Verve Mobile Acquisition of Startup Fosbury Signals More Beacon Buys to Come

Acquisition Is First Major Initiative of CEO and Former Acxiom Exec Nada Stirratt

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Verve Mobile, a firm focused on location-based advertising, acquired beacon-centric campaign management technology Fosbury for an undisclosed sum. It's a small deal, but Verve Mobile's move portends an inevitable consolidation within the sprawling beacon space.

Verve delivers hundreds of millions of mobile ad impressions each day, typically messages enticing consumers to click to receive a discount or deal of some kind. The Fosbury buy will help Verve act on location data for message targeting more rapidly and allow that targeting to be based on more granular information. It also gives Verve a tech platform to add mobile wallet payment functionality to their ads.

"We would like to add that to every one of our creative units," said Tom Kenney, president and founder of Verve Mobile, regarding Verve's mobile wallet capability. "This enables us to do that."

Beacon technology has been adopted by retailers, eateries and other businesses large and small around the globe, forming a complex web of third-party technologies and partnerships among retailers, shopping centers and mobile tracking and ad firms. This recent acquisition is bound to be among the first of many in the cluttered beacon space.

The deal marks the first major initiative at Verve of Nada Stirratt, who joined Verve as CEO in April following a three-year stint at marketing data services giant Acxiom.

Fosbury's technology works with more than 10 different beacon hardware systems such as Mobiquity, Gimbal and Roximity, and that's key for Verve. Think of that universal beacon SDK (software developer kit) as similar to a universal television remote, though in this case rather than helping one TV remote talk to a television, DVD player, or other accessories, Fosbury's technology will serve as a way for Verve to communicate with multiple beacon platforms through a singular system.

"This helps us bring a solution to the table that's ready," said Mr. Kenney. "We now have the ability to go to Mobiquity [for instance] and say, 'Let's go.'"

Fosbury's consolidated technology will streamline Verve's connections to beacon platforms, and allow it to act on ad campaign opportunities for brand and retail clients more rapidly because the necessary connections to the beacon hardware found in stores and shopping malls have already been made. It also brings a much larger pool of consumers who already have opted in to shopping and store brand apps that feature those individual SDKs, essentially letting Verve target far more pre-opted-in shoppers based on beacon data.

Verve also expects the universality of Fosbury's platform to help it target messages better to consumers in stores, based on more refined location data than it's been able to access before. For example, it could now aim ads based on the fact someone is in a particular store department. "This allows us to pick that back up in the store and continue the messaging," said Mr. Kenney. "It brings us closer to a closed-loop offering in stores."

Fosbury's home base was in the Netherlands, though the company came on the scene in the U.S. through its participation in the TechStars startup accelerator program in Austin. The four principals and creators of the technology at Fosbury are not part of the acquisition.

Verve and Fosbury have worked together for around six months previous to the acquisition, according to Mr. Kenney, who said some of the firm's execs will serve as consultants after Fosbury is folded into Verve.

"It's a small deal," said Mr. Kenney of the acquisition, noting that the fact that the startup's principals are based in The Netherlands led to Verve's decision to buy the technology only rather than keep it intact with its creators. However, he said he expects many more beacon tech acquisitions to come. "There's definitely going to be a significant rollup."

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