Betaworks, the New York City-based incubator behind buzzy media startups Digg, Chartbeat, Instapaper, Bit.ly and Socialflow is getting more serious about revenue.
The company is hiring Janet Balis, former publisher of Huffington Post Media Group, as its first chief revenue officer charged with turning the collection of startups into valuable partners for brands.
Best known for incubating and spinning-off publisher tools, like Chartbeat, Socialflow, and Bit.ly, Betaworks is part startup studio and part investment firm. But for the past few years it has been building out a variety of consumer-facing products (Dots, anyone?) and testing revenue models.
Ms. Balis will look to forge relationships with early-adopter brands looking to experiment with new tools and platforms.
"This is an incredible moment where brands in particular are attracted to innovation and transformative storytelling to build relationships with consumers," she said.
She likened Betaworks to a "laboratory for innovation" where brands can work more closely with the people building the products. She drew a comparison to the way divisions between editorial and business have been blurred by advertorials and native advertising in the publishing business, by bringing advertisers "further upstream in the creative process, not just in terms of content, but in terms of the product and experience."
Today's announcement comes on the heels of Betaworks' biggest ad deal to date, a partnership with web hosting service Squarespace, a frequent sponsor of Digg's "Apps we love" section. The two launched the new 'Digg Videos' vertical this week.
The last six months have seen a slew of one-off partnerships with advertisers such as GE and Dove collaborating with Tapestry on a mobile storytelling program, a deal with Fox Searchlight to promote "The Way Way Back" across multiple Betaworks properties, and a special GE-sponsored "Gravity Mode" in the ever-popular mobile game Dots. The company is in talks with Samsung for another sponsorship.
"They (marketers) want to tap into that beta experience before it becomes mass market and generic and have that deep engagement with users," said Betaworks CEO John Borthwick. He said on one week there were 30 million games of Dots played in "Gravity Mode." "This was a truly native implementation of an ad," he said.
Also joining Betaworks is James Cooper, most recently interactive director at production company Tool of North America, best known for his work on the 'Help I have The Flu Facebook' app, as the company's newly appointed head of creative.