The company was founded in 2009 — the product that it initially built, and the one that’s still highlighted on the HasOffers website, is a system that helps ad networks and agencies manage their performance-based programs. (Those agencies and ad networks include Bucksense, Tapjoy, and Sponsorpay.)
However, CEO Peter Hamilton said the team realized that mobile advertisers were facing a similar problem, so it built a product called MobileAppTracking, allowing developers to see where app installs, engagement, and purchases actually come from. So as publishers run ad campaigns, they can see which social networks, publishers, and ad networks are giving them the best results, and they can adjust their efforts accordingly.
Rich Wong, the Accel partner who’s joining the HasOffers board, definitely sounded more excited about the mobile side of the business when I spoke to him today. (Wong’s past investments include Google-acquired AdMob and Angry Birds-maker Rovio.) He said “some of the biggest spenders in the Accel portfolio, people who are on the cutting edge of doing customer acquisition,” such as HotelTonight, Spotify, and Trulia, were already using MobileAppTracking. (Other customers include Yahoo, Zynga, Pandora and Square.)
Wong also argued that the company is part of a broader shift in mobile advertising. He said the industry’s first phase was the early “walled garden” period, followed by a second stage dominated by ad networks like AdMob, Quattro (acquired by Apple), and Millennial (now public). The third, current phase is all about the shift to programmatic buying — in Wong’s words, “the machines are taking over.” In this phase, developers are running campaigns with a wide range of different sources, so they need a better attribution system.
And that system needs to be independent of any of the existing ad networks, so it can measure all sources of traffic effectively. After all, Wong said, many networks have their own attribution systems, and while they might work fine, publishers probably don’t feel entirely confident that AdMob’s can report accurately about one of its competitors, or vice versa. That point about independence came up repeatedly during our conversation, with Wong emphasizing that HasOffers is a software business, not a company that’s selling ads.
“One of the reasons we’re able to do what we do with over 150 ad networks and publishers is that we’re not competitive with them,” Hamilton added.
Until now, Hamilton said HasOffers has been bootstrapped and profitable, with 79 employees, so it didn’t necessarily need the money. At the same time, he said the mobile ad tracking product has really taken off: “We saw an opportunity to put our stake in the ground as the attribution analytics platform, and we didn’t want it to pass us by.” For now, that means continuing to invest heavily in the technology and product side of the business.
In addition to Accel, RealNetworks founder Rob Glaser and Founder’s Co-op partner Chris Devore also invested. (Glaser and Devore are both based in Seattle, as is HasOffers.) Even though HasOffers is a bit older than your normal Series A company, and even though Accel has a separate fund for investing in bootstrapped, mature companies, this specific investment came from Accel’s early-stage fund: “Even though it has characteristics of a ‘growth-stage business’, we looked at it as an early-stage Series A.”