CraveLabs Sees Local Media as Huge Boon for Mobile Ad Tech

“Most of mobile right now is focused on trying to figure out where the whales are—the big dollar advertising,” says Jeffrey Peden. Seems to be an accurate statement, considering the big deal activity Boston has seen lately with major mobile advertising startups.

Not the case with his Cambridge, MA-based startup CraveLabs, whose technology helps not-so-tech-savvy local business owners market themselves on consumers’ mobile devices.

Peden was the chief technology officer and founder of the mobile security technology company Newbury Networks and left about two years after the company was acquired by Trapeze Networks in 2008. His dad’s gig as the owner of a local video production company served as a source of inspiration for his next venture.

“I started looking at what happened when you have combination of location technology, mobile devices, and social networks—what was needed and what could we do to bridge some gaps,” Peden says. (Don’t worry, CraveLabs isn’t one of those frivolous SoLoMo companies, though.)

Facebook was a big starting point for Peden. About 70 percent of small business owners use the social network to reach customers, updating their pages somewhere between daily and weekly, he says.

So, rather than requiring business owners to use a separate, complex back end system to push ads into the mobile sphere, CraveLabs’ software pulls the text from businesses’ Facebook updates and converts it to mobile banner ad text, for $5 a day.

“It’s basic advertising, with no additional effort,” Peden says. “You can fire and forget it.”

CraveLabs released a pilot version of this technology last summer, acquiring restaurants, hotels, and services providers like lawyers as customers. Now, the startup is looking to scale that technology up with a different distribution strategy—local media.

“As we started working through this, we realized there’s actually a huge market opportunity on the publisher side of the business,” Peden says. “Local media publishers all have local ad sales forces and are all under mandate to start transitioning from legacy to digital.”

Rather than having to sell mobile ad space on their sites to remnant networks, CraveLabs’ technology enables publishers to directly sell to the small businesses they’ve been working with for decades on the traditional print and broadcast front, Peden explains. Publishers can pursue customers with CraveLabs’ technology that helps business owners seamlessly push mobile ads through their Facebook status updates.

The bootstrapped startup plans to launch this service with a local media company later this quarter, and will take a cut of the revenue that publishers generate from ad sales with the CraveLabs tech. Peden is running the shop as CraveLabs’ sole full-time staffer, but is looking to scale up with hires and new outside funding as it transitions to focus on partnerships with media.

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