PlaceIQ Lands $15M Round, Will Scale Up Its Ad Intelligence Software

2/11/14Follow @jpruth

Knowing where consumers tend to roam can give marketers an edge.

So it’s little surprise that New York-based PlaceIQ is growing fast and raising money. The startup’s software gives marketers insight on the places people tend to visit thanks to data gathered anonymously from mobile devices. Such information, says PlaceIQ CEO and co-founder Duncan McCall, can be used to target ads and to understand how effective marketing campaigns are.

The demand for location-based marketing data is driving PlaceIQ to ramp up, he says. On Monday, the startup announced it raised $15 million in a Series C round led by Harmony Partners and Iris Capital, with participation from existing backers. McCall says the funding round was more opportunistic than a necessity: “We had investors that were keen to join us on our ride.”

McCall says his company is still in growth mode coming off of 2013, when the startup made 70 new hires. PlaceIQ has offices in Boulder, CO, San Francisco, Detroit, Los Angeles, and Chicago. In addition to the new funding, McCall says his company has entered into a strategic partnership that brings its software to the agencies of ad and public relations company Publicis Groupe.

McCall believes more can be done with location-based technology than simply draw information from smartphones as people pass through certain places. “Location is a way to understand audiences and human behavior in a whole new way,” he says.

Four-year-old PlaceIQ uses data, he says, which mobile gadget users allow to be gathered (they can op out if they are paying attention). PlaceIQ’s software analyzes information about the locations visited by the public—but without identifying individuals. The company also developed software that can measure the effectiveness of various marketing messages and targeted ads.

Marketers are looking for more perspective, McCall says, on where customers have been recently. Knowing if people come from a tourist area, a business park, or from home just before visiting a store could help companies better understand their needs.

Right now, PlaceIQ is developing software, McCall says, that enterprise-level businesses could use to understand customers across a wide area. For example, a large chain of restaurants might want to know more about where their patrons come from and how that changes in relation to sentiment or the local environment.

While the software can help marketers tailor their campaigns, the privacy-conscious public may be leery of having companies know about their movements. McCall says no personally identifiable information, such as phone numbers or e-mail addresses, is collected by his platform. “We have no idea who that user is and don’t ever try to identify who that user is,” he says.

People who don’t want their location information shared can still take action, McCall says. If a marketing campaign uses the location history of a device, the consumer will see a notice that they are being tracked, he says, and have the choice to opt out. People can also turn off ad tracking in their phones, McCall says, which would keep their location data from being used. “We’re not tracking and storing user locations,” he says.

João-Pierre S. Ruth is the editor of Xconomy New York. He can be reached at jpruth@xconomy.com and followed on Twitter @jpruth. Follow @jpruth

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