Adtech Startup Choozle Raises $4.1M to Simplify Digital Advertising

A lot has been said about adtech startups, programmatic advertising, and real-time bidding. But Denver startup Choozle might be saying something new—or at least saying it in a more clever way. Choozle’s mantra is “programmatic to the people,” and its goal is to make adtech software simple and inexpensive enough for small- and medium-sized businesses but also powerful enough for enterprises.

Choozle announced today it has raised a $4.1 million Series A round. Co-founder and CEO Andrew Fischer said the money primarily comes from family offices and individual investors. Great Oaks Venture Capital, a New York-based early-stage VC firm, participated in the round as a follow-on investor. Great Oaks led Choozle’s $1.8 million seed round last year.

The startup currently has 15 employees, with the majority based in Denver. Fischer thinks that number could grow to 25 or 30 by the end of 2015, and the company plans to open a sales office in London to go along with the ones in New York and San Francisco.

Adtech is a crowded market, which Fischer recognizes. But he thinks it’s also a giant opportunity, especially for companies focused on real-time bidding, which allows advertisers to buy space from digital publishers in automated online auctions. Analysts agree. According to Magna Global, $9.3 billion worth of ads were sold using real-time bidding in 2014, and another forecast predicts real-time bidding ad sales will reach $18.2 billion and account for 33 percent of digital ad sales by 2018.

Fischer believes the field is split between the giants selling expensive enterprise solutions—Oracle, Adobe, and Salesforce all have bought adtech companies specializing in real-time bidding—and a number of startups such as Chango, AdRoll, and Simpli.fi, which specialize in different parts of the ad-buying process. He thinks Choozle is the company that can fill in the gap as small- and medium-sized businesses begin to make programmatic buying part of their strategy.

“Our goal is to simplify the complex and costly adtech stack,” Fischer said, bringing together tools offered by data management and real-time bidding platforms. “You don’t have to be a data scientist or a specialized media trader to run our platform. It can be run by any marketer, small or large.”

The campaigns can incorporate display, video, mobile, and social media advertising on computers or mobile devices. The networks Choozle connects users to include DoubleClick and those run by Facebook, Yahoo, and AOL.

Currently, Choozle has more than 100 clients, and that includes national brands like Cricket Wireless and Gaiam, which makes fitness equipment and instructional videos. Digital ad agencies also are using Choozle, Fischer said.

Choozle is one of a handful of adtech companies in Colorado that focus on programmatic advertising and that have made headlines over the past year. SpotXchange, which focuses on video ads, sold a 65 percent stake in the business to European media company RTL Group for $144 million. Last year, Altitude Digital raised $7 million. Sovrn (formerly Lijit) was spun out of Federated Media, taking its quickly growing programmatic advertising unit with it. Last fall, Quantcast rated Sovrn the fourth-largest online publisher network in the world, and the company said it brokers ads for more than 20,000 publishers and nearly 1 million websites.

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