Skyscraper Adds $500K to Help Online Publishers Set, Sell and Manage Ads

Today San Francisco-based Skyscraper announced that it has raised $500,000 in seed funding led by Howard Lindzon and Tom Peterson of Social Leverage, with participation from several angel investors. The round was raised online using AngelList’s new Docs feature, one of the first rounds to close since it was introduced. They also announced a name change today, rebranding from former name Skyscrpr. The platform helps online publishers manage their advertising, letting them sell directly to advertisers instead of using a third-party service, and currently has almost 2,000 publishers in the private beta.

BetaKit first covered Skyscraper before it launched in private beta, when it announced that it had joined Vancouver startup accelerator GrowLab. Co-founder Paul Burger said they’ll be using the funding to build out the team, and to further build out the product, which is currently in private beta after a brief public beta period earlier this fall. “We were somewhat overwhelmed by the initial early traction, so we wanted to kind of really take a step back, get our funding in place, and then really focus on product so that we were killing it with the experience,” Burger said.

The platform helps publishers set, sell and manage their ad inventory by adding a snippet of JavaScript code to their site, and works with major blogging platforms like WordPress, Tumblr and Squarespace. It also lets publishers create an infographic media kit containing info like their traffic and visitor data, and testimonials from other advertisers. Publishers can set their ad spaces and specify pricing for each space, and advertisers can select the ad they want to purchase, the length of time they want it to run for, and the pricing model (either CPM or percent of voice). Publishers can also set custom add-ons like sponsored social media updates or blog posts.

If a publisher doesn’t have an advertiser lined up for a specific period of time, they can use Skyscraper’s internal inventory, and track which ads are being displayed in a visual dashboard. The company said in May it would take a percentage of all impressions served, but when it launched in private beta in August it was offering the platform for free. While initially Burger said the platform was targeted at smaller publishers like independent bloggers, he said when they open it up in public beta again they’ll probably have tiered subscription plans to cater to different impressions or publisher sizes. Though pricing is still being worked out, it will likely be a monthly subscription fee and a percentage of each impression served.

“What we found is that the problem we’re trying to solve, the direct sales problem, is really kind of universal no matter how big you are,” he said. “So we were actually quite surprised at the size of some of the sites we ended up attracting.”

Burger said right now they’re focused on making sure the drag-and-drop interface works seamlessly across all its partner content management systems, and then will be opening it up to the public again. The big vision is not just to let publishers sell and manage their display ad inventory, but also to sell everything from branded posts to giveaways and any other way a publisher could monetize. If they can do that, it will help differentiate them from companies like Influads that target smaller publishers, and help them become a one-stop-shop for online publishers looking to handle ads and other monetization channels.


Erin Bury

Erin Bury

Erin Bury is a Co-founder and CEO at Willful, an online estate planning platform. Also a former Managing Director at Eighty-Eight, a creative communications agency based in Toronto. She was formerly the Managing Editor at BetaKit. Follow her on Twitter at @erinbury.

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