Danish startup AllUnite, which uses the lure of free Wi-Fi to drive local adverts to people logging on within retail locations such as shopping centers, has closed a €3 million ($3.7 million) Series A funding round.
The round was led by European VC firm Northzone, along with Denmark’s largest grocery chain retailer, Coop. Prior to this the startup had pulled in €500,000 in funding from Danish investor Christian Stadil, along with the founders contributing a further €500,000 in seed cash.
AllUnite said it will be using the new funding round to rapidly expand globally, with a plan to add 50 new markets in 50 weeks.
“In the EU, we are expanding into Denmark, Sweden, Spain, France, Italy, Poland and Romania,” said co-founder Kasper Gevaldig detailing which markets it will be prioritizing. “Globally, we are expanding into China, Chile, Australia, India, Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, Pakistan, and South Africa, amongst others.”
Founded back in September 2013, AllUnite has so far amassed some 470,000 active users for its location-based ad targeting platform — which offers the carrot of free connectivity at a physical location in exchange for firing ads into a slot at the bottom of the user’s browser.
It says it has signed up 4,000 retailers so far, and registered more than 2.08 million unique Wi-Fi users on its network to-date.
AllUnite rents its Wi-Fi boxes to retailers for €15 per month for which they get half the ad space — allowing them to push discount offer details and other ads at customers currently in their store. The other half of the ads are AllUnite’s to sell to other local retailers, although it says it commits to not selling ads to direct competitors of the retailer who is renting the Wi-Fi box(es) in that location.
Competitors to AllUnite include Apple’s iBeacon system, which relies on targeting ads locally to smartphones in the immediate vicinity via Bluetooth proximity triggers. AllUnite does much the same, just using free Wi-Fi instead — so with added user incentive. A more direct competitor to AllUnite is China’s Baidu, which has also been installing free Wi-Fi in retail areas and shopping complexes.
Commenting on the funding round in a statement, Jeppe Zink from Northzone said: “AllUnite serves the need of the digital neighbourhood, with people demanding local digital services, from basic fast internet connection, to local and relevant offers from your local butcher or a timely voucher for discounted dessert in the restaurant you are currently dining with.”
As well as the ability to serve local ads, AllUnite’s system gives retailers customer analytics such as the proportion of repeat visitors; time spent in store’ and heatmaps of where in the store customers are focused (the mapping feature requires a retailer to have multiple AllUnite Wi-Fi boxes installed), as well as data on customers’ individual browsing habits and interests, and customer profiles detailing factors such as gender, age, and marital status.
Users aren’t asked to divulge any preference or personal data when they log-on to the Wi-Fi but AllUnite collects info on what they’re looking at and buying while on the Wi-Fi network, and hands it over (after anonymizing it) to retailers as an added incentive for them to install its system. So yes, there’s no such thing as free Wi-Fi…
“AllUnite generates an anonymous profile, based on the user’s shopping and internet habits. This is anonymous user profile is accessible to the shop owner to help gauge the most popular selling items and what the consumer is looking to buy,” adds Gevaldig.