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Polis, the door-to-door marketer, raises another $2.5 million

Posted by on Feb 26, 2019 in Alexis Ohanian, api, boston, Business, digital advertising, distribution, garry tan, initialized capital, Marketing, NRG Energy, polis, Recent Funding, sales, Semil Shah, Startups, targeted advertising, TC, texas | 0 comments

Polis founder Kendall Tucker began her professional life as a campaign organizer in local Democratic politics, but — seeing an opportunity in her one-on-one conversations with everyday folks — has built a business taking that shoe leather approach to political campaigns to the business world.

Now the company she founded to test her thesis that Americans would welcome back the return of the door-to-door salesperson three years ago is $2.5 million richer thanks to a new round of financing from Initialized Capital (the fund founded by Garry Tan and Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian) and Semil Shah’s Haystack.vc.

The Boston-based company currently straddles the line between political organizing tool and new marketing platform — a situation that even its founder admits is tenuous at the moment.

That tension is only exacerbated by the fact that the company is coming off one of its biggest political campaign seasons. Helping to power the get-out-the-vote initiative for Senatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke in Texas, Polis’ software managed the campaign’s outreach effort to 3 million voters across the state.

However, politically focused software and services businesses are risky. Earlier this year the Sean Parker-backed Brigade shut down and there are rumblings that other startups targeting political action may follow suit.

“Essentially, we got really excited about going into the corporate space because online has gotten so nasty,” says Tucker. “And, at the end of the day, digital advertising isn’t as effective as it once was.”

Customer acquisition costs in the digital ad space are rising. For companies like NRG Energy and Inspire Energy (both Polis clients), the cost of acquisitions online can be as much as $300 per person.

Polis helps identify which doors for salespeople to target and works with companies to identify the scripts that are most persuasive for consumers, according to Tucker. The company also monitors for sales success and helps manage the process so customers aren’t getting too many house calls from persistent sales people.

“We do everything through the conversation at the door,” says Tucker. “We do targeting and we do script curation (everything from what script do you use and when do you branch out of scripts) and we have an open API so they can push that out and they run with it through the rest of their marketing.”


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian brings Armenian brandy to the US

Posted by on Dec 1, 2018 in Alexis Ohanian, Column, Flaviar, TC | 0 comments

When Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of Reddit, approached the members-only spirits subscription club Flaviar about bringing an Armenian brandy to market, he saw it as a unique opportunity to honor his paternal heritage.

“My father’s side all fled during the genocide,” Ohanian told me in an interview. “He grew up pretty Americanized, but the food and drink were the big parts of the culture that were passed down.”

Ohanian spent some time in Armenia as an adult and became acquainted with the tradition of taking shots of the local brandy, called “konyak,” out of sliced apricots. And he wanted to expose Americans to the highest-quality aged Armenian brandy.

So when he received the investor update about Son of a Peat, a whiskey that Flaviar made for its members, he saw that the company was capable of bringing its own spirits to market. It was a new direction for Flaviar, and he thought it opened the door for him to have his own product. Ohanian decided to pitch his idea to the team.

“For most Americans, this is their first exposure. If we can make it a thing in America, I’d love to pull that off,” Ohanian said. “It’s not often that I do this with one of the companies I invest with; I chatted to Jugo Petkovic and Grisa [Soba], the founders of Flaviar, about creating my own spirit. I proposed the idea of Armenian brandy. They were like, ‘this is weird, but we’ll look into it.’ 

He says that there are not many Armenian exports that people are aware of and has a hunch that more than just Armenians will like the brandy. “I hope I can be a good ambassador for it.”

Flaviar agreed to make the brandy for Ohanian who decided to call it Shakmat — “chess” in Armenian. “Chess is a huge part of the Armenian identity. So is Armenian konyak.”

The launch of Shakmat is an expansion of the relationship between Ohanian and Flaviar, which recently began developing its own spirit brands after initial success building a consumer base with subscription deliveries of spirit-tasting boxes.

Since beginning operations in 2012, Flaviar has grown to include thousands of annual subscribers in the U.S. and Europe. In addition, the $210 yearly fee gets members access to live tastings and discounts on exclusive bottlings and private labels.

After initial funding from a local angel investor, and later one of the first investments from Speedinvest’s first fund, says Petkovic, Flaviar went through Y Combinator in the summer of 2014.

It was there where Petkovic and his co-founder Grisa Soba met Ohanian. “He, among several other YC partners, ended up investing personally, as well. We raised a few undisclosed rounds of funding since then.”

Ohanian says that what drew him to Flaviar was its unique approach to connecting with consumers in the spirits marketplace. “This was before ‘direct to consumer’ was a thing,” Ohanian says. “The state laws around liqueur sales were starting to change, because of e-commerce. And what [Flaviar] realized was that you could build a relationship with customers around liquor. We can focus on curating really great juice. And we have enough credibility now that we can make our own.”

The privately held company purchased competitor Caskers.com earlier this year and has an ambitious vision based on the idea that spirits remain inaccessible to most consumers who are interested in educating themselves about what’s out there.

“We always envisioned Flaviar as a lifestyle club to which members would belong for years,” says Petkovic. “We believe new products are best discovered through curated selection, education and engagement with a community of people who share your passion.”

Shakmat launched in the U.S. on November 12. Ohanian says he was thrilled at the opportunity to provide a platform for a deep cultural tradition and to donate 10 percent of revenues to the community by supporting Armenian reforestation efforts.  (Armenian forests were severely depleted during the Soviet occupation because of the need to use wood as an energy source.)

The first run of Shakmat includes 2,400 bottles of the 80 proof (40% ABV) 23-year-old XO brandy, but don’t be surprised if another run hits the market soon. Bottles can be purchased by Flaviar members for $95 and non-members for $110.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Aiming to make billboard advertising more programmatic, Adquick raises $2.1 million

Posted by on Jul 17, 2018 in AdQuick, Alexis Ohanian, billboard advertising, initialized capital, Instacart, outdoor advertising, Reddit, TC | 0 comments

Alexis Ohanian, the co-founder of Initialized Capital and an investor in Adquick, a new service that’s looking to bring billboard advertising into the internet age, bought his last billboard ad just this year.

For several years, the Reddit founder had turned to outdoor advertising as a tool to troll politicians and advocate for various positions (and celebrate his famous wife). The last political billboard, in 2012, was to protest the Stop Online Piracy Act.

It was also the impetus for his investment in Adquick. “I’d seen pitches from a number of competitors that were all just static websites on top of the single business,” says Ohanian.

What he was looking for, and what he eventually found in Adquick was a company that had managed to map all of the billboard advertising options available in the U.S. and was offering would-be advertisers a way to digitally distribute their ads and book inventory.

“For us the reason why it was such an exciting initial investment was because we saw the opportunity and the talent of the team,” Ohanian says.

Matthew O’Connor, Adquick’s chief executive previously worked at Instacart and it was there that he and his team first learned about dragging traditional businesses into the online world.

“This team had come out of Instacart… they came well recommended by the founders over there,”Ohanian said. “Working with them now I’ve just gotten more and more impressed.”

So impressed, that Ohanian doubled down on his firm’s initial investment into the company with a new $2.1 million round.

There’s an undoubtable opportunity in outdoor advertising. O’Connor estimates that it’s a $33 billion global market with $8 billion spent on outdoor ads in the U.S. alone.

“They are aggregating from hundreds of vendors across the U.S. and they’re making it easy for companies to sell those ads and manage that inventory and bringing a ton of transparency to a system that is mostly phone calls and emails,” Ohanian said. 

Bringing those efficiencies to an old industry can only help what’s been the only non-digital ad channel to actually grow in the U.S. “It’s the oldest channel in the world that’s about to undergo a resurgence,” O’Connor says.

“It’s the last frontier of advertising,” says O’Connor. “This is a real world channel that can have a lot of tailwinds if we can bring these great modern technologies to it which is what we’re doing.”


Source: The Tech Crunch

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