Programmatic platform Choozle picked up $6 million in Series B funding Tuesday, and it’s got growth on the brain.
“We’re buying time to become a bigger player in the mid-market,” said Choozle CEO and co-founder Andrew Fischer, who sees recent ad tech consolidation and the lack of investment in early-stage companies as an opportunity.
Choozle, which has raised more than $14 million in total funding, was founded in 2012 focused on media creation. At the time, its competitive set was populated by companies such as Celtra and Flite, which is now owned by Snapchat.
It became clear, however, that advertisers wanted an end-to-end platform where they could transact their programmatic media through one interface, with data and analytics baked in. So, in 2014, Choozle pivoted.
The company embraced a SaaS model and inked integration deals with enterprise tools and partners, including Oracle, Ensighten, The Trade Desk, AppNexus and OpenX, as it centered on helping medium-sized agencies and advertisers put hands on keyboards. Centro and Simpli.fi are now Choozle’s main competitors.
“Most independent marketing agencies thought we were coming from a different planet when we were trying to introduce self-service to them,” Fischer said. “But, luckily, the market has shifted.”
And as the market has shifted, so have expectations, especially for transparency and margins. Media simply isn’t the future, it’s a feature, Fischer said.
“Media shouldn’t be the main driver of economic value, because focusing on scale rather than return isn’t good for agencies or brands,” he said. “We’re software, but we’re priced on the meter of media spend. But that’s going to change – with us and in general.”
The platform differentiates, Fischer said, because it had SaaS in mind from the get-go.
“The biggest thing we did was build in self-service from the ground up at a point when most of the major players were still either managed service or trying to adapt their product to a self-serve model – something that’s proven to be quite difficult, both on the product side and from a culture standpoint,” he said.
Choozle plans to invest most of its funding round, which was led by existing investor Gemini Group, in growing current business operations, sales and marketing. But some cash will be earmarked for forward-looking initiatives related to a product road map focused on automation, machine learning, data and analytics.
Although Choozle reached profitability in Q4 2016, it reinvested profits back into the company, Fischer said.
Choozle’s headcount now tops 50, with engineering and leadership based at company headquarters in Denver and a smattering of folks at sales outposts in San Francisco, Seattle, Austin, St. Louis and Atlanta. A go-to-market team is settling in at a newly opened London office to get Choozle’s UK operations off the ground.
The goal is to scale to 80 employees within the next 12 months.
But even with the growth, Fischer intends to keep Choozle operating lean, just like the indie agencies that comprise most of its client base.
“We’re not talking about hundreds of millions of dollars of budget with medium-sized and mid-market agencies, but I would argue that means they actually have a lot less room for error in getting dollars toward working media,” Fischer said. “And they’re having the realization that they can run these data-driven programmatic campaigns and analytics on their own.”
Choozle made Inc. Magazine’s most recent annual 500/5000 list at No. 113 with $9 million in revenue and a 3,498.97% growth rate. The company says it’s on track to double revenue in 2017.