Somo, the UK’s largest independent mobile marketing agency, made its name in the tech world for developing the front end iOS interface for Summly, the startup app acquired by Yahoo for $30 million and which ended up as the Yahoo News digest app. But Somo is not stopping there. Last year it started the process of raising capital from London-based VC MMC Ventures for a suite of advertising platform apps which is shaping up to be a stand alone platform in its own right.
Today that vision is becoming clearer. It’s now raised a further $5.5m follow-on funding from MMC Ventures and other private investors. (The MMC London Fund is overseen by the Mayor of London and intended to support the growth of London-based businesses).
At the heart of what it’s doing is a product called Lithient. Although on the face of it this is an ‘App Tracker’, in fact what we’re looking at here is a full-blown product for online tracking and analytics of apps which brings together several strands around the way brands transact online.
Having been extensively briefed on the matter, it looks like Lithient is shaping up to be a story similar to how 37Signals (an agency) created BaseCamp: Agency comes up with internal solution for clients then realises this is a product which could be a platform others could use. Eventually that company became the product.
Although Lithient will be licensed software for now, it’s future is in becoming a cloud-based platform. The Somo founders Nick Hynes and Carl Uminski understand this. Just look at their history.
In 2000, Hynes, alongside co-founder Carl Uminski, created Overture Europe. Overture was sold to Yahoo! in 2003 for $1.6bn. In 2004, Hynes founded The Search Works, which became Europe’s largest paid search agency as well as Google’s biggest European customer. He sold the group to TradeDoubler AB in 2007 for £56m. In 2009, Hynes partnered once again with Carl Uminski to found Somo.
I think you can see the pattern I can see.
Meanwhile it’s worth noting that MMC Ventures’ £14m fund is specifically focused on investment in London businesses. It’s a matching fund, so at least £28m will actually be invested in startups in the Capital.