Mobile Data Platform Zeotap Taps $1.3M In Seed Cash

zeotapMobile carrier data is rich data – it’s deterministic, it’s first-party and it has cross-screen potential.

Berlin-based data company zeotap is looking to help mobile carriers capitalize on that richness.

Founded earlier this year, zeotap has secured $1.3 million in seed funding from HitFox Group and several angel investors, which it plans to use to hire an engineering team in the Bay Area in Q1 2015– the company just brought on a chief technology officer for its new San Francisco office – and to fund an upcoming expansion into Asia, where the mobile advertising market share is above 30%.

zeotap, whose headcount now stands at 11, is working with three large carriers in Europe and is in what zeotap cofounder and CEO Daniel Heer called “very advanced talks with one of the largest carriers in the US.” Heer, himself a former Vodafone Deutschland executive, where he held various senior sales and marketing roles, declined to name the specific carriers zeotap is partnering with.

In essence, the zeotap technology centers on helping mobile network operators (MNOs) monetize their first-party data. Publishers, in turn, can use the data for yield extension and audience building, while players on the demand side can get better targeting and post-campaign reporting.

Although company co-founder and chief product officer Projjol Banerjea told AdExchanger he was hesitant to go into detail about how the patent pending tech actually works, he did stress that zeotap takes privacy very seriously.

“[Our technology] allows us to match user data from MNOs’ systems to prevailing mobile identifiers, such as Apple’s IDFA or Google’s Advertising ID, without breaching platform policies or flouting privacy regulations,” Banerjea said.

After aggregating and anonymizing an MNO’s deterministic data and creating actionable matches, zeotap uses probabilistic modeling to enhance the scale. zeotap partners with data-as-a-service company Datamonk for access to predictive data which buyers use for attribute-based targeting and sellers use for analytics and segmentation.

“Layering [Datamonk’s] data on top of ours allows us to increase both the breadth and depth of our own deterministic datasets,” said Banerjea.

As a German company, zeotap is highly attuned to pressures and stringencies of privacy compliance. In fact, Banerjea sees zeotap’s German roots as a unique selling proposition.

“Our solution is based on a strict ‘privacy by design’ approach and was developed in close alignment with stringent German regulators,” he said. “The advantage is a platform that can be deployed globally, including large mobile advertising markets such as the US, without compliance woes.”

One company coming up against compliance woes right now is the beleaguered Google. The juggernaut could be facing formal antitrust charges in the EU if German regulators have their way.

But in the US, Google, Facebook and most recently Apple are the belles of the deterministic data ball. According to Heer, mobile carriers should also be invited to the party.

“When it comes to user data around interest and intent, Facebook and Google, respectively, have amongst the most comprehensive collections in the world,” Heer said. “[But] CRM data from telcos can be equally compelling, especially in the context of certain user attributes. [Carriers] have the full stack of location – general geographic area, as well as hyperlocal signals – and browsing, effectively, interest, data available.”

Of course, some carriers are taking matters into their own hands, as Verizon is doing with its Precision Market Insights division. But Heer sees efforts like that as complementary to zeotap’s business, rather than competitive. While most homegrown carrier solutions focus on mobile web, which Heer noted constitutes roughly 20% of mobile ad impressions, zeotap concentrates on in-app enrichment, which makes up the majority of the market.

“Our model further extends what some telcos do to a limited extent with in-house solutions,” he said. “Our global reach across many of the dominant players in the ecosystem – DSPs, ad networks, SSPs, publishers – enables us to deliver monetization scale.”

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