be mission accomplished after all these years of cookie-fatigue-generating-cookie-consent-non-compliance by surveillance capitalism’s industrial data complex.

It’s not yet clear which way the UK government will jump — but eyebrows should raise to read the ICO writing today that it expects compliance with (current) UK law when it has so roundly failed to tackle the adtech industry’s role in cynically sicking up said cookie fatigue by failing to take any action against such systemic breaches.

The bald fact is that the ICO has — for years — avoided tackling adtech abuse of data protection, despite acknowledging publicly that the sector is wildly out of control.

Instead, it has opted for a cringing ‘process of engagement’ (read: appeasement) that has condemned UK Internet users to cookie pop-up hell.

This is why the regulator is being sued for inaction — after it closed a long-standing complaint against the security abuse of people’s data in real-time bidding ad auctions with nothing to show for it… So, yes, you can be forgiven for feeling gaslit by Denham’s call for action on cookie fatigue following the ICO’s repeat inaction on the causes of cookie fatigue…

Not that the ICO is alone on that front, however.

There has been a fairly widespread failure by EU regulators to tackle systematic abuse of the bloc’s data protection rules by the adtech sector — with a number of complaints (such as this one against the IAB Europe’s self-styled ‘transparency and consent framework’) still working, painstakingly, through the various labyrinthine regulatory processes.

France’s CNIL has probably been the most active in this area — last year slapping Amazon and Google with fines of $42M and $120M for dropping tracking cookies without consent, for example. (And before you accuse CNIL of being ‘anti-American’, it has also gone after domestic adtech.)

But elsewhere — notably Ireland, where many adtech giants are regionally headquartered — the lack of enforcement against the sector has allowed for cynical, manipulative and/or meaningless consent pop-ups to proliferate as the dysfunctional ‘norm’, while investigations have failed to progress and EU citizens have been forced to become accustomed, not to regulatory closure (or indeed rapture), but to an existentially endless consent experience that’s now being (re)branded as ‘cookie fatigue’.

Yes, even with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) coming into application in 2018 and beefing up (in theory) consent standards.

This is why the privacy campaign group noyb is now lodging scores of complaints against cookie consent breaches — to try to force EU regulators to actually enforce the law in this area, even as it also finds time to put up a practical technical proposal that could help shrink cookie fatigue without undermining data protection standards. 

It’s a shining example of action that has yet to inspire the lion’s share of the EU’s actual regulators to act on cookies. The tl;dr is that EU citizens are still waiting for the cookie consent reckoning — even if there is now a bit of high level talk about the need for ‘something to be done’ about all these tedious pop-ups.

The problem is that while GDPR certainly cranked up the legal risk on paper, without proper enforcement it’s just a paper tiger. And the pushing around of lots of paper is very tedious, clearly. 

Most cookie pop-ups you’ll see in the EU are thus essentially privacy theatre; at the very least they’re unnecessarily irritating because they create ongoing friction for web users who must constantly respond to nags for their data (typically to repeatedly try to deny access if they can actually find a ‘reject all’ setting).

But — even worse — many of these pervasive pop-ups are actively undermining the law (as a number of studies have shown) because the vast majority do not meet the legal standard for consent.

So the cookie consent/fatigue narrative is actually a story of faux compliance enabled by an enforcement vacuum that’s now also encouraging the watering down of privacy standards as a result of such much unpunished flouting of the law.

There is a lesson here, surely.

‘Faux consent’ pop-ups that you can easily stumble across when surfing the ‘ad-supported’ Internet in Europe include those failing to provide users with clear information about how their data will be used; or not offering people a free choice to reject tracking without being penalized (such as with no/limited access to the content they’re trying to access), or at least giving the impression that accepting is a requirement to access said content (dark pattern!); and/or otherwise manipulating a person’s choice by making it super simple to accept tracking and far, far, far more tedious to deny.

You can also still sometimes find cookie notices that don’t offer users any choice at all — and just pop up to inform that ‘by continuing to browse you consent to your data being processed’ — which, unless the cookies in question are literally essential for provision of the webpage, is basically illegal. (Europe’s top court made it abundantly clear in 2019 that active consent is a requirement for non-essential cookies.)

Nonetheless, to the untrained eye — and sadly there are a lot of them where cookie consent notices are concerned — it can look like it’s Europe’s data protection law that’s the ass because it seemingly demands all these meaningless ‘consent’ pop-ups, which just gloss over an ongoing background data grab anyway.

The truth is regulators should have slapped down these manipulative dark patterns years ago.

The problem now is that regulatory failure is encouraging political posturing — and, in a twisting double-back throw by the ICO! — regulatory thrusting around the idea that some newfangled mechanism is what’s really needed to remove all this universally inconvenient ‘friction’.

An idea like noyb’s ADPC does indeed look very useful in ironing out the widespread operational wrinkles wrapping the EU’s cookie consent rules. But when it’s the ICO suggesting a quick fix after the regulatory authority has failed so spectacularly over the long duration of complaints around this issue you’ll have to forgive us for being sceptical.

In such a context the notion of ‘cookie fatigue’ looks like it’s being suspiciously trumped up; fixed on as a convenient scapegoat to rechannel consumer frustration with hated online tracking toward high privacy standards — and away from the commercial data-pipes that demand all these intrusive, tedious cookie pop-ups in the first place — whilst neatly aligning with the UK government’s post-Brexit political priorities on ‘data’.

Worse still: The whole farcical consent pantomime — which the adtech industry has aggressively engaged in to try to sustain a privacy-hostile business model in spite of beefed up European privacy laws — could be set to end in genuine tragedy for user rights if standards end up being slashed to appease the law mockers.

The target of regulatory ire and political anger should really be the systematic law-breaking that’s held back privacy-respecting innovation and non-tracking business models — by making it harder for businesses that don’t abuse people’s data to compete.

Governments and regulators should not be trying to dismantle the principle of consent itself. Yet — at least in the UK — that does now look horribly possible.

Laws like GDPR set high standards for consent which — if they were but robustly enforced — could lead to reform of highly problematic practices like behavorial advertising combined with the out-of-control scale of programmatic advertising.

Indeed, we should already be seeing privacy-respecting forms of advertising being the norm, not the alternative — free to scale.

Instead, thanks to widespread inaction against systematic adtech breaches, there has been little incentive for publishers to reform bad practices and end the irritating ‘consent charade’ — which keeps cookie pop-ups mushrooming forth, oftentimes with ridiculously lengthy lists of data-sharing ‘partners’ (i.e. if you do actually click through the dark patterns to try to understand what is this claimed ‘choice’ you’re being offered).

As well as being a criminal waste of web users’ time, we now have the prospect of attention-seeking, politically charged regulators deciding that all this ‘friction’ justifies giving data-mining giants carte blanche to torch user rights — if the intention is to fire up the G7 to send a collect invite to the tech industry to come up with “practical” alternatives to asking people for their consent to track them — and all because authorities like the ICO have been too risk averse to actually defend users’ rights in the first place.

Dowden’s remarks last month suggest the UK government may be preparing to use cookie consent fatigue as convenient cover for watering down domestic data protection standards — at least if it can get away with the switcheroo.

Nothing in the ICO’s statement today suggests it would stand in the way of such a move.

Now that the UK is outside the EU, the UK government has said it believes it has an opportunity to deregulate domestic data protection — although it may find there are legal consequences for domestic businesses if it diverges too far from EU standards.

Denham’s call to the G7 naturally includes a few EU countries (the biggest economies in the bloc) but by targeting this group she’s also seeking to engage regulators further afield — in jurisdictions that currently lack a comprehensive data protection framework. So if the UK moves, cloaked in rhetoric of ‘Global Britain’, to water down its (EU-based) high domestic data protection standards it will be placing downward pressure on international aspirations in this area — as a counterweight to the EU’s geopolitical ambitions to drive global standards up to its level.

The risk, then, is a race to the bottom on privacy standards among Western democracies — at a time when awareness about the importance of online privacy, data protection and information security has actually never been higher.

Furthermore, any UK move to weaken data protection also risks putting pressure on the EU’s own high standards in this area — as the regional trajectory would be down not up. And that could, ultimately, give succour to forces inside the EU that lobby against its commitment to a charter of fundamental rights — by arguing such standards undermine the global competitiveness of European businesses.

So while cookies themselves — or indeed ‘cookie fatigue’ — may seem an irritatingly small concern, the stakes attached to this tug of war around people’s rights over what can happen to their personal data are very high indeed.

#advertising-tech, #amazon, #california, #canada, #cookie-consent-notices, #cookie-fatigue, #cookies, #data-protection, #data-protection-law, #data-security, #do-not-track, #elizabeth-denham, #europe, #european-union, #france, #g7, #general-data-protection-regulation, #germany, #google, #ireland, #italy, #japan, #noyb, #oliver-dowden, #online-privacy, #online-tracking, #privacy, #tc, #tracking, #uk-government, #united-kingdom, #united-states, #web-tracking

Customer experience startup Clootrack raises $4M, helps brands see through their customers’ eyes

Getting inside the mind of customers is a challenge as behaviors and demands shift, but Clootrack believes it has cracked the code in helping brands figure out how to do that.

It announced $4 million in Series A funding, led by Inventus Capital India, and included existing investors Unicorn India Ventures, IAN Fund and Salamander Excubator Angel Fund, as well as individual investment from Jiffy.ai CEO Babu Sivadasan. In total, the company raised $4.6 million, co-founder Shameel Abdulla told TechCrunch.

Clootrack is a real-time customer experience analytics platform that helps brands understand why customers stay or churn. Shameel Abdulla and Subbakrishna Rao, who both come from IT backgrounds, founded the company in 2017 after meeting years prior at Jiffstore, Abdulla’s second company that was acquired in 2015.

Clootrack team. Image Credits: Clootrack

Business-to-consumer and consumer brands often use customer satisfaction metrics like Net Promoter Score to understand the customer experience, but Abdulla said current methods don’t provide the “why” of those experiences and are slow, expensive and error-prone.

“The number of channels has increased, which means customers are talking to you, expressing their feedback and what they think in multiple places,” he added. “Word of mouth has gone digital, and you basically have to master the art of selling online.”

Clootrack turns the customer experience data from all of those first-party and third-party touchpoints — website feedback, chat bots, etc. — into granular, qualitative insights that give brands a look at drivers of the experience in hours rather than months so that they can stay on top of fast-moving trends.

Abdulla points to data that show a customer’s biggest driver of brand switch is the experience they receive. And, that if brands can reduce churns by 5%, they could be looking at an increase in profits of between 25% and 95%.

Most of the new funding will go to product development so that all data aggregations are gathered from all possible touchpoints. His ultimate goal is to be “the single platform for B2C firms.”

The company is currently working with over 150 customers in the areas of retail, direct-to-consumer, banking, automotive, travel and mobile app-based services. It is growing nine times year over year in revenue. It is mainly operating in India, but Clootrack is also onboarding companies in the U.S. and Europe.

Parag Dhol, managing director of Inventus, said he has known Abdulla for over five years. He had looked at one of Abdulla’s companies for investment, but had decided against it due to his firm being a Series A investor.

Dhol said market research needs an overhaul in India, where this type of technology is lagging behind the U.S.

“Clootrack has a very complementary team with Shameel being a complete CEO in terms of being a sales guy and serial entrepreneur who has learned his lessons, and Subbu, who is good at technology,” he added. “As CMOs realize the value in their unstructured data inside of their own database of the customer reviews and move to real-time feedback, these guys could make a serious dent in the space.”

 

#advertising-tech, #artificial-intelligence, #brand-management, #clootrack, #customer-experience, #customer-satisfaction, #ecommerce, #enterprise, #funding, #india, #inventus-capital-india, #parag-dhol, #product-management, #recent-funding, #retail, #shameel-abdulla, #startups, #subbakrishna-rao, #tc

Pixalate tunes into $18.1M for fraud prevention in television, mobile advertising

Pixalate raised $18.1 million in growth capital for its fraud protection, privacy and compliance analytics platform that monitors connected television and mobile advertising.

Western Technology Investment and Javelin Venture Partners led the latest funding round, which brings Pixalate’s total funding to $22.7 million to date. This includes a $4.6 million Series A round raised back in 2014, Jalal Nasir, founder and CEO of Pixalate, told TechCrunch.

The company, with offices in Palo Alto and London, analyzes over 5 million apps across five app stores and more 2 billion IP addresses across 300 million connected television devices to detect and report fraudulent advertising activity for its customers. In fact, there are over 40 types of invalid traffic, Nasir said.

Nasir grew up going to livestock shows with his grandfather and learned how to spot defects in animals, and he has carried that kind of insight to Pixalate, which can detect the difference between real and fake users of content and if fraudulent ads are being stacked or hidden behind real advertising that zaps smartphone batteries or siphons internet usage and even ad revenue.

Digital advertising is big business. Nasir cited Association of National Advertisers research that estimated $200 billion will be spent globally in digital advertising this year. This is up from $10 billion a year prior to 2010. Meanwhile, estimated ad fraud will cost the industry $35 billion, he added.

“Advertisers are paying a premium to be in front of the right audience, based on consumption data,” Nasir said. “Unfortunately, that data may not be authorized by the user or it is being transmitted without their consent.”

While many of Pixalate’s competitors focus on first-party risks, the company is taking a third-party approach, mainly due to people spending so much time on their devices. Some of the insights the company has found include that 16% of Apple’s apps don’t have privacy policies in place, while that number is 22% in Google’s app store. More crime and more government regulations around privacy mean that advertisers are demanding more answers, he said.

The new funding will go toward adding more privacy and data features to its product, doubling the sales and customer teams and expanding its office in London, while also opening a new office in Singapore.

The company grew 1,200% in revenue since 2014 and is gathering over 2 terabytes of data per month. In addition to the five app stores Pixalate is already monitoring, Nasir intends to add some of the China-based stores like Tencent and Baidu.

Noah Doyle, managing director at Javelin Venture Partners, is also monitoring the digital advertising ecosystem and said with networks growing, every linkage point exposes a place in an app where bad actors can come in, which was inaccessible in the past, and advertisers need a way to protect that.

“Jalal and Amin (Bandeali) have insight from where the fraud could take place and created a unique way to solve this large problem,” Doyle added. “We were impressed by their insight and vision to create an analytical approach to capturing every data point in a series of transactions —  more data than other players in the industry — for comprehensive visibility to help advertisers and marketers maintain quality in their advertising.”

 

#ad-fraud, #advertising-tech, #apps, #artificial-intelligence, #cloud, #digital-advertising, #enterprise, #funding, #jalal-nasir, #javelin-venture-partners, #marketing, #mobile, #mobile-advertising, #noah-doyle, #online-advertising, #pixalate, #recent-funding, #smartphone, #startups, #tc, #western-technology-investment

TikTok’s new Creator Marketplace API lets influencer marketing companies tap into first-party data

TikTok is making it easier for brands and agencies to work with the influencers using its service. The company is rolling out a new “TikTok Creator Marketplace API,” which allows marketing companies to integrate more directly with TikTok’s Creator Marketplace, the video app’s in-house influencer marketing platform.

On the Creator Marketplace website, launched in late 2019, marketers have been able to discover top TikTok personalities for their brand campaigns, then create and manage those campaigns and track their performance.

The new API, meanwhile, allows partnered marketing companies to access TikTok’s first-party data about audience demographics, growth trends, best-performing videos, and real-time campaign reporting (e.g. views, likes, shares, comments, engagement, etc.) for the first time.

They can then bring this data back into their own platforms, to augment the insights they’re already providing to their own customer base.

TikTok is not officially announcing the API until later in September, but it is allowing its alpha partners to discuss their early work.

One such partner is Capitv8, which tested the API with a NRF top 50 retailer on one of their first TikTok campaigns. The retailer wanted to discover a diverse and inclusive group of TikTok creators to partner with on a new collaboration and wanted help with launching its own TikTok channel. Captiv8 says the branded content received nearly 10 million views, and the campaign resulted in a “significant increase” in several key metrics, which performed about the Nielsen average. This included familiarity (+4% above average), affinity (+6%), purchase intent (+7%) and recommendation intent (+9%).

Image Credits: TikTok Creator Marketplace website

Capitv8 is now working with TikTok’s API to pull in audience demographics, to centralize influencer offers and activations, and to provide tools to boost branded content and monitor campaign performance. On that last front, the API allows the company to pull in real-time metrics from the TikTok Creator Marketplace API — which means Capitv8 is now one of only a handful of third-party companies with access to TikTok first-party data.

Another early alpha partner is Influential, who shared it’s also leveraging the API to access first-party insights on audience demographics, growth trends, best-performing videos, and more, to help its customer base of Fortune 1000 brands to identify the right creators for both native and paid advertising campaigns.

One partner it worked with was DoorDash, who launched multiple campaigns on TikTok with Influential’s help. It’s also planning to work with McDonald’s USA on several new campaigns that will run this year, including those focused on the chain’s new Crispy Chicken Sandwich and the return of Spicy McNuggets.

Other early alpha partners include Whalar and INCA. The latter is currently only available in the U.K. and its integration stems from the larger TikTok global partnership with WPP, announced in February. That deal provided WPP agencies with early access to new advertising products marketing API integrations, and new AR offerings, among other things.

Creator marketplaces are now common to social media platforms with large influencer communities as this has become a standard way to advertise to online consumers, particular the younger generation. Facebook today offers its Brands Collabs Manager, for both Facebook and Instagram; YouTube has BrandConnect; while Snapchat recently announced a marketplace to connect brands with Lens creators. These type of in-house platforms make it easier for marketers to work with the wider influencer community by offering trusted data on metrics that matter to brands’ own ROI, rather than relying on self-reported data from influencers or on data they have to manually collect themselves. And as campaigns run, marketers can compare how well their partnered creators are able to drive results to inform their future collaborations.

TikTok isn’t making a formal announcement about its new API at this time, telling TechCrunch the technology is still in pilot testing phases for the time being.

“Creators are the lifeblood of our platform, and we’re constantly thinking of new ways to make it easy for them to connect and collaborate with brands. We’re thrilled to be integrating with an elite group of trusted partners to help brands discover and work with diverse creators who can share their message in an authentic way,” said Melissa Yang, TikTok’s Head of Ecosystem Partnerships, in a statement provided to select marketing company partners.

 

#advertising-tech, #alpha, #api, #apps, #articles, #bytedance, #developer, #doordash, #elite, #head, #partner, #software, #tiktok, #united-kingdom, #wpp

Owner.com serves up $10.7M so that independent restaurants can get cooking

Independent restaurants don’t typically have the luxury to create their own online food ordering and delivery capabilities or negotiate for lower rates from legacy ordering platforms like the large restaurant chains do.

Here’s where Owner.com comes in. The Beverly Hills-based company provides a free online ordering, delivery and marketing platform for independent restaurants that puts them on similar playing fields with the big guys. And unlike the legacy food delivery services, Owner.com restaurants own their customer data and can automate marketing campaigns.

Adam Guild is the company’s 21-year-old co-founder and CEO, a high school dropout and a Thiel Fellow, who originally started by assisting his mother’s dog grooming business that was having difficulties attracting customers. After stepping in with some online marketing methods, her business grew, and later expanded into multiple locations. Guild then wanted to work with a bigger group of people and stumbled across restaurants while helping some clients create online landing pages.

With consumer demand shifting to primarily online ordering and delivery over the past 18 months, online ordering revenue is expected to double from $248 billion in 2020 to $449 billion by 2025. Ordering platforms like Doordash, Uber Eats and Grubhub control 80% of orders and typically charge between 20% and 30% per order to restaurants and additional fees to consumers.

In contrast, Owner.com is free for restaurants and charges customers a flat $4 fee when they order from the website. Guild explained that larger restaurant chains have the buying power to negotiate lower rates, while independent restaurants do not. With the inability to keep up, some 110,000 restaurants in the U.S. closed in 2020.

Guild initially bootstrapped his company, working with large restaurant chains, like P.F. Chang’s, drive online orders. Then the global pandemic hit. He ended up losing all of his revenue and had to let all of his employees go but one. To add to his bad luck, he was then rejected from Y Combinator and other accelerator programs.

“For the first three days, I was depressed,” Guild told TechCrunch. “I had spent two years building a company and now it was dead. In the same way we were disrupted, I began to think there was no better position to be in than a scrappy startup. I didn’t know what the next business would look like, so I started cold-calling restaurant owners, asking how I can be helpful and what type of technology they were looking for. Many of them told me that online ordering sucked, but if they didn’t solve it soon, they would go out of business.”

One pivot and a year later with co-founder Dean Bloembergen, Owner.com closed on $10.7 million in seed funding led by SaaStr Fund, with participation from Redpoint Ventures and Day One Ventures, as well as a group of individual investors including Naval Ravikant, CNBC’s The Profit host Marcus Lemonis, The Kitchen Restaurant Group’s Kimbal Musk, DoNotPay founder Joshua Browder, Figma founder Dylan Field, The Chainsmokers and independent restaurant owners and customers of Owner.com.

Jason Lemkin, founder of SaaStr Fund, said restaurant SaaS was a space in which his firm was interested in investing, but thought it was a bit boring — there were already quite a few vendors in the space, like Toast and Grubhub, and most were just technology solutions. However, when he heard that Owner.com was a break-out company from the monotony, he said he had to take a look.

“The ability to own the customer relationship is that ultimate differentiation,” Lemkin said. “Their ultimate goal is to provide a robust technology platform to increase margins, have people order more and come back often.”

Meanwhile, Guild intends to use the new funding to continue product development and add new features like landing pages, the ability to make reservations and native apps for white-label service.

Since the launch last year, the company has reached a seven-figure run-rate and over 105% monthly revenue retention across over 700 restaurant locations, Guild said. To date, Owner.com has transacted over $18 million and helped its restaurant customers avoid paying $3 million to online order platform fees annually.

“It’s all about empowering the 40% of the restaurant industry that is run by people who started off in entry-level positions, and over the years, worked their way up to own the ‘American Dream,’ ” he added.

 

#adam-guild, #advertising-tech, #day-one-ventures, #dean-bloembergen, #ecommerce, #enterprise, #food-delivery, #funding, #jason-lemkin, #online-food-ordering, #owner-com, #recent-funding, #redpoint-ventures, #saastr-fund, #startups, #tc, #the-chainsmokers

Flip bags $28M to turn beauty, wellness social commerce on its head

Social commerce startup Flip is mixing live commerce mobile apps with real customer reviews to improve the buying experience and opportunity for the creator economy. Today, the Los Angeles-based company closed on a $28 million Series A led Streamlined Ventures.

Nooruldeen “Noor” Agha, a serial e-commerce entrepreneur, founded Flip in 2019 after emigrating to the United States from Iraq. He had previously lived in Dubai, where he built some companies in the e-commerce space.

It was while leading the companies that he realized that the vision of commerce was broken and that people had a fragmented path to purchase: They may start on social media, then move to video platforms and conclude on yet another site to make the purchase.

Agha believes the future of e-commerce will be driven by shoppers and the experiences they have with social media, so Flip is pulling all of those experiences into one app, mixing in user-generated reviews and live shopping shows for beauty, wellness and health brands. It then adds same-day shipping and back-end logistics, Agha told TechCrunch. Users post video reviews of their purchases and can see in real-time data how they did, as well as receive commissions from sales that resulted from their posts.

“It’s not only a social platform, it is the best post-purchase experience — shipping, rewards, returns — everything people love and in a two-click process,” he added. “Our app is like if TikTok and Amazon had a baby.”

Joining Streamlined Ventures in the latest round is Mubadala Capital Ventures, BDMI and a group of early backers and angel investors, including Ruby Lu, an early investor in Kuaishou, China’s leading social commerce platform. In total, Flip raised $31.5 million, which includes a small seed two years ago, Agha said.

He intends to use the new funding to scale the company and its creator ecosystem, while also expanding the end-to-end logistics part of the platform.

Live commerce originated in China, where McKinsey estimates the market reached $171 billion in 2020 and will jump to a valuation of $423 billion by 2022. Meanwhile, U.S. live commerce market is trailing behind, expecting to reach $11 billion by the end of 2021.

Flip is now signing an average of 20 new brands per week and has already gained partnerships with Unilever and Coty. Agha expects to hit 500 brands by this year’s holiday season. In addition, the company has 1 million downloads and in the last quarter shopped out 30,000 orders, which Agha predicts will double in coming months.

“We were hiding on purpose so we could build out everything and be done when we launched,” he added. “We focused on onboarding brands instead of pushing for growth, but now we expect to have a grand launch at the end of September where we start aggressively pushing growth.”

Ullas Naik, founder and general partner of Streamlined Ventures, said his firm does a lot of investment in e-commerce and marketplaces and was one of the first investors in DoorDash and also backed Rappi.

Commerce has evolved over the past 20 years in a meaningful way, he said. During that time, spend shifted from retail and online, while the quality of the experience has also evolved. He has seen evidence of similar models in other geographies, particularly in China when they have “had massive success.”

“We are most intrigued with how live commerce intersects with social networking to create enhanced shopping experiences,” Naik said. “When I met with Noor and he told me he was going to start with beauty and cosmetics, I thought he was building a unique experience and wanted him to be in a broad range of categories, not just beauty. With what he is building on the back end, with the logistics piece, he is creating a super experience and I’m intrigued by what can be built.”

#advertising-tech, #apps, #bdmi, #ecommerce, #flip, #funding, #mubadala-capital-ventures, #nooruldeen-noor-agha, #recent-funding, #retailers, #social-commerce, #social-media, #social-networking, #startups, #streamlined-ventures, #supply-chain-management, #tc, #ullas-naik, #video

Thatch using $3M round to put travel creators on the map

After a difficult year, the travel industry is gaining steam again this summer and Thatch is carving out a space for itself in the sector by enabling travel creators to monetize their recommendations.

Today the company announced a $3 million Seed II round led by Wave Capital. They were joined by Freestyle VC’s Jenny Lefcourt, Netflix co-founder Marc Randolph and Airbnb’s head of data science for user trust, Kapil Gupta. It brings Thatch’s total investment to $5.2 million since the company was founded by West Askew, Abby West and Shane Farmer in 2018.

Prior to the global pandemic, the company was a subscription-based consumer travel service that matched travelers with someone who would essentially plan their trips from top to bottom. Then the industry came to a grinding halt in 2020, and the co-founders saw a bigger need to help travel creators — those who share their experiences on social media — better connect to their followers and capture value for the travel recommendations, tips and perspectives they create.

“We noticed consumers were willing to pay individuals for their time and expertise,” Abby West told TechCrunch. “Increasingly, instead of going to travel agencies, they are going to Instagram or YouTube and then DM’ing them for information. We are formalizing that relationship so that the travel creator can get paid and can then provide a better experience for the end user.”

Askew and West say travel creators drive billions of dollars of consumer travel spending. Thatch’s free mobile app provides tools for them to build their own travel-based businesses in order to curate, share and will soon be able to sell interactive travel guides and planning services. Thatch makes money when the creators do, taking a small percentage of the transactions.

While the pandemic was detrimental to the travel industry, it gave the Thatch team time to build out its app, and now it is focused on building the creator side and marketing to attract creators to the app. This is where the new funding will come in: The company intends to hire additional engineers, build out new content and launch new features for selling or earning tips on interactive guides that creators produce in the app.

Thatch app. Image Credits: Thatch

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Among the travel creators already using the app, their audience reach is over 12 million, and the company saw a bump in usage in July, a sign that the travel industry is improving, Askew said.

Following the seed, the company will go live with the monetization and booking features so the creators can get paid, and it is looking at a strong first quarter in terms of potential bookings. The founders also want to attract larger creators and build a network for them, with Askew saying they need to be considered like the small businesses that they are and wants to help them grow.

“There is unfortunately a graveyard full of travel companies, but we are doing things differently,” West said. “We are unique with our people-to-people angle, and in this case, with people who have a built-in audience and who are trusted by that audience. That is something we don’t see in this space today.”

Wave Capital’s general partner Riley Newman said he and his other general partner, Sara Adler, both former Airbnb executives, were introduced to the company through one of Thatch’s existing investors.

His firm typically invests in marketplaces at the seed stage and the investment in Thatch marks the first into the travel sector, saying, “It is one we know well from Airbnb and a good moment to dive back into the industry.”

The travel market is poised for growth in the years ahead, especially with the pent-up demand for travel post-pandemic, Newman said. At the same time, the creator economy is on the same trajectory to democratize travel planning similar to the way he said Airbnb did, and that was a compelling vision for Wave Capital.

“Travel planning has been around for a long time, but this is an interesting new angle,” Newman added. “We look at the founding team and see Abby and West having complementary backgrounds and energy. This is a good moment for travel given their approach, and their concept for attacking the market is right and needed.”

#abby-west, #advertising-tech, #airbnb, #apps, #ecommerce, #freestyle-vc, #funding, #jenny-lefcourt, #kapil-gupta, #marc-randolph, #recent-funding, #riley-newman, #sara-adler, #shane-farmer, #social-media, #startups, #tc, #thatch, #travel, #travel-industry, #travel-recommendations, #vacation-rental, #wave-capital, #west-askew

NBA All-Star Chris Paul joins digital media startup Greenfly’s growth round

Greenfly’s latest funding round has a new face: Phoenix Suns point guard Chris Paul joined as a strategic investor and partner in the company, which developed digital media flow management software.

Paul’s investment is part of an $8.4 million strategic growth round that also includes Verance Capital, Higher Ground Labs, DD Venture Capital, SW19 Ventures, LinkinFirm and Allievo Capital, as well as existing investors Go4it Capital, Elysian Park Ventures, Alpha Edison and Iconica Partners.

The new round gives Los Angeles-based Greenfly over $23 million raised since the company was founded in 2014 by former Major League Baseball All-Star Shawn Green and his cousin Daniel Kirschner, who previously held senior roles at the U.S. Department of Justice, the Federal Communications Commission and Activision Blizzard.

Green and Kirschner saw how social media was driving new sources of revenue for organizations like sports teams, politics and consumer brands, but needed a way for real-time distribution of media to be easily shared. Kirschner explained that when Green first started in his career, there were times when he needed to provide feedback for a public moment, like when his home run record was tied, and it occurred to Green that they could build a mini media studio.

Paul, an 11-time National Basketball Association All-Star, was one of Greenfly’s early adopters, using the platform to share content to his social media channels following his games. However, Paul realized he was also sitting on valuable content within his phone, like game or event photos, but without a good system for easily accessing them or matching them to events going on at that moment. He considers Greenfly “instant access to a media gallery” that he can share on his social media accounts.

One of the best features, he explained, was seeing a post on social media with only two photos of an event, but while searching Greenfly, he came across 12 to 15 other photos that he had never seen. He believes the company will continue to grow, and as a partner, will work with Greenfly to build awareness for the platform and get other players involved.

“I’m a big believer of creating memories and seeing photos,” Paul told TechCrunch. “You can go in and search for my name and Devin Booker’s and see photos of us playing together. The NBA uses Greenfly to automate the media and share with others. I love it because it makes it easy — you don’t want something hard and complicated.”

Instead of just repurposing materials, Greenfly will continue to build a workflow around events that provides sourcing, creation and automated distribution of photos and short-form videos created for social media.

Greenfly is also working on increased improvements to curate media most relevant to users, and is collecting data to provide more insights around that so that users can manage relationships with their community to amplify their messages. The new funding will go toward growth and expansion to build additional collaboration tools and content as more players sign on.

“With Chris, it is an opportunity to come at it from the athlete’s perspective,” Kirschner said. “Our deals are mainly with leagues and teams, so to be working with athletes, who are their own brands, enables us to be the system of record for all sides.”

The past year was a big growth period for the company, and it had been reaching a tipping point just prior to 2020, he added. Greenfly is now working with more than 30 sports leagues, including the NBA, Major League Baseball and World Surf League.

It also boasts over 500 organizations in sports, media and entertainment, political campaigns, social causes and consumer brands, and is experiencing over 100% growth so far in 2021, Kirschner said.

With social media evolving, the company is looking for more polished content because it learned that stories and intimate content performs better.

“We set out to build a content collaboration platform to provide content that athletes and others can share on social media and also manage that workflow around large, complex organizations,” he added. “Organizations have lots of content and we make that available through routing tools and curation, making it easy to find what you are looking for.”

#advertising-tech, #allievo-capital, #alpha-edison, #apps, #athlete, #chris-paul, #collaboration-tools, #daniel-kirschner, #dd-venture-capital, #entertainment, #funding, #greenfly, #higher-ground-labs, #linkinfirm, #major-league-baseball, #media, #national-basketball-association, #recent-funding, #shawn-green, #social, #social-media, #startups, #sw19-ventures, #tc, #verance-capital

Greycroft leads $3.5M into Breef, an online marketplace for ad agencies

Breef raised $3.5 million in funding to continue developing what it boasts as “the world’s first online marketplace” for transactions between brands and agencies.

Greycroft led the round and was joined by Rackhouse Ventures, The House Fund, John and Helen McBain, Lance Armstrong and 640 Oxford Ventures. Including the new round, the New York and Colorado-based company has brought in total funding of $4.5 million since its inception in 2019 by husband-and-wife co-founders George Raptis and Emily Bibb.

Bibb’s background is in digital marketing and brand building at companies like PopSugar, VSCO and S’well, while Raptis was on the founding team at fintech company Credible.com.

Both said they experienced challenges in finding agencies, which traditionally involved asking for referrals and then making a bunch of calls. There were also times when their companies would be in high demand for talent, but didn’t necessarily need a full-time employee to achieve the goal or project milestone.

While the concept of outsourcing is not new, Breef’s differentiator is its ability to manage complex projects: a traditional individual freelance project is less than $1,000 and takes a week or less. Instead, the company is working with team-based projects that average $25,000 with a length of engagement of about six months, Raptis said.

Breef’s platform is democratizing how brands and boutique agencies connect with each other in the process of planning, scoping, pitching and paying for projects, Raptis told TechCrunch.

“At the core, we are taking the agency online,” Bibb added. “We are building a platform to streamline a complicated process for outsourcing high-value work and allow users to find, pay for and work with agencies in days rather than months.”

Brands can draft their own brief to articulate what they need, and Breef will connect them to a short list of agencies that match those requirements. Rather than a one- or two-month search, the company is able to bring that down to five days.

Bibb and Raptis decided to seek venture capital after experiencing demand — millions of dollars in projects are being created on the platform each month — and some tailwinds from the shift to remote work. They saw many brands that may have originally utilized in-house teams or agencies of record turn to distributed or smaller teams.

Due to the nature of agency work being expensive, Breef is processing large amounts of money over the internet, and the founders want to continue developing the technology and hiring talent so that it is a secure and trustworthy system.

It also launched its buy now, pay later project funding service, Breef(pay), to streamline payments to agencies and reduce cash flow challenges. Users can construct their own payment terms, mix up the way they are paid and utilize a credit line or defer payments to control external spend.

To date, Breef has more than 5,000 vetted boutique agencies in 20 countries on its platform and is able to save its users an average of 32% in product costs compared with a traditional agency model. It boasts a customer list that includes Spotify, Brex, Shutterstock, Bluestone Lane and Kinrgy.

Kevin Novak, founder of Rackhouse Ventures, said he met Raptis through the Australian tech community. He recently launched his first fund targeting startups in novel applications of data.

“When they were talking to me about what they wanted to do, I got intrigued,” Novak said. “I like finding marketplaces where the idea is well understood by the people involved. Looking at the matching problem, Emily and George have found a unique way to find ad agencies that hasn’t existed before.”

 

#advertising-tech, #breef, #emily-bibb, #enterprise, #funding, #george-raptis, #greycroft, #hiring, #kevin-novak, #lance-armstrong, #online-marketplace, #outsourcing, #payments, #rackhouse-ventures, #recent-funding, #startups, #tc, #the-house-fund

Audio out-of-home advertising is reinventing personalization

Do you remember the first time you received a personalized ad? Perhaps you discussed a product with a friend, and the next day, an advertisement for that product popped up on social media. It almost makes you think someone’s listening to your conversations, doesn’t it?

Over time, consumers have become increasingly skeptical about ads like these — and for good reason. A 2019 Accenture study found many customers felt brands communicated in a way they felt was too personal — and 71% of those customers worried how the brands had acquired personal information they hadn’t voluntarily shared.

First-, second- and third-party data make it possible to generate hyperpersonalized ads. But these data collection efforts fall short. Consumers find these methods invasive and a breach of trust — and the data collected is often inaccurate. Google’s third-party cookie is going away, and Apple has made recent changes to its Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA), but no one has clarified the effect of these changes on advertisers’ or marketers’ abilities to reach and remarket consumers.

Many advertisers have begun leveraging AOOH as a more significant part of their brand and marketing strategy to improve reach, frequency and overall business outcomes.

It’s not so much that customers don’t appreciate ads targeting their interests — the concern lies in the methods marketers use to collect data and how consumers can maintain control over what personal data they choose to share. Interestingly, as consumer demands for personalization have increased, according to the 2021 State of Ad Personalization report, half of marketers have yet to invest in ad personalization.

Personalization and data play a vital role in the success of marketing and advertising campaigns today. Brands and their marketing departments must think outside the box and use a more targeted medium not predicated on invading privacy but designed, nevertheless, to provide a unique, personalized experience for in-store shoppers: audio out-of-home (AOOH) technology.

AOOH technology does not request the use of personal data to work effectively. Instead, it focuses on the in-store customer experience. AOOH broadcasts premium music and programmatic advertisements to enrich customer experiences and reach shoppers directly at the point of sale, influencing buying decisions and positively impacting sales.

The current generation of personalization and data collection

In the marketing world, personalization has many nuances. Ultimately, marketers see its goal as providing a unique experience to every individual based on personal preferences and data. The current generation of personalization in marketing is not about collecting cookies or third-party data, merchandising or guesswork.

Today’s personalization focuses instead on delivering the right content, the right offer, the right channel and, most importantly, the right sequence of events generating value exchange between the brand and the consumer.

Although consumers don’t trust superpersonalized ads, they still expect brands to offer a personalized experience. Ninety-one percent of consumers polled in another Accenture study indicated a willingness to shop brands with some form of personalization.

On the other hand, personalization in audio advertising has seen significant growth over the past 15 years, as reflected by a willingness by brands to invest in this medium. A recent report predicts an astonishing 84% growth in digital audio ad revenue for 2025 compared to 2019.

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Former Snap employees raise $9M for Trust, emerging from beta to level marketing playing field

Trust wants to give smaller businesses the same advantages that large enterprises have when marketing on digital and social media platforms. It came out of beta with $9 million in seed funding from Lerer Hippeau, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Upfront Ventures and Upper90.

The Los Angeles-based company was started in 2019 by a group of five Snap alums working in various roles within Snap’s revenue product strategy business. They were building tools for businesses to fund success with digital marketing, but kept hearing from customers about the advantage big advertisers had over smaller ones — the ability to receive good payment terms, credit lines, as well as data and advice.

Aiming to flip the script on that, the group created Trust, which is a card and business community to help digital businesses navigate the ever-changing pricing models to market online, receive the same incentives larger advertisers get and make the best decision of where their marketing dollars will reach the furthest.