Gabey Goh
Apr 12, 2016

Blis secures US$25 million to advance location-based behavioural insights

SINGAPORE - Ad-tech provider Blis, which focuses on behavioural insights derived from location data, has raised US$25 million in funding for its next phase of growth, including a US debut.

Greg Isbister
Greg Isbister

The cash infusion comes from Endeit Capital, Beringea US and Unilever Ventures, alongside additional credit from Silicon Valley Bank.

Blis, which provides location-data technology and an RTB platform for cross-screen digital display and video advertising, was founded in London in 2004 and made its APAC debut in 2013.

The company now serves more than 50 markets from its eight offices across APAC and EMEA, employing just over 100 staff. Current clients include Airbnb, Ford and Samsung.

Greg Isbister, founder and CEO of Blis, told Campaign Asia-Pacific that the business is profitable and looking to take further advantage of the growing demand for its location-based behavioural insights.

The injection of capital will be spent in the following key areas: increased investment in existing markets, expansion into new markets such as the US, scaling international sales and marketing activities, and enhancing core data-engineering capabilities and new product development.

In Asia, the company will be looking to invest in its operations in Singapore, which currently serves the Southeast Asia region, along with Hong Kong and ANZ to accelerate growth efforts.

“Asia has been a tremendous growth region for us, and we want to continue that momentum,” he said. “We’ve recently invested in a service team in India, which is working out quite well.”

Isbister could not confirm the company’s entry into additional markets in Asia at this time.

Asked about how it intends to crack the American market, which is already populated with similar offerings, Isbister pointed to the company’s track record in entering new markets and its “unique” solution.

“We have successfully launched in eight new markets in the last three years, so we’ve learnt a lot about what it takes to enter new markets," he said. "In addition, we’re in a good position with a solid platform to go into the American market."

The company already has a few global clients and believes further demand exists for the accuracy and scale afforded by its unique data-processing technique, he added.

Isbister said that company already runs campaigns in the US market, has servers installed in the country and is looking to establish its presence as soon as possible, with recruitment efforts already underway.

Getting more out of data

The company’s continued investment in engineering talent and data-science capabilities is an area of focus. The bulk of its engineering talent is currently based in London, with some engineering support based in Asia.

According to Isbister, the platform currently records 17 billion impressions a day, each with multiple data points attached.

“That’s about 200,000 impressions every second, so it’s high-velocity and low-latency, as it’s real time bidding,” he added. “We’re seeing 1.5 billion new location events on the platform every day, thanks to mobile GPS data coming into the platform.”

This daily onslaught of data requires a lot of processing, said Isbister, to make sense of the raw data and then store it with the appropriate device identities and timestamps.

“The key challenge is understanding that data, crunching and contextualising it in a way that allows advertisers to use it effectively,” he said.

The company is still educating clients about how its offerings can be applied to marketing efforts, Isbister said.

“Understanding of location data is mostly around its uses in-market, which is most relevant for retailers or shopping malls,” he said. “But our data is different in that it centres on behavioural insights.”

For example, an airline brand would not have much use for location data showing that a person is already at the airport. However, by looking at the data sets that infer travel history, brands can discern travel patterns and zero in on people who find themselves at the airport at least twice a month.

“Then it becomes about where you’ve been and where we expect you to go,” he said. “Location becomes irrelevant at that point and outreach becomes more targeted in context. If you think of it that way, then these insights can be applied to any brief and across multiple industry verticals.”

Martijn Hamann, partner at Endeit Capital, said in a release that Blis has “created a leadership position” in the global market through its pioneering use of location technology.

Hamann along with Mark Donnelly, Beringea US; and Ian Lane, Unilever Ventures, will join the company’s board of directors. Mooreland Partners acted as the financial adviser to Blis in the Series B financing round.

 

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