OVP Leads $9M Investment in Aggregate Knowledge, Gets Serious About Online Ads

Kirkland, WA-based OVP Venture Partners is leading a new $9 million Series C financing round in Aggregate Knowledge, an online advertising and analytics firm in San Mateo, CA. Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, DAG Ventures, and original angel investors are also participating. In connection with the deal, OVP managing director Lucinda Stewart is joining the board of Aggregate Knowledge.

Although it’s a Series C investment in a company founded in 2005, Stewart says it was priced like an early-stage deal, with the existing investors cooperating in a recapitalization of the firm. (That means the previous investors’ stakes aren’t worth what they used to be.) “We came in to create a fresh new company,” Stewart says. The deal signifies OVP’s emerging interest in the online advertising and marketing sector, where it does not yet have many investments.

Aggregate Knowledge, led by CEO and founder Paul Martino, currently has 26 employees. The company’s vision is to enable major publishers and retailers to personalize their display ads in real-time. Aggregate Knowledge does this with machine-learning algorithms that make sense of huge amounts of data that publishers and retailers have on their customers. The company counts The Washington Post, Cablevision, and Sam’s Club among its customers and partners. Aggregate Knowledge plans to use its new cash infusion to take its technology a step further, in part by offering it to advertising agencies and marketers who want to run more precisely targeted ad campaigns.

The Seattle connection to this company came in the form of David Jakubowski, a former Microsoft veteran who joined Aggregate Knowledge about two months ago as its chief revenue officer and general manager. Jakubowski was most recently senior vice president at Specific Media, an Irvine, CA-based ad technology firm which has a Seattle office. He previously worked at Quigo Technologies, a search marketing firm, before becoming general manager of Microsoft adCenter and Search Strategy. Jakubowski has also been an advisor to Seattle-based Lucid Commerce, another OVP-backed startup in the analytics and marketing field.

It took me a while to see how Aggregate Knowledge is any different from Seattle-area online ad firms like BlueKai, AdReady, and Mpire. As I understand it, BlueKai would sell its consumer data to companies like Aggregate Knowledge. AK (and other firms) then use that data to predict audience behavior, and help advertisers and publishers craft and place ads that change based on precise demographics like gender and age. One key difference is that Aggregate Knowledge is generally focused on bigger customers than AdReady is, for example, although both firms share the goal of making display ads as effective at generating sales as search-engine ads (like those from Google).

“AK provides transparency into the value of inventory for the demand side, the guys who own the websites, the retail companies,” Stewart says. “For 30 years, the ‘buy’ side has never had these tools…Whoever has the data wins now.”

As for the broader significance to OVP, Stewart adds, “We have a strong interest in deals that leverage ‘big data.’ That’s the thrust behind our entire computational biology strategy, and a lot of our cleantech and advertising and IT deals.”

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