Clovr, With New Seed Funding, Looks to Bridge Gaps Between Banks, Advertisers, “Loyalty 2.0″

10/19/10Follow @gthuang

What do you get when you mix a digital media and marketing entrepreneur with a banking and real estate executive? Answer: Clovr Media, a Boston company that’s officially launching today with $1.5 million in seed funding from Kepha Partners and CommonAngels.

Founded by Tom Burgess, the former CEO of Third Screen Media, and Doug Spear, the former CEO of CSpot Networks, Clovr makes a software platform that enables banks and financial institutions to reach consumers through “card-linked offers” embedded directly in Web banners, text links, and mobile and video advertisements. That means you can click on a banner ad—potentially on Facebook or anywhere on the Web, not just on a bank or credit card site—and automatically get $25 off a Canon printer at Best Buy, say, when you use your registered card to buy it. (Clovr stands for “card linked offers with virtual redemption.”)

“We’re bringing card linked offers into the digital media space,” says Burgess, Clovr’s chief executive. “We create what the banks call ‘loyalty 2.0.’”

Indeed, Clovr sits at the intersection of two broader trends: more individualized digital rewards and loyalty programs, and more transparent analytics that let advertisers track exactly how well their online campaigns are performing. Other companies working in this area include Cardlytics, Edo Interactive, and OfferIQ, which all have slightly different approaches.

Clovr says one of its differentiators is that it has broader consumer reach—its offers aren’t tied to financial website ads or a specific card. Another advantage is that its platform allows a greater number of brands—tens of thousands, Burgess says—to benefit from card-linked offers. That’s because Clovr’s offers work at the individual product level (Bic pens), not at the merchant level (Staples).

The startup’s success will depend largely on the value of its software platform for banks and advertisers. Banks need to find ways to make money through loyalty programs instead of interchange fees. Advertisers should be able to use Clovr to tell whether a banner ad on Google, say, performed better than one on Facebook—by following through all the way to the point of store purchases. Clovr charges a per-transaction fee for advertisers and splits its revenue with banks.

“We can track the user and see transactions on a credit card. We’re partnered with a bank. We know when you went through a point of sale,” Burgess says. “Advertisers see 100 percent attribution.” As for any consumers worried about privacy, Burgess says the banks will retain all private information behind their firewalls.

Clovr has eight employees plus a half-dozen developers and contractors. The company is moving from Waltham to downtown Boston this week. At this point, Burgess says, the goal is to launch the website (which is live as of today) and introduce the Clovr platform. It’s still too early to announce any retail or financial partners, he says.

Burgess sounds like an entrepreneur who never forgets where he came from—which is good, since he’s built companies that have sold to the likes of Monster.com (CollegeLink) and AOL/Time Warner (Third Screen Media). “Six or seven months ago, we were two guys and a PowerPoint,” he says. “We went back and built something. Now we’ve come back to the market.”

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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