ClearBrain uses AI to help advertisers target the right users

The team at ClearBrain has a big goal: “Our mission is to democratize AI for marketers.”

That’s how CEO Bilal Mahmood put it, though Mahmood (a former product manager at Optimizely) and his co-founder Eric Pollmann (a former engineer on Google’s ad team) aren’t trying to do all that democratizing at once. Instead, they’re tackling a more specific challenge — helping companies target ads toward the users most likely to (say) sign up for a subscription, buy a product or cancel their account.

Mahmood said that this kind of targeting has been available to larger companies, but was too expensive for everyone else, regardless of whether they wanted to buy or build it internally. With ClearBrain, on the other hand, pricing starts at $499 per month, and it’s taking advantage of what Mahmood described as “this growing trend in terms of different API data layers” — namely, the rise of tools like Segment, Optimizely and Heap.

“There was an opportunity to be this intelligence layer on top of the data layers,” Mahmood said.

So ClearBrain pulls data from the tools that businesses are already using, then deploys artificial intelligence to analyze and group users based on how likely they are to perform a specific action. Customers can then use that data to target their Facebook ads, emails or other messaging.

clearbrain screenshot

“We’re sort of like the Switzerland of AI,” Mahmood said, because ClearBrain serves as the neutral coordinator between “the data layers and the action layers” that a business might use. As the company adds more capabilities to the platform, he’s hoping it can become “the central nervous system for every marketing team.”

The startup is already working with InVision and theSkimm, among others. There might not seem to be much connection between a design software-maker and a media company centered on newsletters, but Mahmood said the product has been particularly useful to businesses with subscription products, because they have easy-to-follow customer funnels.

ClearBrain is part of the current class of startups at Y Combinator, and it’s also raised $1.2 million in funding from YC, Pear VC, Industry Ventures and Dan Hua Capital, as well as Optimizely founders Dan Siroker and Pete Koomen.