Category: Advertising Tech

Outbrain raises $200 million ahead of its IPO



Outbrain, an adtech company that provides clickbait ads below news articles, has raised $200 million in funding — Outbrain didn’t disclose the valuation of the company for this deal. The Baupost Group is investing in the company — it’s a Boston-based hedge fund. Outbrain filed for an initial public offering just last week. Today’s funding round should be the last traditional private investment round before going public.

If you’re not familiar with Outbrain, you may have seen its content recommendation widgets on popular news websites, such as CNN, Le Monde and The Washington Post. They mostly feature sponsored links that lead to third-party websites.

“We are excited to announce this investment from The Baupost Group, who share our vision and commitment for our business, our team and our future prospects” co-CEO David Kostman said in a statement.

Outbrain is often compared with its rival Taboola. While both startups planned to merge at some point, they had to cancel their merger. Taboola already went public after merging with a SPAC — a special purpose acquisition company. Taboola shares started trading last week.

In its IPO filing, Outbrain reported $767 million in revenue for 2020 and $228 million in revenue for the first quarter of 2021 alone. In 2020, Outbrain managed to generate $4.4 million in net income. During Q1 2021, the company reported $10.7 million in net income.

“We proudly lead the recommendation space we created. We have bold plans for the future to continue delivering critical (Read more...)

Outbrain raises $200 million ahead of its IPO



Outbrain, an adtech company that provides clickbait ads below news articles, has raised $200 million in funding — Outbrain didn’t disclose the valuation of the company for this deal. The Baupost Group is investing in the company — it’s a Boston-based hedge fund. Outbrain filed for an initial public offering just last week. Today’s funding round should be the last traditional private investment round before going public.

If you’re not familiar with Outbrain, you may have seen its content recommendation widgets on popular news websites, such as CNN, Le Monde and The Washington Post. They mostly feature sponsored links that lead to third-party websites.

“We are excited to announce this investment from The Baupost Group, who share our vision and commitment for our business, our team and our future prospects” co-CEO David Kostman said in a statement.

Outbrain is often compared with its rival Taboola. While both startups planned to merge at some point, they had to cancel their merger. Taboola already went public after merging with a SPAC — a special purpose acquisition company. Taboola shares started trading last week.

In its IPO filing, Outbrain reported $767 million in revenue for 2020 and $228 million in revenue for the first quarter of 2021 alone. In 2020, Outbrain managed to generate $4.4 million in net income. During Q1 2021, the company reported $10.7 million in net income.

“We proudly lead the recommendation space we created. We have bold plans for the future to continue delivering critical (Read more...)

MoviePass co-founder’s PreShow Interactive raises $3M to expand into gaming



PreShow Interactive is giving gamers a new way to earn in-game currency in exchange for watching ads — a concept that’s become familiar in mobile games but hasn’t really made much headway on PCs or consoles.

The startup is led by MoviePass’ founding CEO Stacy Spikes. When I spoke to Spikes about PreShow two years ago, he was beta testing an app that provided users with free movie tickets in exchange for watching ads. But obviously, theatrical moviegoing has taken a big hit in the past year.

Spikes told me yesterday that he’d always hoped to bring the PreShow concept to four categories — theatrical movies, gaming, subscription streaming and video on demand — but the pandemic forced the startup to shift focus more quickly than expected and explore what a gaming experience might look like.

The current plans is to launch a new PreShow Interactive app this summer, where viewers can connect their in-game accounts and identify how much virtual currency they want to earn. Then they watch a package of ads and PreShow will automatically transfer the currency to their account — in other words, it’s buying the currency for them.

Users will have to download a separate app to watch the ads and get the benefits, but Spikes said this is actually better than trying to integrate advertising or branded content into the game itself, which can be a slow process for the developer and the advertiser, while also being distracting for the players. And this (Read more...)

Catch&Release raises $14M to help marketers find and license content from across the web



Catch&Release founder and CEO Analisa Goodin told me that she wants to help brands break free from the limitations of stock photography — and that her startup has raised $14 million in Series A funding to achieve that goal.

Goodin explained that the company started out as an image research firm before becoming a product-focused, venture-backed startup in 2015. The Series A was led by Accel (with participation from Cervin Ventures and other existing investors), and it brings Catch&Release’s total funding to $26 million.

Stock media and video services are moving in this direction themselves, for example by introducing their own libraries of user-generated content. Goodin applauded this, and she said Catch&Release isn’t opposed to the use of stock photos — it integrates with these stock marketplaces. At the same time, she suggested that she has a much bigger vision.

“This isn’t just about UGC, this is about tapping into the creative potential of the internet,” she said.

After all, you can now find pretty much any kind of content you can imagine somewhere online, but “a lot of advertising agencies and brands have been trained that if a piece of content comes form internet, avoid it,” because it’s just “too hard” to figure out how to license it.

Catch&Release screenshot

Image Credits: Catch&Release

Catch&Release aims to make that process as simple as possible, first with a browser extension that allows marketers to save any media that they find on the web, anytime they think they might want to use in (Read more...)

Quiq acquires Snaps to create a combined customer messaging platform



At first glance, Quiq and Snaps might sound like similar startups — they both help businesses talk to their customers via text messaging and other messaging apps. But Snaps CEO Christian Brucculeri said “there’s almost no overlap in what we do” and that the companies are “almost complete complements.”

That’s why Quiq (based in Bozeman, Montana) is acquiring Snaps (based in New York). The entire Snaps team is joining Quiq, with Brucculeri becoming senior vice president of sales and customer success for the combined organization.

Quiq CEO Mike Myer echoed Bruccleri’s point, comparing the situation to dumping two pieces of a jigsaw puzzle on the floor and discovering “the two pieces fit perfectly.” More specifically, he told me that Quiq has generally focused on customer service messaging, with a “do it yourself, toolset approach.” After all, the company was founded by two technical co-founders, and Myer joked, “We can’t understand why [a customer] can’t just call an API.”

Snaps, meanwhile, has focused more on marketing conversations, and on a managed service approach where it handles all of the technical work for its customers. In addition, Myer said that while Quiq has “really focused on platform aspect from beginning” — building integrations with more than a dozen messaging channels including Apple Business Chat, Google’s Business Messages, Instagram, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp — it doesn’t have “a deep natural language or conversational AI capability” the way Snaps does.

Myer added that demand (Read more...)

Holler raises $36M to power ‘conversational media’ in your favorite apps



Holler, described by founder and CEO Travis Montaque as “a conversational media company,” just announced that it’s raised $36 million in Series B funding.

You may not know what conversational media is, but there’s a decent chance you’ve used Holler’s technology. For example, if you’ve added a sticker or a GIF to your Venmo payments, Holler actually manages the app’s search and suggestion experience around that media. (You may notice a little “powered by Holler” identifier at the bottom of the window.)

Montaque told me the company started out initially as a news and video content app before focusing on messaging in 2016. Messaging, he argued, is “the most important experience for people online,” since “it’s where we communicate with the people who are closest to us.”

He continued, “It seemed bizarre that we haven’t seen much innovation in the text messaging experience since the first text message was sent in 1992.”

So Holler works with partners like PayPal-owned Venmo and The Meet Group to bring more compelling content into the messaging side of their apps — or as Montaque put it, the startup aims to “enrich conversations everywhere.”

Holler/Venmo screenshot

Image Credits: Holler

There’s both an art and a science to this, he said. The art involves creating and curating the best stickers and GIFs, while the science takes the form of Holler’s Suggestion AI technology, which will recommend the right content based on the user’s conversations and contexts — the stickers and GIFs you want to send in a (Read more...)

Ketch raises $23M to automate privacy and data compliance



Ketch, a startup aiming to help businesses navigate the increasingly complex world of online privacy regulation and data compliance, is announcing that it has raised $23 million in Series A funding.

The company is also officially coming out of stealth. I actually wrote about Ketch’s free PrivacyGrader tool last year, but now it’s revealing the broader vision, as well as the products that businesses will actually be paying for.

The startup was founded by CEO Tom Chavez and CTO Vivek Vaidya. The pair previously founded Krux, a data management platform acquired by Salesforce in 2016, and Vaidya told me that Ketch is the answer to a question that they’d begun to ask themselves: “What kind of infrastructure can we build that will make our former selves better?”

Chavez said that Ketch is designed to help businesses automate the process of remaining compliant with data regulations, wherever their visitors and customers are. He suggested that with geographically specific regulations like Europe’s GDPR in place, there’s a temptation to comply globally with the most stringent rules, but that’s not necessary or desirable.

“It’s possible to use data to grow and to comply with the regulations,” Chavez said. “One of our customers turned off digital marketing completely in order to comply. This has got to stop […] They are a very responsible customer, but they didn’t know there are tools to navigate this complexity.”

Ketch orchestration screenshot

Image Credits: Ketch

The pair also suggested that things are even more complex than you might think, because true (Read more...)

E-commerce marketing startup Yotpo raises $230M at a $1.4B valuation



Barely more than seven months after its most recent funding announcement, Yotpo is revealing that it has raised another $230 million in a Series F round that values the company at $1.4 billion (post-money).

“Our round, in my eyes, it’s all about celebrating the future of e-commerce,” co-founder and CEO Tomer Tagrin told me. “Brands don’t need to worry about connecting the marketing stack anymore.”

Where success in traditional retail has been determined by “location, location, location,” Tagrin said e-commerce is “all about consumer attention.” To capture that attention, he estimated the average brand is using 10 to 14 different marketing applications, creating a “pretty horrible experience.” So Yotpo — founded in 2011 and headquartered in New York City — aims to provide all of a brand’s e-commerce marketing needs in a single, integrated platform.

To illustrate this, Tagrin described a marketer wanting to create a customized offer just for users who had both purchased a product in the past 90 days and left a five-star review. Yotpo allows them to do that with “just the click of a button,” whereas “that experience was just not feasible before Yotpo,” he said.

The platform currently consists of four main products — Yotpo SMS Marketing, Yotpo Loyalty & Referrals, Yotpo Reviews and Yotpo Visual UGC — which integrate with each other, as well as with e-commerce platforms such as Shopify, Salesforce Commerce Cloud, Adobe-owned Magento and BigCommerce.

Yotpo CEO Tomer Tagrin

Yotpo CEO Tomer Tagrin

Tagrin said Yotpo still had money leftover from the last round but it (Read more...)

Audience engagement startup Trufan raises $2.3M



Trufan, a startup selling tools helping marketers analyze their social followings and collect audience data, announced today that it has raised a $2.3 million seed round.

Despite raising a relatively small amount of funding ($4.1 million total), Trufan has already made two notable acquisitions. First, it acquired the SocialRank product and business in 2019, allowing it to offer capabilities like showing brands their most valuable social media followers. Then last year, it acquired Playr.gg, which marketers use to run giveaways that consumers enter by providing information such as their email addresses.

Across its products, Trufan says it has more than 10,000 free users and more than 600 paying customers, including Netflix, NBA, NFL, Sony Music and United Talent Agency.

Next up, the startup plans to integrate the two main products and launch a consolidated, privacy-compliant customer data and audience engagement platform with new branding and pricing. Co-founder and CEO Swish Goswami told me that the platform should be particularly attractive as regulators introduce new privacy regulations, Apple and Google add new restrictions to ad targeting based on third-party data and as consumers become more sensitive to how their data is used.

Trufan Founders

Trufan founders Aanikh Kler and Swish Goswami. Image Credits: Trufan

“People do not want to be tracked anonymously,” Goswami said. “People do not want their data taken away, but most of those people are attracted to the idea of data sharing if they get something in exchange.”

He added that it’s particularly important for brands to build up (Read more...)

Martech company Zeta Global raises $222.5M in debt



Zeta Global, the marketing technology company founded by David A. Steinberg and former Apple CEO John Sculley, is announcing an additional $222.5 million in new debt financing.

The company has gone down the debt route before — a Series F raised in 2017 combined $115 million funding with $25 million in debt. BofA Securities served as lead arranger and bookrunner for the new financing, with participation from Barclays, Credit Suisse and Morgan Stanley Senior Funding.

“For this round, we were able to both refinance our debt and add in a large amount of capacity for current operations and future initiatives,” Steinberg (Zeta’s CEO) told me via email. “We were able to work with our syndicate to capture a low interest-rate and take advantage of the strong credit markets.”

The company emphasizes its data-driven approach to marketing, combining companies’ first-party data with artificial intelligence and what it says are more than 2.4 billion customer identifiers. Steinberg said this approach has only become more crucial, with 2020 delivering “a five-year acceleration” as brands face the challenge of “digitally transforming their business structure to be data-centric.”

“Zeta’s capabilities are helping marketers engage customers across the entire digital ecosystem more intelligently and efficiently, with individualized messages, offers, and content by way of our identity-based data and predictive AI,” Steinberg continued. “Our challenge is to continue to keep up with our customers’ needs and maintain our competitive advantage around data and AI.”

The company’s funding announcement notes that previous loans have been used to finance acquisitions and (Read more...)