Slice Technologies, a Silicon Valley-based startup that bills itself as the “best way to track and organize your online shopping,” has raised $23 million in Series B funding led by Japanese ecommerce company Rakuten, Russia Partners and NPD Group. Slice’s existing investors, which include Google Chairman Eric Schmidt’s Innovation Endeavors, DCM and Lightspeed Venture Partners, were in on this round as well.
To put it simply, Slice optimizes consumers’ (who opt in) email inboxes, aggregates purchase data and delivers push notifications when a product ships or when there’s a price drop. Slice monitors price changes across a range of merchants like Buy.com and Best Buy, and alerts consumers when an item they previously purchased goes on sale.
The company’s argument is there is so much untapped information residing in order confirmations, shipping notifications, suggested product promotions and electronic receipts, that a service should be able to organize it intelligently to personalize the post-purchase experience. Scott Brady, Slice’s CEO, spoke with AdExchanger.
AdExchanger: What would make someone use Slice?
SCOTT BRADY: There are so many things that you do today that result in electronic receipts. You’re engaged in online commerce. You’re buying things in-store. When you go to an Apple Store and purchase something, they’ll send you an electronic receipt. Many of the top merchants in the US and across the world are starting to deliver this information electronically, so what Slice has been doing is finding a way to make this information available to consumers just when they need it most. For example, we can tell that [a product you bought] is being delivered to your door and it’s sitting on your doorstep right now.
Or, you purchased something and the price went down over the last two weeks and you’re eligible to get money back. Without you ever having to do anything, we’re able to determine if there’s been a price change. If you want to know when the product needs to be returned by, it effectively takes all of this unstructured data that you have sitting in email and activates it for you as a consumer. For instance, if you’re getting ready to jump on a plane, it’ll tell you what your flight information is, so it’s trying to make this information accessible to consumers whenever they need it, so it can be location-based or situational, but we’re trying to make that information accessible.
Back track to Slice – before round two of funding.
Slice started as a research project. The bulk of the team came out of Stanford University and we were looking at using deep, semantic-type extraction to try and extract all of the purchase data that lives in email. The first product we built was actually a product for the folks at Yahoo Mail, which was a native product that was built in to Yahoo Mail. We owned the technology and our original funding came from Eric Schmidt of Google and a couple of other VCs. The first stage of the company was really trying to determine if there was a technology to extract and categorize all of this very high-resolution data about purchasing information that lives within email.
We had built a product as part of that original work called Slice, which we released to the market [in 2011] and it’s just done remarkably well. We have a very loyal group of customers who have just enjoyed using the product. The next phase of funding is really to continue the development of the technology. We’re beginning to make our technology available to other companies through APIs so they can have the same type of capabilities. We’re investing in our existing products and will backlog the features that customers are asking for and generally trying to understand, ‘What are the capabilities of having access to this data?’
Can you share any of the early-on partners and what an API would mean for them data-wise?
The only partner we’ve announced right now has been TheFind. They’re a very successful product search company based here in the Valley and they’re taking the search-based information they have and merging it with, for the customers who opt in, all of the historical, longitudinal purchase data that a customer has and using that to refine the types of search results that will be seen.
But, the other team that has done a lot of research into this area is Google. So products like Google Now are not just focusing on the public Web, they’re now focused on all of the personal information that people have and finding ways to make that information accessible. We have an architecture that can do that across virtually all categories of data that live in email and then be able to precisely extract and structure that information for the consumer.
Where you would see this used is it would drive personalization for ecommerce. It can be used for advertising to be able to do segmentation. It can be used for retail measurement to understand the dynamics of a given market. In the broader Internet, you’ll see this information used to drive more relevant experiences for consumers through the data that they have, but they can’t utilize.
It seems like a natural alignment that your platform monitors price drops and personalization and Rakuten, obviously, has a heavy commerce component and a growing media business.
I can’t really speak to what Rakuten would do… they make many financial investments. I think what they’re intrigued by, with our team, is we have some of the top data scientists in the world that are working on this particular discipline. If you’re an ecommerce company, having an understanding about your customers and ways to deliver more customized experiences – my sense is that’s the attraction for ecommerce [as an industry] in general. Rakuten has a very active labs organization… and they’re also big investors in Pinterest, as well.
Talk about the growth of your company. How many end consumers do you serve?
We have grown pretty rapidly. We’re just past 50 people in the company and are continuing to grow. We have development offices in the US and in Europe, as well. In terms of volume we process, we launched our first major app at the end of 2011 and in the last 18 months, we processed about 90 million purchases so far. We see a tremendous diversity of information across hundreds of thousands of different merchants on behalf of the consumers we’re providing this service for.
What’s your two-year plan?
I think it’s making sure we can continue to grow our product teams and be responsive to the various consumer opportunities we see around our technology. The other key piece, and this is obviously a key component of raising this much money, many of the companies we are working with and that we will be working with, we need to be able to scale our business to be able to support the type of growth that they would like to have from our capabilities. We are investing in the API infrastructure for our products to make sure other companies can innovate around this technology to create cool experiences for their customers much the way TheFind did across multiple segments. We don’t expect that we’re the single source of innovation around these capabilities, so we want to make sure we get it in the hands of as many talented development teams as we can so they can innovate as well.
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