Location-Based Ad Network Thinknear Snags A New CEO From Within

LorenHillbergIn the two years since GPS solutions provider Telenav acquired hyperlocal ad platform Thinknear, there’s been minimal technology integration between the two companies.

But that’s all part of the strategic plan, Telenav vet Loren Hillberg told AdExchanger.

Hillberg, who most recently served as VP and general counsel at Telenav, a public company, announced Tuesday that he’ll be taking over the reigns at Thinknear as president and general manager, a title that makes him the CEO equivalent.

Thinknear co-founder Eli Portnoy, who continued to serve as the company’s GM after the Telenav acquisition, which happened just five months after Thinknear’s launch, will be moving onto other entrepreneurial pastures.

“The Telenav business is about very large customer acquisition and satisfying those customers,” said Hillberg, who declined to share the exact number of current Telenav or current Thinknear clients.

Thinknear, which has an employee headcount of somewhere between 60 and 65 and brought in about $4 million in revenue in Q2, maintains a presence in six locations, including Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York City and Sunnyvale, Calif., where Telenav has its headquarters.

“Advertising is getting more granular in terms of customer sets and who we’re targeting, which is part of why we chose to maintain Thinknear as a separate business unit when we acquired it,” Hillberg said. “From a strategic perspective, it was important for Telenav to have the ability to deliver advertising capabilities and leverage the experience of Thinknear, but with technology segregation.”

It’s a move that will allow both entities to benefit one from the other while continuing to grow, Hillberg said.

Thinknear, which now effectively acts as Telenav’s advertising business unit, relies on two different sets of technology to run its targeted mobile campaigns: Telenav’s existing Scout.me mobile navigation service with search capabilities and an ad platform for serving mobile display ads. Thinknear clients tap into the platform to identify what Hillberg called “premier location-enabled inventory on the ad exchanges,” which they can use to deliver targeted impressions from there.

Although there’s a minor integration between Thinknear and Scout, the rest of the tech remains separate. Rather, Thinknear takes advantage of Telenav’s first-party data through the Scout application and other Telenav apps to power its display targeting.

“We have a great footprint now and we’re investing heavily in this initiative,” Hillberg said. “It’s all about mobile and it’s all about location. That’s the Thinknear way.”

In his new role at Thinknear, Hillberg will be handing day-to-day operations and acting as a sort of bridge between Thinknear and the operating unit at Telenav. Hillberg is already well familiar with Thinknear after spending several years in an advisory role overseeing Portnoy and his team.

Hyperlocal advertising – which Hillberg defined rather literally as 100 square meters – and better attribution solutions will both continue to top the list of priorities on the Thinknear road map. Hillberg said he’s also to planning to focus more attention on improving Location Score, a metric designed to help marketers understand the quality of the location data they use in their campaigns by quantifying the difference between a consumer’s inferred location based on an ad request vs. that person’s actual physical location.

“There is a significant appetite for location-enabled data,” Hillberg said. “There’s also an uneasiness around click-through rate and the feeling that it’s not the right way to measure ROI. Our view is that this is an opportunity in the space to use location to get closer and closer to closing the loop, and that’s what we’re going to focus on.”

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