San Mateo-based startup Drawbridge, helmed by CEO and founder Kamakshi Sivaramakrishnan, is announcing a $6.5 million Series A financing round today, from Kleiner Perkins Caulfied & Byers and Sequoia Capital. The formerly stealth startup wants to take on cross-platform online advertising, something Sivaramakrishnan called the “Holy grail” of modern marketing.
The idea is simple: ads will be more effective, targeted and relevant if they can follow a user across their various devices. As Sivaramakrishnan pointed out, users don’t just stick to one device anymore; they pick up whatever happens to be most convenient, be it the desktop, their mobile phone, a tablet, a gaming console, or any other connected device. Recognizing and understanding how users operate across devices, and serving them a campaign that is simultaneously designed for each specific platform but also carries continuity across devices, is poised to become the next big thing in online advertising, and Sivaramakrishnan thinks her company is at the cutting edge of this new frontier.
“At its core the challenges [facing the industry] are a lack of sophisticated targeting, and lack of insight into audience behavior on mobile devices,” she said in an interview. “Drawbridge solves these problems by developing the industry’s first self-learning ad technology, that leverages cross-device behavior and enables advertisers and marketers to reach their target market on any device.”
Sivaramakrishnan’s background likely had a lot to do with inspiring confidence in her investors. She was formerly lead information scientist at AdMob and Google after its acquisition by the search giant, and holds a doctorate in Information Theory from Stanford. Drawbridge will be competing with Sivaramakrishnan’s former employer, as Google has recently unveiled early steps towards better cross-device advertising targeting. Still, she told BetaKit that she expects and welcomes competition, since the opportunity here is huge and she’s confident the Drawbridge approach is unique.
“We differentiate ourselves by taking an algorithmic-centric and a scientific approach to the problem,” she said, talking about what differentiates Drawbridge from others chasing the same end goal. “Mine and my team’s background is in information theory, so we’re trained to glean meaningful patterns from big data. So ours is a shop where big data meets advertising, and we are employing a scientific approach which crunches vast amounts of data to develop probabilistic and inference models.”
While in stealth, Drawbridge has been running a closed beta, and already has paying customers and large-scale campaigns. Sivaramakrishnan said that early feedback has been good, with some campaigns garnering between 3-10 times the engagement that traditional online ads not leveraging the platform have been able to provide.
Cross-platform advertising that truly takes advantage of cross-device usage will definitely be the next big lucrative opportunity in online advertising, since it best reflects how users are interacting with mobile and other connected tech today. Drawbridge has some significant support from top-shelf investors, a founder and team with strong technical chops and industry experience, and a head start putting theory into practice, putting them in a very good place with respect to this emerging market.