Freshly Funded Integrate, steered by Skier and NFL Vet, Storms NYC
Ad technology startup Integrate, which offers a platform that helps advertisers manage campaigns across both on- and offline venues, announced today that it has raised $11 million in a Series B funding round. Comcast Ventures and Liberty Global led the round, with participation from Integrate’s original investor, Foundry Group. Integrate, which is headquartered in Denver, has also set up new offices in New York City. “All of the big ad agencies are here and we believe our technology will greatly help them advance their businesses,” says co-founder Jeremy Bloom, who opened the New York office a month ago and staffed it with five people. “We needed to be here to have those conversations.” Integrate has recently expanded its sales efforts to San Francisco by opening an office there, as well, Bloom says.
Bloom’s name may sound familiar to sports fans. That’s because prior to his recent career as an Internet entrepreneur, he was successful in not just one, but two sports. Bloom was a three-time world champion in freestyle moguls skiing who represented the U.S. at the Olympics in Salt Lake City (2002) and Turin (2006). Plus he was an All American football player at the University of Colorado, after which he played professionally for the Philadelphia Eagles and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Believe it or not, he tried to hide all that when he launched Integrate in April 2010 and went out to talk to venture capitalists. “These guys were meeting really impressive entrepreneurs from MIT and other places,” Bloom says. “I just didn’t think my experience in sports screamed ‘entrepreneurship.’”
Those venture capitalists must have seen something worth backing in Integrate’s plan. Just eight months after the company was founded, it raised a $4.25 million Series A from Foundry. The company used the funding to build its technology, which is designed to automate advertising for brands across multiple channels—from traditional outlets like television or radio to online outlets like Facebook. Once advertisers are approved to join Integrate’s marketplace, they can upload their creative to the site and use it to map out their campaigns. Customers can also use Integrate’s platform to measure the performance of the ads they place across all the channels they choose to use.
Integrate takes a five- to 30-percent cut of the fees advertisers pay to publishers, Bloom says, and the company’s revenues have grown 800 percent since its Series A. The platform has attracted 1,500 advertisers and 2,000 publishers, including well-known brands like Microsoft and Yahoo, Bloom says. The site is designed to be simple enough for customers to use without training or assistance, though some do pay Integrate to manage the process for them.
Bloom and co-founder Hart Cunningham hatched the idea for Integrate at their last startup, MDInfo, a site where people can pose health questions to doctors and other medical experts. “We wanted to monetize the site by helping pharmaceutical companies recruit patients for clinical trials,” Bloom says. “It was incredibly challenging—we needed a tonof eyeballs.” So they started building a technology that would boost MDInfo’s distribution across the Web. Meanwhile, they watched in amazement as one ad-tech startup after another burst onto the scene. “Hundreds of companies were offering technology for advertising on Facebook, hundreds were offering it for TV. There were many companies offering one or two channels,” Bloom says. “We wanted to use our technology to integrate both the methods of advertising and the performance metrics.” Bloom and Cunningham turned their attention away from MDInfo and began focusing on Integrate.
Bloom believes his company’s multi-pronged approach will help it stand out against the competition, though he’s well aware he could face some formidable rivals. Google, for example, has started to automate some of its channels, he says. “No matter what we do, we’re going to be competing for advertisers,” he says.
Needless to say, Bloom knows a thing or two about competing. And after initially shying away from his past life as a sports celebrity, he has learned to embrace the lessons he learned from being a successful athlete. “When you look at the competitive nature of ad tech—all the companies getting funded, all the innovation happening—it’s really no more competitive than the NFL,” he says. “I think I understand what needs to be done to be successful.”
Bloom adds that he learned the importance of teamwork and communication from Michael Tomlin, head coach of the Steelers. “What I took away from the way he led the team is that group dynamics are really important,” Bloom says. “And I knew where I stood with him every day. I respected that.” Bloom says he applies that knowledge to his interactions with Integrate’s salespeople, whom he works closely with to build action plans and assess performance.
Bloom did learn one hard lesson from a not-so-positive sports experience—a run-in with the National Collegiate Athletic Association. After playing football for the University of Colorado for two years, the NCAA ruled that Bloom couldn’t take endorsement contracts related to his skiing and still play amateur football. So he gave up his collegiate football career, took the endorsements for the 2006 Games, then was drafted into the NFL. The lesson? “Life’s not always fair,” he says. “It’s true in business, as well.” An NFL-sponsored education program allowed Bloom to complete his business degree at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. (In the video below, Bloom talks about how his sports experiences shaped his business career.)
Now Bloom is focusing on deploying Integrate’s new funding towards improving the company’s reach and capabilities. The company is working on integrating audience-analysis tools that will be able to profile people based on their e-mail addresses, he says. “Say you sign up for a daily-deals site,” he says. “That company can see what you’re buying and use the information to better target campaigns to you.” Integrate may also eye a European expansion with help from Integrate’s new VC Liberty Global, which is the second-largest cable provider in the world, Bloom says. He plans to expand his New York staff to 20 by the end of the year.
All in all, Bloom’s ambitions for his startup are about as big as the sports dreams he had when he was a kid. “We want to be the go-to platform for advertisers,” he says.