In what feels like an ever-so-slightly protracted seed round, ERN has raised a further $1 million in seed funding, bringing the total raised by the London-headquartered company to $5.6 million. This time the fresh injection of capital is pegged to finance its expansion into Asian markets, as ERN is also announcing that it’s hired ex-American Express Head of Global Marketing Brian Thom as its president for Asia.
Unsurprisingly, given the startup’s mission to use big data to enable banks and merchants to create loyalty-based offers for cardholders, Thom has a background in retail banking and cards, having previously served at American Express Bank, along with being Regional Marketing Head for MasterCard Asia Pacific, and President of Citibank Card Services for Japan. He’s also said to have “more than 10 years of experience” in managing startups in Asia. So, on paper at least, the fit is good.
ERN’s analytics platform, dubbed “Looop,” enables banks/card issuers and participating merchants to boost customer loyalty by creating new products and offers based on the analysis of their card transactions. The idea is that by drilling into the big data around a customer’s transactional history — after they’ve opted in, of course — individually tailored offers can be pushed to their smartphones via the Looop app or other channels in the form of an e-coupon redeemable in-store.
In addition to insights gained through mining customers’ transactional big data, the targeting of offers can also be geo-fenced, e.g. only pushed an offer when a customer who has previously bought a dress is within a certain radius of the participating store.
Last month the company announced its first major client win since unveiling the platform at the FinovateEurope 2013 conference in February. It’s signed up The Retail Data Partnership (TRDP), which supplies a network of some 1,500+ independent merchants in the UK with EpoS systems, who will have access to ERN’s Looop Big Data Analytics platform and customer loyalty capabilities to maximise the transactions that customers make. In today’s announcement it also mentions a number of other unnamed clients in both Europe and Asia.
As for why it needed to raise more funding, which once again comes from unnamed private investors, big data costs big money, while specifically, Asia expansion is the target this time around. We can also presume that some of its previous funds will have been spent on two acquisitions ERN made in August. It bought two UK companies, Inspired Analytics and Elucidata, to bolster the analytics side of its platform, not least personnel, in what looked a lot like an acqui-hire.