Boston-Based Local Marketing Startup Privy Raises $1.7 Million Seed Round From 500 Startups, Atlas, And Others

Privy, a Boston-based local marketing startup that was also one of the standouts from the 500 Startups Demo Day this past February, has raised $1.7 million in seed funding from Atlas Ventures, 500 Startups, and others for its end-to-end solution for small businesses.

Also participating in the round were John Dais (VP Finance at Wildfire), Mike Volpe (CMO of Hubspot), Justin Kitch (founder of Homestead), Ralph James (former COO of First Marblehead), Jere Doyle (founder of Eversave) and other angel investors.

Founder Benjamin Jabbawy explains that building a startup in the local marketing space was a natural fit, as the child of small business owners himself. “Having been technical my whole life, I was the son that both of my parents would say, ‘hey, I need a website for my business. I need Facebook, Google Ads, etc.,” he explains with a laugh.

Privy was started in 2011, originally with the focus of serving the small, independent small business owner/operator, as well. But after participating in the 500 Startups program, the company shifted more of its resources toward another sector within the small business market: the multi-unit regional and national chains which already have a marketing manager or team in place.

Jabbawy notes that it was important that Privy had begun small, because it helped inform the design and feature set of the product, which aims to be simple to understand and easy to use. Today, interested businesses can now get started using the service in about 20 minutes or less.

A marketing manager, upon first login, uploads the information about the business, including the names of the managers at each location and the addresses. They then authenticate with all the different channels where they have assets, including Facebook, Twitter, email (Constant Contact, Mailchimp, e.g.) and more, as well as at their website and mobile site.

Afterwards, they can then use Privy by entering their “chalkboard specials” — the limited-time offers they run for a specific time frame, plus a photo and description of each. Marketing teams can do this as the offers come up, or they can load them up to a year in advance if they’re better organized and prepared. Privy then automates the distribution of those campaigns to the various services and sites the company uses.

From an online dashboard, businesses can see at a glance which sites are driving customers, and drill down into customer info, data on redemptions, reviews, claims, and more. Customer data can also be both imported and exported to Mailchimp and Constant Contact and CSV, to allow for more personalized targeting of the audience segments.

With the additional funding, the company is planning to double its team of eight over the next few months and further develop the product. On the latter front, more integrations are in the works, including for services like Yelp, Foursquare, and Open Table, as well as within the “offline world.” Though Jabbawy couldn’t get into specifics on this, he did say the plan includes point-of-sale system integrations, in order to track conversions from online to off.

“In addition to proving ROI,” he says, “it’s really about one of the big challenges we have: the segmentation and the re-marketing. We focus all of our distribution efforts on behalf of our merchants on finding really high-intent customers,” he explains. Jabbawy says it’s not about using huge discounts to convert customers, it’s about getting the right people at the right time.

“Seventy-eight percent of consumers turn to the web before deciding on buying locally,” he says. “Yet, local businesses struggle to capture this interest, the moment of a consumer’s highest intent, and convert it into real, in-store customers.” That’s where Privy aims to help.

Currently the pricing for Privy’s system is custom (on demand). Jabbawy declined to provide the customer count, saying only the company had “enough to make it interesting.”