5 Ad Tech Startups to Watch

What makes a viable startup? For the last few years, the question seems not to have been posed by venture capitalists who have flooded the industry with superficially conceived point solutions that add unnecessary confusion, not workable tools to marketers’ lists of options. The following are five startups that we feel have not only a great chance of succeeding, but also a place with the big boys.

Domo. Founded by Omniture co-founder Josh James, Domo raised $43 million from investors that included Andreessen Horowitz and Hummer Winblad. Domo’s business model approaches data as the core of business decisionmaking and provides tools for businesses to create a simplified, single-view of all relevant business intelligence in real time, while providing side-by-side analysis. Prospects for Domo are good not just because of James’ successful track record, but because it is addressing a genuine need in the business community, calming big-data fears by making the data manageable and actionable.
Hearsay Social. Founded by author Clara Shih and former Microsoft Steve Garrity, Hearsay Social gets brands closer to managing their online identities by providing analytics and content monitoring across multiple social networks, focusing on standards compliance. The company raised $18 million in 2011 from investors. Hearsay combines looking at branding efforts with checking up on potential online social disasters, like inappropriate posts that compromise the brand or reflect badly on employees who are representing the brand in a way that could lead to a viral controversy. Hearsay duplicates some of the services that larger ad-verification companies offer, but focuses those verification services on social, giving brands a simplified method of gaining insights on social and protecting brand integrity while monitoring the most important consumer data: what people are actually saying about the brand.
Pontiflex. Pontiflex highlights apps’ dirty little secret: People download apps, but fewer than 3 percent use them on a regular basis, according a recent research report. The company raised $6 million this year. Pontiflex, co-founded by Zephrin Lasker, gets consumers to sign up for the brands that they want to engage with and allows them to skip the rest. As far fetched as it sounds, the company has garnered 6 million consumers for its sign-up ads service and managed to land more than 300 brand partners. The company’s appeal to brands is simple, helping them leapfrog over wasted ads by connecting them with consumers who actually want to hear from them.
Sociable Labs. Founded by Nisan Gabbay, Sociable Labs helps brands use Facebook data to integrate social conversations into their e-commerce sites. The company received $7 million in investment in 2011. Sociable Labs allows brands to move a little closer to social search by helping them use a consumer’s social graph more efficiently than fueling likes. Brands can showcase a consumer’s e-commerce interactions on their brand website to members of a consumer’s social network, enabling companies to use visits that arrive directly from search, provided that a consumer is logged on to Facebook, to connect with consumers socially.
Moat. Jonah and Noah Goodhart’s Moat is an open attempt to kill the click. The industry veterans co-founded Moat  using $1.5 million from investors and $3 million of the brothers’ own financing to launch a heat-map based analytics service that aims to solve the fiendish problem of ad attribution. The company has signed several big name clients, like Microsoft, Kodak and Blackberry on to the service. Their pedigree as early backers of Right Media makes Moat a startup to watch in the race to finally come up with brand metrics online.
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