Coull Plays It Cool, Raising Another $4M Angel Round And Opening In NYC


Coull is an online video ad tech company out of the UK which has trod a rather different path to the average high-growth tech company. For starters it’s based in Bristol, studiously avoiding the London tech scene. And it’s also avoided major VC investment, instead opting for Angel investors to fund its growth, which will include the impending opening of a New York office, no less, joining its existing Santa Barbara office (a business it acquired). Today it’s announced it’s sealed its latest investment round to the tune of $4m, adding to its $12m investment to date.

Once again, this round is from Angels, a mix of existing shareholders, with the largest single one being Paul Fraser. Previously, it took $2m in a round led by Peter Hargreaves (co-founder of Hargreaves Lansdown). Another Angel/personal investor is John Greathouse a Partner with Rincon Venture Partners, based in Santa Barbara.

Coull’s technology lets publishers and advertisers tag individual products within videos, making it possible to click through and buy products right from the video. But it only charges for user engagement with the video, so budgets get spent on results and not just impressions. Advertisers such as Nike, Renault, Unilever and Agent Provocateur are already users of Coull in Europe. Coull says its premium publisher video inventory is closing in on 1bn plays per month across 180+ markets.

One of the first hires in New York will be Michelle Melisaratos, former lead of Xaxis’ AdOps function and more recently Director of Program Management internationally at Yahoo. Michelle takes the role of Global Head of Programmatic AdOps.

She’ll be joined on Coull’s senior management team by Ben Humphry, who lands as Head of Demand for Europe. Ben was previously UK MD at and has served in various senior roles across digital media, including many years leading International Sales Operations at MSN.

The company has also integrated with programmatic Supply-Side Platforms and global ad exchanges such as Google AdExchange and OpenX.

Irfon Watkins, Founder and CEO of Coull, says big chunks of ad budgets going to waste through poor targeting. So its Coull Vidlinkr is a platform that connects advertisers with video viewers on premium publisher websites through a contextual, branded in-video overlay, also known as a Vidlink, to bring contextual relevance to in-video advertising, driving brand uplift for advertisers and higher eCPMs for publishers.

It’s claiming $20m revenue and profitability in 2014.

“We don’t compete with interactive tech companies because tech without distribution is useless,” says Watkins. “We add interactive elements/ads on scale to billion of views a month, while other offer mere tools.

So it’s an unusual company, but does it have competitors?

Its competition is technically every pre-roll ad company, as it offers an alternative to video content owners. But instead of putting a 30 sec ad in front of a user for a 1 min video, they analyse the data of the actual video not the page or site, making all the ads they serve relevant to the video the user is watching.

They also do not target individuals (targeting based on what site a users was on before they saw the video) but on the video they are watching now. Publishers can still can keep the pre-roll ads and add another revenue stream, or use Coull as an alternative to pre-roll.

Watkins says: “As crazy as it sounds we don’t have competitors. The main objection is to the overlay format when we do get an objection. Overlays have been around for a long time but they’ve often been discarded. We are sprinkling them with data and making them relevant again.”

Unusually, Coull is taking UK working practice across the Atlantic, giving all US staff the same 25 day annual leave as their UK colleagues.

More TechCrunch


Scale AI has raised a $1 billion Series F round from a slew of big-name institutional and corporate investors including Amazon and Meta.

Data-labeling startup Scale AI raises $1B as valuation doubles to $13.8B

The new coalition, Tech Against Scams, will work together to find ways to fight back against the tools used by scammers and to better educate the public against financial scams.

Meta, Match, Coinbase and others team up to fight online fraud and crypto scams

It’s a wrap: European Union lawmakers have given the final approval to set up the bloc’s flagship, risk-based regulations for artificial intelligence.

EU Council gives final nod to set up risk-based regulations for AI

London-based fintech Vitesse has closed a $93 million Series C round of funding led by investment giant KKR.

Vitesse, a payments and treasury management platform for insurers, raises $93M to fuel US expansion

Zen Educate, an online marketplace that connects schools with teachers, has raised $37 million in a Series B round of funding. The raise comes amid a growing teacher shortage crisis…

Zen Educate raises $37M and acquires Aquinas Education as it tries to address the teacher shortage

“When I heard the released demo, I was shocked, angered and in disbelief that Mr. Altman would pursue a voice that sounded so eerily similar to mine.”

Scarlett Johansson says that OpenAI approached her to use her voice

A new self-driving truck — manufactured by Volvo and loaded with autonomous vehicle tech developed by Aurora Innovation — could be on public highways as early as this summer.  The…

Aurora and Volvo unveil self-driving truck designed for a driverless future

The European venture capital firm raised its fourth fund as fund as climate tech “comes of age.”

ETF Partners raises €285M for climate startups that will be effective quickly — not 20 years down the road

Copilot, Microsoft’s brand of generative AI, will soon be far more deeply integrated into the Windows 11 experience.

Microsoft wants to make Windows an AI operating system, launches Copilot+ PCs

Hello and welcome back to TechCrunch Space. For those who haven’t heard, the first crewed launch of Boeing’s Starliner capsule has been pushed back yet again to no earlier than…

TechCrunch Space: Star(side)liner

When I attended Automate in Chicago a few weeks back, multiple people thanked me for TechCrunch’s semi-regular robotics job report. It’s always edifying to get that feedback in person. While…

These 81 robotics companies are hiring

The top vehicle safety regulator in the U.S. has launched a formal probe into an April crash involving the all-electric VinFast VF8 SUV that claimed the lives of a family…

VinFast crash that killed family of four now under federal investigation

When putting a video portal in a public park in the middle of New York City, some inappropriate behavior will likely occur. The Portal, the vision of Lithuanian artist and…

NYC-Dublin real-time video portal reopens with some fixes to prevent inappropriate behavior

Longtime New York-based seed investor, Contour Venture Partners, is making progress on its latest flagship fund after lowering its target. The firm closed on $42 million, raised from 64 backers,…

Contour Venture Partners, an early investor in Datadog and Movable Ink, lowers the target for its fifth fund

Meta’s Oversight Board has now extended its scope to include the company’s newest platform, Instagram Threads, and has begun hearing cases from Threads.

Meta’s Oversight Board takes its first Threads case

The company says it’s refocusing and prioritizing fewer initiatives that will have the biggest impact on customers and add value to the business.

SeekOut, a recruiting startup last valued at $1.2 billion, lays off 30% of its workforce

The U.K.’s self-proclaimed “world-leading” regulations for self-driving cars are now official, after the Automated Vehicles (AV) Act received royal assent — the final rubber stamp any legislation must go through…

UK’s autonomous vehicle legislation becomes law, paving the way for first driverless cars by 2026

ChatGPT, OpenAI’s text-generating AI chatbot, has taken the world by storm. What started as a tool to hyper-charge productivity through writing essays and code with short text prompts has evolved…

ChatGPT: Everything you need to know about the AI-powered chatbot

SoLo Funds CEO Travis Holoway: “Regulators seem driven by press releases when they should be motivated by true consumer protection and empowering equitable solutions.”

Fintech lender SoLo Funds is being sued again by the government over its lending practices

Hard tech startups generate a lot of buzz, but there’s a growing cohort of companies building digital tools squarely focused on making hard tech development faster, more efficient and —…

Rollup wants to be the hardware engineer’s workhorse

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is not just about groundbreaking innovations, insightful panels, and visionary speakers — it’s also about listening to YOU, the audience, and what you feel is top of…

Disrupt Audience Choice vote closes Friday

Google says the new SDK would help Google expand on its core mission of connecting the right audience to the right content at the right time.

Google is launching a new Android feature to drive users back into their installed apps

Jolla has taken the official wraps off the first version of its personal server-based AI assistant in the making. The reborn startup is building a privacy-focused AI device — aka…

Jolla debuts privacy-focused AI hardware

The ChatGPT mobile app’s net revenue first jumped 22% on the day of the GPT-4o launch and continued to grow in the following days.

ChatGPT’s mobile app revenue saw its biggest spike yet following GPT-4o launch

Dating app maker Bumble has acquired Geneva, an online platform built around forming real-world groups and clubs. The company said that the deal is designed to help it expand its…

Bumble buys community building app Geneva to expand further into friendships

CyberArk — one of the army of larger security companies founded out of Israel — is acquiring Venafi, a specialist in machine identity, for $1.54 billion. 

CyberArk snaps up Venafi for $1.54B to ramp up in machine-to-machine security

Founder-market fit is one of the most crucial factors in a startup’s success, and operators (someone involved in the day-to-day operations of a startup) turned founders have an almost unfair advantage…

OpenseedVC, which backs operators in Africa and Europe starting their companies, reaches first close of $10M fund

A Singapore High Court has effectively approved Pine Labs’ request to shift its operations to India.

Pine Labs gets Singapore court approval to shift base to India

The AI Safety Institute, a U.K. body that aims to assess and address risks in AI platforms, has said it will open a second location in San Francisco. 

UK opens office in San Francisco to tackle AI risk

Companies are always looking for an edge, and searching for ways to encourage their employees to innovate. One way to do that is by running an internal hackathon around a…

Why companies are turning to internal hackathons