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33Across Picks Up $13.1M To Grow Its Big Data Social Graph, No Facebook Strings Attached

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Social ad targeting company 33Across, which claims to operate the world’s biggest social graph covering over 1.25 billion users globally, has raised another $13.1 million in a Series C round of financing to further expand its services in the wider web — specifically advertising territory that Facebook has yet to tackle. The funding was led by new investor Pelion Ventures, and with participation from Flybridge Capital, Greycroft Partners, First Round Capital, iNovia Capital, Panorama Capital, QED Investors, Metamorphic Ventures, and Great Oaks Ventures.

The long list of VCs in this current round is because several of them are coming in from 33Across’ acquisition of Tynt in January, explains CEO Eric Wheeler: they came on as shareholders in that sale. “They have now doubled down in a big way,” he says. The company has now raised $26 million to date.

33Across says that its client base already includes 375 Fortune 1,000 companies as well as 600,000 publishers where those companies’ ads run.

There may be some more acquisitions coming with the new round of funding, but the majority of the investment, Wheeler says, will be in technology: engineering, infrastructure and new products, he says.

While currently the company offers the ability to see how users share articles with others (using anonymized data), there will be future products that include tracking how content is used and shared on mobile devices, as well as more interactive features for users — along the lines of the “like” button that Facebook has popularized.

On mobile, Wheeler notes that up to now there’s not been enough data to merit a move into this space but that the boom in smartphone and tablet usage, and the growth of advertising in that area, means that we are now approaching a time when investments in mobile might be more meaningful.

As for the “like” button, Wheeler says that this is part of a bigger vision of “social CRM” in which a person’s affinity or “like” of a brand can be tracked wherever that brand appears, whether that is in an ad, or through a piece of social content. This is building on some of the technology that already exists at Tynt and is already being enabled by brands. Wheeler notes that the first products related to this will be out in coming weeks, but that the first versions of what he calls a “cross-web like button” won’t be out for a few more months.

The attraction of 33Across for advertisers and publishers is that it is tracking and using data across their own sites, which then gets translated into data that can then be used create more relevant advertising. That might sound familiar: that’s what Facebook does, too, but as Wheeler points out, Facebook’s interest in this has so far been about how that helps with advertising on Facebook, not on the wider web.

The approach of offering social data on the wider web seems to be what has interested investors, too: “The term ‘social graph’ is more often associated with Facebook than any other technology company,” stated Chad Packard, Partner of Pelion Ventures, in a statement. “However, there is a wide-open race underway to determine who will most successfully leverage anonymous social data gleaned from billions of actions taking place across the ‘rest-of-web’.”

There have been little hints of Facebook potentially extending its advertising outside of its own platform into the wider web, although to date this hasn’t been pursued as a business line. Yet.

Wheeler, in fact doesn’t believe that Facebook will appear any time soon as a competitive threat to 33Across. That’s because he says that Facebook currently has a quarter of the world’s display ad inventory, “and they don’t sell out on that, so they are desperate to get that sold. That’s their priority,” he says. “I think the bigger initiative for Facebook now is the Facebook exchange,” in which big networks with data buy inventory on Facebook using their own data to underpin that. “That’s very likely to continue to scale.”