5 reasons I’m invested in Embrace.io

A few weeks ago, I shared the news on my investment in Embrace.io and their raise of $2.5 million from investors including Eniac Ventures, the Chernin Group, Techstars Ventures and BoxGroup.

After spending a year in stealth mode, listening to their market and building, Embrace.io launched with a clear mission: helping developers better understand how their apps are performing. Having lived the challenges of building, releasing and managing enterprise-scale apps from my days as CEO of appssavvy, I totally got this value proposition.

A large percentage of an app’s performance issues have nothing to do with crashes, though they tend to get treated that way. So, when something goes wrong, engineers are forced to crawl through the muck of issue discovery and diagnosis using a bunch of disconnected tools that weren’t even made for mobile. It’s a waste of time, a pain in the ass, and app teams hate it.

So, when I saw what Embrace.io has to offer (basically, a single tool to identify, visualize, diagnose and fix app performance problems), and the layer of detail they’re able to get to on the individual user level, I knew I was looking at a winner on the tech side. But what makes a company really worth investing in for me goes way beyond their tech. In the case of Embrace.io, here’s everything I saw that convinced me this one was going to be a winner:

Founders who’ve had success. Eric Futoran (cofounder of Scopely, which just raised another $60 million) is a winner, period. So are Eric’s cofounders, Maggie Shih and Fredric Newberg. As people who have built, taken to market and performance-managed some of the top grossing game apps of all time, including Walking Dead and Yahtzee, they’ve experienced first-hand the problems they’re trying to solve. Intimacy with a market's pain, combined with the talent and partnerships to solve it, provides a superb launch pad for any startup.

The mobile app ecosystem is exploding. As of this writing, there’s more than 5 million apps between Apple’s App Store and Google Play, with maybe 2,500 per day being added. More apps, means more performance problems, which means more need for tools like Embrace that make apps easier to manage. In the same way that BlueKai used cookies to create better profiles, Mopub made monetization easier, mParticle solved for central data piping, and Unacast is aggregating and harmonizing location, Embrace.io is solving app performance for a growing and fragmented mobile marketplace.

Licensed products vs. ad businesses are refreshing. In my article on selling data, I talked about the tangible benefits of a licensed revenue arrangement as compared to always getting stuck on the likes of CMP models. Embrace.io gets a similar nod of approval for having a SaaS business that scales and provides revenue predictability. This the route we go at Unacast, and I’d encourage more founders to factor this type of ‘investor think’ into their own pitches and revenue models. It’s a real difference-maker.

Visibility (this is huge). For the first time, by using Embrace.io’s platform, app teams have the ability to see all the in-app data for a given user's session, including network calls, memory, CPU usage, SDK interaction, clicks and screenshots. When there’s a problem, the engineer can dive-down into each user’s individual timeline, quickly diagnose an issue, and correlate it to a specific outcome (e.g. loss of an IAP, voluntary app closure, or an uninstall). Bridging that gap between a technical performance issue and a specific user experience, or business outcome, is a massive evolution for the apps business.

The power to change an industry. When apps can be more efficiently produced and managed, they will run better. When apps run better, user experiences improve. When user experiences improve, brands, advertisers and marketers will be able to create more compelling native engagements in those apps, improving monetization. When all this happens at-scale, we have a more efficient apps industry. Publishers are making better product (and have more time to focus on making cool stuff, rather than fixing broken stuff). Enabling techs and other businesses will rise up to bolster the industry and claim their piece of the pie.

Consumers will consume, companies will grow, mergers/acquisitions/exits will abound and we’ll be well on our way to the next big thing. Embrace.io is one of those rare companies that has the people, partners, vision and technical know-how to lead us there.

- Chris

Unacast is out to change the world of advertising forever - and it just might succeed

Thomas Walle and Kjartan Slette started Unacast after coming to a major realization: that the average person spends 30% of their time in front of their phone and computer. But what about the other 70%?

We spend the rest of our waking hours in the "real world" - the offline space. Advertisers spend so much effort trying to understand consumers' behaviors during the time we spend with our devices; shouldn't we also be spending more time understanding consumer behavior everywhere else? "There needs to be a way to understand what people do in the real, real, real world," says Walle. For Unacast, that way forward involves sensors that track people's movement. Every time someone interacts with a sensor, they leave a footprint behind. These sensors have stories to tell, and advertisers to help.

In essence, Unacast ties together online and offline data in a way wasn't previously possible, and certainly not at scale. Targeted proximity communication, based on a very specific physical location, is used to give consumers very specific offers. Data generated from interaction with a beacon is able to deliver a target ad to a mobile or desktop device.

Unacast realized the value in standardizing what is, admittedly, a pretty fragmented market. There are already products deploying sensors, but each Proximity Solutions Provider (PSP) can only understand a fraction of the user's behavior. If Unacast is the company that is able to aggregate all this data, then they stand to have a better understanding than any individual player.

Jump to the present day, where Unacast now has partnerships with 66 of the largest PSPs that cover 2 million or 40% of the world's commercial beacons. A wealth of reputable adtech platforms have partnered with Unacast, including MediaMath, JUICE Mobile, Lotame, SITO Mobile, Blis, and Sense360. To state it plainly, that makes Unacast the largest aggregator of proximity data in the industry, and part of why Unacast has been able to attract $5 million in funding.

It's more than funding that's coming in to Unacast: awards are beginning to roll in as well. The company won best "Verticals & Marketplaces" for its Real World Graph™ platform product at the Location Search Association 2017 Ad to Action Awards in San Diego.

Unacast is used to provide more relevant & advertising online; that's how they provide value to end consumers.

The potential of proximity data is nearly endless - enough to make any advertiser drool.

With proximity data, you might have the ability to say a particular consumer was in this Dunkin' Donuts store for 15 minutes and target them accordingly. Eventually, we will even be able to track consumer behavior within the stores themselves.

While Unacast has plenty of work to do before it has conquered the advertising space, it has the ability to go after plenty of other applications down the line. How can Unacast make ecommerce experiences more relevant? How can it make retail analytics more relevant? How can it influence city planning? How can cities become smarter? These are all long-term possibilities for the 3-year old startup.

Of course, Unacast isn't without its challenges. For one: they need to educate prospects better about proximity data. "Our biggest competitor is the status quo," says Walle. Most people are familiar with geodata, which is information about geographic locations that is stored on a computer. Proximity data tracks the relationship between objects (which can be people, places or things) - in other words, it illustrates how people interact with the objects around them. Demonstrating how proximity data is different and why it has higher accuracy and a different ROI than geodata, is something that Unacast constantly has to show.

The other issue relates to the sheer number of players in the PSP space: there might be up to 400 already in existence. As a result, there's simply no industry standard. Moreover, Unacast has to make a deal with each proximity company individually - a lot of effort, but the flipside is that the rewards are commensurately huge.

Walle and Slette went to Copenhagen Business School around the time of Napster and as a result, spent plenty of time talking about how to save the music industry. The end result was WiMP, which was soon renamed Tidal and sold to Jay Z. By building that platform, Walle and Slette learned how to harmonize a plethora of disaggregated content all onto one platform. It's that experience that is proving incredibly useful as they build out Unacast.

Let's face it: there's been plenty of hype around the Internet of Things: the idea that everyday objects will communicate with one another and the Internet to provide better experiences. If Unacast plays its cards right, it has the potential to be the backend that powers many of these interactions.

"Someone needs to index the physical world," just like Google indexed the online world, says Walle. If history is any indication, the company that led the last revolution typically doesn't lead the next one. If anyone's going to play the part of the revolutionary, Unacast is making a strong case for itself.

Read the original on Inc.com

After Moat Deal, New York City Ad Tech Pats Itself On The Back

Many New York City-based ad tech leaders saw Tuesday’s acquisition of Moat by the Silicon Valley titan Oracle as a testament to the city’s distinct startup ecosystem.

The Moat deal was a victory for the city and “a validation of the tech scene here,” said DataXu CEO Mike Baker, a prolific ad tech angel investor, in an AdExchanger Talks podcast this week.

Baker’s sentiments echoed other New York ad tech founders and investors after Moat’s acquisition was announced.

“SaaS startups are much harder businesses to get off the ground in terms of revenue, and it’s something New York City startups have done more effectively than others,” said Chris Cunningham, Unacast’s CRO and founder of the seed-level investment firm C2 Ventures. Redwood giants like Google, Facebook and Amazon have world-setting advertising businesses, “but they don’t know the ins and outs of how agencies and brands work like people in New York who are really in the trenches.”

It isn’t a matter of good or bad, Cunningham said, “there’s just a consistently different perspective that I think comes from New York City firms being a part of the media agency world and really feeling those same pain points in the ecosystem.”

Joe Zawadzki, MediaMath’s CEO and another prominent ad tech angel investor, told AdExchanger in a previous interview that the New York startup ecosystem mirrors Silicon Valley in the sense that it’s “people who know each other and the space who wanted to keep talent local and invest in second-generation companies in a space they know.”

But whereas Silicon Valley technology builds owned-and-operated vehicles – like app-based companies with their own audiences – Zawadzki said New York ad tech is a more organic part of the agency and brand world that calls the city home.

All of New York City’s venture funding “could fit into one room in one building on Sand Hill Road,” said Lewis Gersh, CEO of the programmatic direct mail startup PebblePost and a former industry venture capital (VC) investor. “So that seed-level activity fell pretty much to people in the industry who had exits under their belt and could step in and support companies.”

The different investment systems between New York and Silicon Valley, where VCs place bigger bets on riskier startups, made it tougher for East Coast startups to achieve early scale.

But in the end, these difficulties instilled stronger business discipline and an insistence on sound revenue models, said AppNexus co-founder and CEO Brian O’Kelley, who has investments across the ad tech space. “As people left AppNexus and other leadership teams to start their own companies,” he said, “they applied that professionalism to the space.”

What distinguishes New York ad tech investors from established VCs is that “these kinds of angel investors (are) trying to add more value personally,” Baker said. “I can tell you directly it’s what I do and my cohort of investors in terms of recycling the gains you make (on previous M&A deals) back into the space.

“And there’s been a lot of gains.”

Read the original on AdExchanger.

Narrative simplifies the buying and selling of online data

We hear a lot about our online data being bought and sold by advertisers, but Narrative founder and CEO Nick Jordan said the actual process remains “incredibly cumbersome.”

And he should know, since he’s spent years in the adtech world, most recently as an executive at Tapad. Jordan explained that from the data buyer’s perspective, you have to go out and strike “one-off” deals with a long list of different providers — as he put it, “There’s no one-stop shop.” And if you’re looking to sell data, you’ve got to figure out how to package and price it.

“There’s a pent-up demand for folks looking to buy data, and a pent-up supply of people looking to sell data,” he said. “For the data economy to have less friction, we need to give tools to both the buyers and sellers to help them find each other easily and let them easily integrate with each other.”

That’s what Narrative is providing, with a marketplace where data buyers can browse different sellers and bid on their data, and where sellers can manage all of their transactions.

The startup is announcing that it has raised $2.25 million across two seed rounds of funding, with investors including XSeed Capital, Kiwi Ventures, C2 Ventures, Amobee’s Kim Reed Perell and Adelphic co-founder Jennifer Lum.

“Simply put, trading on all types of data and streamlining the pipes between demand and supply is way overdue and will solve tons of pain points for publishers and advertisers,” C2’s Chris Cunningham told me via email.

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Jordan added that Narrative is different from a data management platform, which packages data in a way that’s usable by advertisers — though he said the potential confusion is “one of the challenges for Narrative as a business.” So the company is currently describing its approach as “data commercialization.”He also argued that while Narrative’s initial focus has been on adtech, the platform could be useful far beyond that industry. For example, a commercial real estate firm working with a brick-and-mortar retailer could purchase data that helps them choose where to open their next business.

Of course, privacy advocates might not be quite as excited about a company that makes it easier to buy and sell data. However, Jordan said Narrative performs a “pretty thorough review” to make sure the businesses selling data are following applicable laws and best practices. And whereas a traditional transaction might involve “a number of opaque intermediaries,” Narrative creates a transparent connection between buyers and sellers, so “much more rigor can be put into privacy and compliance.”

Read the original by @AnthonyHa on TechCrunch

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2017/04/13/narrativ...

10 Must-Knows Before You Invest In Data

I’ve been in the marketing and advertising world for 19 years. In that time I’ve helped to pioneer emerging monetization models for apps, widgets and native ads. But it’s only in the last year that I’ve been embedded in data-as-a-service (DaaS) models.

I have to say I am thankful. It has been an eye-opening, career-altering experience. I have learned a tonne and my entire perspective on how marketing and advertising create value for brands has evolved. As a result, so has the way I consider investment opportunities in data companies.

Based on what I’ve learned, here are 10 things you need to know before investing in data:

1. Data has a common currency. In the mobile world (and it’s all mobile now), mobile IDs (IDFA for iOS, AAID for Android) are what the market trades in. Yet, many times I’ll talk to a well-known company and it’s ‘Yeah, we have data and we’d love to monetize it,’ but then they don’t have any unique criteria anchored by device ID. The point is, It doesn’t matter if you have billions of rows of data, or hundreds of millions of X this, or Y that. If the core currency isn’t native to how the money flows, there’s little value in it.

2. Data has to be tradeable. This is interesting . . . let’s say you have another type of data currency besides mobile ID, like cookies, or emails. These are valuable, but to work in conjunction with location (it’s all going location), they need to convert from one to the other. Email companies like LiveIntent are great, but to work with location data they first need to hash email to device ID. The same is true for mobile web companies, etc. From an investor’s standpoint, this could signal either risk (i.e. an extra step into the trading process), or opportunity (i.e. a trade solution that makes things happen more efficiently).

3. Data collection is the wild west. Data rights and ownership is critical. To belabour my earlier point, If you don’t own device ID , or something you can convert to device ID, you better have a partner, or vendor, who can. And they better be able to help you actually do something with it because dusty data is valueless data. Which brings me to my next point . . .

4. Parking data doesn’t equal monetizing it. Everyone likes to park data (on MediaMath, Tradedesk, Krux, LiveRamp etc. — all great companies). We all see the announcements about data partnerships that imply massive value waiting to be unleashed via revenue sharing or some such. But that does not equate to a) data actually being traded, or b) anyone making money. Net-net, some companies are making money by parking data but a lot of others seem to be waiting for something to happen. Innovators that find a way to activate more parked data, sooner, are going to be well-positioned in the market.

5. DaaS is where it’s at. Much of the trade market still thinks in terms of CPM and revenue sharing but I’m not putting much into those kinds of solutions these days. Why? When you do a data licensing deal, you know you’re getting 12 months of guaranteed revenue. You know when you’re getting it, and you know you’ve got a partner that you can grow a relationship with. CPM and revenue share are fine but they just don’t have the same kind of predictability as DaaS, and predictability is something we all crave as investors.

6. Dwell time is important. CPI, ARPDAU, Retention . . . all important indicators, but I’m starting to believe that dwell time is the best stat to tell us about consumer intent based on real behaviors. Paired with location data, it is pure marketing and advertising gold. If you know I spent 2 minutes in your store trying on a pair of Nikes, and 20 minutes trying out the Adidas while simultaneously Instagramming a pic of the shoes to my wife, you know what what my consumer intent is, period. Before I invest in a data company, I want to know that they have a real handle on dwell time — a critical indicator of a data company’s success, IMO.

7. Marketers are getting smarter about data really, really fast. When I first started with Unacast, the conversation about how to use data was all about retargeting. Then it morphed into a conversation about attribution, then data modelling and (currently) verification. Moore’s Law is incapable of keeping up with how fast marketer’s understanding of data is evolving. A lot of this is powered by rapid iterations of programmatic advertising, martech and analytics tools. Not surprisingly, billions of investment capital is flowing to these sectors

8. There’s more data partnership opportunities than competition. Sometime in the last year or so, a light went on over the marketplace and everybody started to understand that cooperation (e.g. ‘second-party’ data swaps) is where it’s at. How come? Data sharing helps brands get better at creating personalized engagements for their own customers and instantly scale target markets for brands with similar audiences. It makes sense, so it had to happen. This whole arena is about to be democratized and there’s a great deal of money to be made.

9. Data is a two-sided market with lots of buyer profiles. To make a data sale, companies need to engage with both commercial and product people. To drive usage (and thereby monetize), they need to connect with agencies and brands. Doing these things quickly and well is part of what made both BlueKai and now MOAT successful. Finding new ways to excel in this diverse market by fast-tracking the sales process is something I think we’ll see more investment in moving-forward.

10. Data companies need to stay true to their identity. Staying the course as a data company is critical, otherwise, you risk confusing an already complex and quickly evolving market. As an anecdotal example, at Unacast, our brand is clearly built on proximity data. Maybe we could have secured more revenue to-date by vacillating from that identity, but establishing a clear presence in this space is essential. As an investor, I am always looking for companies dedicated to moving in a straight and steady line rather than running around wildly looking for the quick buck.

These are a few of the thoughts I’d offer to anyone who is considering investing in data.

Read the original on Adotas.

Source: http://www.adotas.com/2017/04/10-must-know...