Solve Media, Backed by First Round Capital and AOL, Uses Online Ads to Tell People and Spambots Apart

New York’s Solve Media, funded by AOL Ventures, New Atlantic Ventures, First Round Capital, and others, is putting Web advertising in hard-to-miss places. The two-year-old startup combines ads with the verification systems users must respond to when joining websites or requesting lost passwords. Solve Media’s CEO and co-founder Ari Jacoby says the idea is to change the way the public interacts with online ads by incorporating them into such access points. “You have to instill brand memory,” he says.

So far Solve Media has raised nearly $6 million, according to Jacoby, from backers that include angel investors Brian O’Kelley, CEO of AppNexus, and Roger Ehrenberg, founder and managing partner of IA Ventures. Jacoby says advertisers such as Toyota and Microsoft and websites such as AOL’s MapQuest use his company’s system to increase brand awareness among users.

Jacoby is putting a different spin on the verification method called CAPTCHA, which requires people to type in text to prove they are breathing, carbon-based life forms rather than spam bots. (CAPTCHA is an acronym for Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart.) Such tests require people to interpret distorted, yet readable, letters and numbers that a computer could not. This is not the same as entering a personal password for security purposes, but it is frequently used to ensure that a living person … Next Page »

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