Palo Alto-based publisher platform ShareThis, the maker of those “social sharing” buttons scattered across the web, is today announcing having closed on $23 million in Series C financing, in a round led by T-Venture, the venture capital arm of Deutsche Telekom. Additionally, in another move signaling its intention to unify its platform across web and mobile, ShareThis has also acquired Socialize, a startup whose developer toolkit helps make any app social.
The new round of funding included new investors Harbourton and corporate funds represented by West Capital investors, as well as participation from existing investors, Blue Chip Venture Company, DFJ, Illinois Ventures, Matthew Pritzker Company, Mercury Fund and RPM Ventures. As a part of the new round, Bernhard Gold of T-Venture will join ShareThis’s board. ShareThis’s total raise to date is $54 million.
Today, ShareThis offers publishers sharing widgets, developer tools, and an analytics dashboard detailing social sharing trends across sites, and more, as well as tools for advertisers that allow them to run targeted campaigns across the ShareThis network. But while its platform does offer some mobile sharing tools, ShareThis CEO Kurt Abrahamson says that their focus was primarily on mobile web, not apps.
“We have a fairly large distribution of tools, so Socialize was partially about distribution in the app space, but it was primarily about finding a really strong team that had mobile a little bit more in its DNA,” he explains. “They’re a great team; they’re based in San Francisco – culturally, everything was 100 percent.”
Abrahamson says that although ShareThis had an app solution, it hadn’t pushed it, and now following this acquisition, Socialize’s app solution will become the new default.
Socialize, for those unfamiliar, spun out of the startup’s earlier efforts with a service called AppMakr (also now owned by ShareThis), which helped individuals and businesses build their own native iPhone applications. As Socialize, the company put out a “Social SDK” (software development kit), which allows app developers to quickly add social features to their mobile applications such as likes, comments, shares, an “activity pane” showing other users’ in-app activity, and more. The idea is that it can add a social layer to any app, adding not only the ability for users to connect with each other, but a way for the brand to connect with their in-app user base, as well.
As of last spring, the company had 150 live apps on its platform, with another 500 or so in testing, and was reaching around 10 million end users. Today, Socialize has grown to 800 apps across 67 million unique devices, and had just this month scored its first enterprise contract with Warner Bros., which will now be integrating Socialize into its various mobile apps, starting with its “Ellen” app (the daytime talkshow).
The Socialize platform will remain up-and-running following the ShareThis acquisition, though it might eventually be rebranded. All six members of the current Socialize team will operate out of ShareThis’s San Francisco office. Former Socialize CEO, now SVP of Strategic Partnerships at ShareThis, Daniel Odio, says that the service won’t be changed for current users – in fact, he adds, it will now be actively improved as a part of ShareThis.
Abrahamson also says that Socialize will help give ShareThis a better position in mobile. “The biggest challenge is that there’s not consistent metrics across web and mobile. One of the things we’re going to focus on is figuring out a solution that will allow publishers to see the sharing of their content across multiple platforms, and not just toggling between one and another,” he says. “In the world we’re evolving to, publishers need to optimize content for all devices, and I think they’ll see different social sharing patterns, depending on the platform.”
He adds that, today, many web publishers are seeing higher percentages of users coming from mobile than they may have expected. So with the acquisition, ShareThis wants to be able to analyze that traffic and present it back to publishers, letting them see the value on mobile.
The integration of Socialize into ShareThis’s platform will take around two quarters to complete, with the initial effort focused on developing a version of ShareThis’s SQI measurement (Social Quality Index) for mobile, a proprietary ranking metric that allows publishers to compare themselves to competitors in their same space.
Also reflective of its increased focus on mobile is the new T-Venture investment, which brings a mobile perspective to ShareThis. But more importantly, perhaps, it brings an international angle. Although there are many publishers outside the U.S. using ShareThis, the company hasn’t really focused on the global market. That will now change, as ShareThis plans to expand internationally in 2013, including establishing European offices, possibly in Germany or the U.K., expanding its head count along the way by two to three dozen.
ShareThis currently has a publisher base of 2.3 million. The company says its tools are seen by 95 percent of the U.S. Internet audience each month – over 200 million uniques. In 2012, it grew revenues 155 percent, and grew its staff from 50 to 95. On the advertising side, it works with a large number of major brands, including Microsoft, Samsung, Best Buy, Disney, American Express and others.