Human Demand, a mobile ad startup which launched last summer targeting the long tail of app developers, has since expanded its focus to brands, and is today announcing having raised an additional $900,000 in new funding. Some of that new investment is founder money, while the others leading the round include the DEV fund and ARC Angel Fund.
Incidentally, Human Demand CEO Howie Schwartz, the co-founder of OfferMobi, and an active investor in multiple funds (BHV, ff Venture Capital, Metamorphic), is also involved in ARC Angel, but insists he had to pitch the team like any other startup would, then had to leave the room when they made their decision. (Ha!)
He says that in terms of the lead investment, it was fairly evenly split between the three (DEV, ARC and himself). Also participating in the round were Empire Angels, Blackgate Ventures, TJNS Capital, and other NY area and angel investors. Until today, Human Demand was basically seed funded by Schwartz himself.
For background, the company initially offered a platform that made it easier for indie developers to optimize ad campaigns by introducing transparent metrics which showed exactly what the acquisition price per user is on each app. Human Demand also offered a toolkit for these developers which included something called a “power level” – a simple, color-coded system that allows developers to target or block apps via color codes instead of having to calculate actual dollars and cents.
The idea was not only to simplify the process of media buying, but also to show developers where their ads would run.
However, since its launch last August, Human Demand has extended its platform to reach brands and agencies, who have a different set of more sophisticated tools at their disposal. Today, Schwartz says the company has an even mix of brands and indie developers using its platform, and he’s taking a wait-and-see approach as to where the majority of the startup’s focus will be going forward.
To date, Human Demand has handled around 400 campaigns from its 150 or so customers. While smaller developers might run one campaign, brands and agencies may run as many as 30 or 40. The company is also partnered with several exchanges, including MoPub, MobClix, Smaato, Nexage, OpenX, Inneractive, LiveIntent, and Amobee, for example.
“Our reach has probably more than doubled since last August,” says Schwartz of its reach, which he pegs at around 11,000 or 12,000 publishers. He adds that Human Demand has also recently partnered with TRUSTe, allowing consumers to opt-out of interest-based advertising – something that Human Demand is fairly passionate about, in fact.
“Obviously, we don’t have cookies on mobile, but a lot of the same privacy concerns that we’re seeing wreak havoc in the desktop advertising world – I think it’s going to be even worse on mobile. It’s a more personal device,” he says. “It has location. We’re sleeping with our devices! So we think it’s very important to be privacy sensitive from the foundation of our platform.”
The company recently hired a new VP of Sales, Brian Cronin, who will help Human Demand with its agency and brand scaling efforts. “We’re focusing on hyper-local, audience and brand safety,” says Schwartz of this expanded focus. “Since our platform is transparent – we can actually do what we call ‘true brand safety,'” he adds.
Schwartz explains that one of the challenges today in ad networks is that they’re blind. For example, a family friendly advertiser might not want to run ads in violent mobile games. As with the indie developers Human Demand serves, the brands can also use the self-serve platform to be in control of their own targeting and ad buys.
In the second quarter of this year, the company will have a series of product announcements, one of the most notable being the support for mobile video. This will allow developer to run trailers to promote installs via video (a fairly popular alternative to incentivized installs today) and brands and agencies will be able to run video in a pre-roll setting at scale. These videos will become available in the self-serve platform just like banner ads are now.
The additional funding will allow Human Demand to grow Cronin’s biz dev and sales teams, ramp up on ad operations and support, and further product development.