Crowdsourced Advertising Startup Trada Raises $9M in Funding

New funding to focus on Facebook advertising, graphic-based ads

The power of the crowd seems to be paying off for Boulder, Colo.-based advertising startup Trada.

The crowdsourced online marketing company was set to announce Thursday that it had closed a $9 million Series D financing round from Foundry Group and Google Venture. The two investors had previously invested a combined $7.95 million in the company.

Launched in 2008, Trada connects small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) with online advertising experts and graphic designers in a performance-based marketplace. Businesses let Trada know how much they’re willing to spend each month on search advertising (on Google, Yahoo or Bing) or Facebook marketing, and the company crowdsources the work from its team of search experts (“Optimizers” in Trada-speak) and designers (“Creatives”).

Trada CEO Niel Robertson said the new funding comes after a year of rapid growth for the company. Its head count grew from 30 to nearly 100 employees in 2011 while its total advertiser budget running in the marketplace expanded by 700 percent. While Trada’s largest advertiser had a monthly budget of $35,000 a month at the start of 2011, its biggest advertiser now has a monthly budget of $500,000, he said.

“It’s been a great year for us,” Robertson told Adweek.

The company launched three years ago as a supplier of search advertising services to SMBs that Robertson felt were left behind in the paid search market. Instead of needing tools or a better interface, he said, they needed human expertise.

“These businesses and their budgets require intuition, human ideas," he said, "and [we believed] that a group of people working on these campaigns, first starting in the search side of the world, could end up getting better results than anyone individual[ly]."

In November, the company launched a similar service for companies that went to market on Facebook, offering both Facebook advertising experts and graphic designers who create display images. Now, the company has 2,000 experts in its paid search marketplace and 100 advertising experts and 100 designers in its Facebook marketplace.

Robertson said the company’s growth shows SMBs' need for online ad expertise but the acceptance of crowdsourcing as a solution. As the average customer gets bigger, he said, more Trada freelancers are finding that they can pull the equivalent of a full-time paycheck. At the beginning of 2011, the highest paid Optimizer made $4,500 a month; now, the highest paid freelancer makes $15,000 a month.

With Trada’s new funding, Robertson said, the company would focus on growing its Facebook marketplace; bringing its market to a global audience with foreign language ads; and developing its creative business, specifically in search retargeting.