Proper Media Acquires Spoutable, Last Piece of Venture Studio

After learning that Proper Media, a San Diego specialist in programmatic digital advertising had acquired Spoutable, it took a couple weeks to catch up with Spoutable CEO Jon Belmonte and ask: What happened to Cursive Labs?

Spoutable began more than three years ago as part of Cursive Labs, a kind of holding company for startups that was founded with $2.2 million on a “venture studio” model that allows experienced entrepreneurs to run with their own ideas. As Belmonte explained in 2015, “In a venture studio, you’re building your own companies. You have 100 percent equity ownership, you’re in control, and you’re betting on yourself instead of somebody else.”

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

According to Belmonte, Cursive Labs’ six co-founders started three tech companies. But Spoutable eventually became the sole focus of all their time and energy. The team folded Bumblecast, a marketing platform for event organizers, after six months or so. A third technology development effort for using machine learning to optimize ads to meet customer goals was combined with Spoutable.

“I think what we realized six, nine, 12 months in was that while we had a lot of capital, the reality was that we didn’t raise enough to do multiple companies,” Belmonte said.

As Spoutable advanced its technology, which mixes various forms of promoted and native media and uses machine learning to select the design that best serves a customer’s goals, Belmonte said they found their business was “highly complementary” with Proper Media’s. Eight Spoutable employees have joined Proper Media, including CEO Jon Belmonte and CTO Josh Schlesser.

Ryan Bettencourt, who was a co-director with Belmonte at Cursive Labs, moved onto another opportunity, Belmonte said.

In announcing the acquisition, Proper Media said Spoutable’s 2 billion monthly ad impressions “doubles Proper Media’s reach with its highly viewable and engaging advertising placements.” Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, although the companies said that Spoutable generated $39 million of revenue on a pro forma basis, and was profitable in 2017.

Bruce V. Bigelow was the editor of Xconomy San Diego from 2008 to 2018. Read more about his life and work here. Follow @bvbigelow

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