Investors Are Placing Their Bets on Identity Management

Improvado and 6sense collectively pocket $35 million from VCs and industry luminaries

Bullpen Capital's Paul Martino said post sectors of the ad-tech and mar-tech space are overcrowded. Getty Images
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Ad tech has endured a tumultuous start to 2019, with potential changes by the industry’s largest stakeholders dangling a question mark over many companies’ business models and Chapter 11 filings disrupting the sector’s liquidity flow. This is not to say the bubble has totally burst. Ehile ad-tech funding may not be as plentiful as it was a decade ago, those that can demonstrate unique value can convince investors they’re worth backing and helping marketers port their activity across online environments is currently in vogue.

This was evident in separate announcements today, with 6sense announcing $27 million in funding led by Industry Ventures, while Improvado likewise announced $8 million in funding from Bullpen Capital, and IAdata.

According to 6sense, the company uses AI to provide “account-based orchestration” that helps business-to-business advertisers predict timing and coordination of tasks as well as target users across different marketing ecosystems (like walled gardens), as well as the open web. The round was led by Industry Ventures and included participation from existing investors Bain Capital Ventures, Battery Ventures, Costanoa Ventures, Salesforce Ventures and Venrock with the funds intended to further its international expansion.

Jason Zintak, CEO of 6sense, added, “This new round of funding will allow us to expand our product, including transforming the traditional email nurture track into multi-channel next-best-action suggestions that adjust in real time based on buyers’ behavior.”

In a statement, Ken Wallace of Industry Ventures, claimed 6sense’s ability to help businesses identify otherwise anonymous website traffic and then use this to help scale their other marketing activity is “changing the face of the market.”

Meanwhile, San Francisco-based Improvado—a company that positions itself as a “middleware solution” that connects and consolidates different data sources into a central repositor— can now boast leading VC firms, plus names such as Pubmatic’s Rajeev Goel and LiveRamp’s Auren Hoffman, as well as other high-profile names among its financial backers.

Similar to 6sense, Improvado will use its “super seed funding round” to scale its efforts to help businesses traverse the myriad of different ecosystems, such as Facebook, Google, LinkedIn and Salesforce, without engineering support.

Per the startup’s statement, it claims it can help businesses bridge their data gaps, reduce their manual reporting time by 90% and fuel their predictive modeling efforts.

Daniel Kravstov, founder and CEO of Improvado, went on to describe middleware as “the glue that brings fragmentation together,” an increasingly common concern among businesses as data privacy concerns prompt walled garden providers to raise their drawbridges ever higher.

Paul Martino, managing partner of Bullpen Capital and co-founder of marketing attribution company Aggregate Knowledge (which later sold to Neustar), told Adweek that Improvado takes the pain of building and maintaining “dozens and dozens of connectors to platforms” for companies that want to “normalize their data.”

“This lets you bring it all into one spot and then lets you be smart about how you use the data,” he added. “You don’t see a lot of middleware companies in ad tech or mar tech, and that was one of the reasons we got excited by it.”

Speaking about why such a proposition appealed in the contemporary investment milieu, Martino quipped, “If you show up to my office [seeking investment], and you’re somewhere on the Lumascape, and there’s 600 logos around you, then the answer is no from Bullpen. Most people [in the sector] didn’t go after this piece of the puzzle, as valuable as it is, because they decided to be a listening platform or a CRM platform. Very few decided to be the middleware stitching layer.”

@ronan_shields Ronan Shields is a programmatic reporter at Adweek, focusing on ad-tech.