Identity Resolution Startup MediaWallah Raises $2.3 Million As The Spaces Catches Fire

The identity data market is heating up as companies collect more first-party data and marketers do their damnedest to maintain addressable advertising without cookies or mobile ad IDs.

The category already includes the incumbent LiveRamp, major agency holding companies – Dentsu’s Merkle, IPG and Acxiom and Publicis plus Epsilon – and startups, such as Zeotap and InfoSum, which have raised about $90 million apiece.

But there’s still room for growth. The identity resolution startup MediaWallah announced a $2.3 million round on Wednesday with plans to more than triple its 12-person team over the next year, said founder and CEO Nancy Marzouk.

The new funding is primarily from an unnamed strategic investor. It brings the company’s total funding to around $3.5 million.

Although it’s not a large equity stake, Marzouk said the new investor does provide strategic value as a partner.

Adobe, for instance, is an important strategic partner for MediaWallah as a preferred identity resolution vendor.

MediaWallah got started a decade ago, when Marzouk said she saw an opportunity to compete with cross-device graph companies like Drawbridge, Tapad and Crosswise (all of which have since been acquired) that focused on probabilistic ID matching.

“Nobody was solving for personalization, because it was modeled identity resolution, not down to the individual,” she said.

In 2015, prolific angel investor Bill Wise, the CEO of Mediaocean, took a small stake in MediaWallah and became its chairman. Wise then introduced the startup to Michael Donovan, Mediaocean’s executive chairman, who invested $1 million at the time.

Unlike many entrepreneurs and industry practitioners who invest in marketing tech and then wait for their exit, Donovan said he was more interested in investing meaningfully and being involved in one company rather than scattering multiple investments in the $10,000 to $50,000 range.

And unlike most investor-backed ad tech startups, MediaWallah has been continuously profitable.

“I’m not a big believer in running huge deficits for years on end,” Donovan said.

But it’s one thing to have a healthy, profitable business and a dozen employees – and another to invest in growth.

The company is ready for the next step, Marzouk said.

“The opportunity in the market right now means we have to be investing in growth,” she said, noting the uptick in brands and agencies testing new identity solutions.

MediaWallah’s business was originally driven through partnerships with ad tech intermediaries, like DSPs and exchanges. But Wise said that over the past year the business has flipped to more brand-direct deals.

But what about the competition?

Although the data onboarding and identity resolution space has several very solid incumbents, there are also opportunities for small companies. MediaWallah pitches itself as a more transparent version of LiveRamp, which packages and sells its own data, and thus has less transparency into the matching process.

A company matching its email list to LiveRamp would receive a set of anonymized IDs that were matched and can be used for targeting or attribution. According to Marzouk, MediaWallah can return the specific IDs that didn’t match or are out of date to help weed out inactive and fake accounts. It could also show the specific apps or publishers that had high match rates with a client’s data, she said, as opposed to LiveRamp matches which “happen in a black box.”

M&A is also a tailwind for MediaWallah.

When LinkedIn acquired Drawbridge in 2019, some of its business “fell into our lap,” Marzouk said. And when agencies started acquiring big identity providers, like Acxiom and Epsilon, it gave rivals a reason to go elsewhere.

By the same token, as LiveRamp grows its own ID services and data marketplace, it becomes competitive with big players, such as Adobe or Oracle. And that’s where MediaWallah swoops in to strike a flagship partnership with Adobe.

“Given the shifts in the market – both M&A and data privacy as a focus – now is the time to press the accelerator,” Marzouk said.

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