Ad Tech Startup Visual IQ Adding NY Presence, Eyes Funding Round

3/27/12Follow @xconomy

Local startup Visual IQ‘s story begins with co-founder Manu Mathew’s frustrations as a marketer trying to understand how to best spend an advertising budget.

He left his job managing the Boston office of the ad firm Carat to take “that marketer’s problem and turn it into a technology, data-driven solution,” he says. Visual IQ launched in 2006 and is now based in Needham, MA.

Advertising optimization technology seems white hot in the Northeast lately, with companies developing software to track, analyze, and ultimately inform decision making for advertising campaigns. Some are targeting specific channels across different devices or social-network platforms like Facebook (Nanigans is tackling this one). Cambridge, MA-based Celtra displays and analyzes rich media ads for mobile devices and the Web, and says optimization is in its future. And my colleague Arlene recently wrote about Integrate, a Denver and New York-based startup developing ad optimization tech for online and offline channels.

Mathew, Visual IQ’s CEO, says one of the big differentiators of the company’s technology is the ability to track attribution—the ways various types of ads and channels ultimately contribute to a customer conversion. Most technology measures ad performance by crediting the type of media that results in a purchase (say, a Web-advertised rebate for buying a smartphone). But they miss the other ads and context that could have helped contribute to the purchase prior to that (whether the shopper was in the market for a phone already, other research they had done, or TV ads they had seen, for example).

Visual IQ’s engine can analyze what other types of media—both digital and traditional offline—influenced a customer, and give them proper attribution, so marketers can have a better understanding of what channels to spend their budget on, and what types of creative and offers most influenced consumers. This also helps calculate the actual cost of acquiring a customer, Mathew says.

Visual IQ’s technology has also evolved to help its clients get the most out of advertising budgets, with a new software release called IQ Sage.

“You can tell me what you’re planning on spending, I can tell you how you should change the portfolio to meet your goals,” Mathew says. “Rather than sitting around and staring at it, you can automate it into buying systems.”

Visual IQ’s clients now include ad agencies Hill/Holiday and Carat (Mathew’s former employer), financial services companies American Express and Vanguard, and consumer brands Gillette and Home Depot. The company has a team in San Francisco focusing on analytics, and will soon open an office in New York to be closer to many of its clients, he says.

The now 100-person startup raised a $3 million Series A round from Fog City Capital in 2010, and is just about to start the fundraising process for a Series B, Mathew says.

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