Social Data Provider 33across Raises $13.1 Million For Products, Global Expansion Effort

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Eric WheelerSocial analytics provider 33across just raised $13.1 million as part of a "growth round," designed to help the New York-based company build up its technology offerings and marketing team. Read the release. We sat down with CEO Eric Wheeler to discuss the details of those plans and to take a look at how the company is using social publisher tool Tynt, which it acquired in January.

AdExchanger: What will you use the proceeds from this round for?

EW: There’s three main buckets being supported with this round: one is tech/infrastructure; the second is new product development, building up our existing PC-browser based offerings as well as getting into the mobile web; and lastly, international expansion in Europe to move beyond present locations in the UK and Brazil. In addition to that, we’ll be using the proceeds to retain and add talent, both on the engineering side and marketing/sales side.

Look, we didn’t need to raise $100 million. If you look at other companies in the ad tech space and how much is often raised, we’ve grown 468 percent since 2008 and we’ve got almost 90 people in the company. We did that all on the first $13 million. There are companies that have raised 10 times what we’ve raised and not achieved a fraction of what we’ve done.

Earlier this year, you bought Tynt. How has 33across evolved with those capabilities folded in?

At the end of the day, we’re still solving the same business problems leveraging social interest and intent data. With the acquisition of Tynt, we now have a very big publishing business with 600,000 publishers that we work with in addition to still working directly with marketers. So those are two different kinds of clients, but they’re both desperate for the same kinds of data and how they take advantage of it. And they’re obviously not just interested in insights, but they clearly want to know how to make that data actionable and directly drive ROI.

And how do you make that happen?

Clients are drowning in data. They’re trying to make sense of it from multiple vendors. How do we make sense of that for clients? We reach over a billion users and we see it all in real-time. The ability to make that data accessible and obvious, while having learning systems that can act on direct response and branding campaigns and drive greater effect and yield is hard, especially at scale. But that’s our premise.

Most of our clients come to us as a companion buy to Facebook. You’re doing a program on Facebook and now you want to do the same type of data across the web. With Tynt, publishers install the tool on their page to track how their content is being shared across the web.

Do you have the capability of using Tynt to place ads on content that’s shared?

Tynt is a social publishing utility that doesn’t carry ads along with the shared content – today. It creates an attribution link that allows publishers to see how their content is being shared across Facebook, Twitter and email, the latter which still comprises 70 percent of shares. Because these are user-generated links, they generate more pageviews and their rankings go up. It’s more of a traffic driver and in that sense, helps drive greater awareness and ad spending.

Are there any plans to allow the ads to travel and be tracked along with the shared content?

It sounds like a perfect vehicle for ads, right? More to come on that.

In terms of growing the business, where is your focus right now?

We’re going to aim for adding publishers and increasing our advertisers’ penetration. I honestly don’t think there’s been a lot of innovation when it comes to sharing tools for publishers recently. There’s a lot more we can do.

What about mobile? Is that an area you’re starting to concentrate on?

I’m very glad that we didn’t immediately jump into the mobile space. The money wasn’t there before, but the game is changing now in terms of how and when you can identify users and use data. We’re now in a position to take better advantage of that. I think it’s also better for brands. The tablet and smartphone usage is continuing to explode and that has gotten brand advertisers interested. Performance-based advertisers can only support so much of a given market.

We still will not focus on in-app ads and the data around that. We may help publishers in some cases maximize their ability to share in-app content, but we made a decision when we acquired Tynt that we have this massive, anonymous database and that’s where we’ll focus for the next 12 months.

Getting back to social in a more general sense, what does Facebook exchange mean for your business?

It represents enormous potential for us and it’s a great move for Facebook. They have vast amounts of unsold inventory. The ability to work with our clients to better deliver ads on Facebook is great.

We did a survey of our marketers, asking how much of their budget is spent on Facebook versus the rest of the web. They told us, on average, that Facebook ad spending represented 20 percent of their expenditures for 2012, with 80 percent spent on the rest of the web. Next year, they told us that the ratio was flipped: 80 percent would be spent on Facebook, 20 percent on the rest of the web. That was before the IPO. If we asked now, that might be less. But Facebook is a juggernaut and they’re going to continue to hold greater attraction for brands.

By David Kaplan

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