Ad-targeting startup OwnerIQ and its investors are betting that e-commerce sites and other consumer brands will become increasingly sophisticated advertisers, targeting their customers on their own sites and across the web and becoming competitors to traditional media for online advertising in the process.
The six-year-old company announced it has raised $7.5 million in a Series E round led by Longworth Venture Partners and Kepha Partners. All six current investors participated in the round for the company, which has now taken on a total of about $28 million in funding. The company will use the money to push its headcount up from 75 to nearly 100 by year's end and launch new marketing initiatives.
OwnerIQ helps brands and retailers make advertising revenue off their online audiences, by targeting ads only to people who have visited a specific e-commerce site, or only those who viewed a specific category of product on that site. For example, a camera brand might want to put ads in front of a person who spent some time on the cameras section of an e-commerce site. CEO Jay Habegger said he envisions a day when it's common to see these "brand audience networks" share space on media-buying plans.
"Three years from now, I think you start seeing those advertisers' media plans filled with individual brands as opposed to just publisher properties and ad networks," he said. One example: Amazon is busily building its ad business, and already takes third-party ads on its site.
OwnerIQ also lets manufacturers and e-commerce sites work together to try to increase sales through retargeting users after they've left a site. In these cases, OwnerIQ will serve up co-branded ads to people that have visited, say, an audio speaker-maker's website that attempt to drive that shopper to an e-commerce site where they can buy the speaker.
The funding comes at a time in which consumer-data collection and data-powered ad targeting have come under increased scrutiny thanks to Microsoft's decision to set a do-not-track function as the default setting in its latest version of the Internet Explorer web browser. An international web standards body is in the process of trying to determine what that move will mean for the online advertising ecosystem.
Jim Savage, co-founder of OwnerIQ investor Longworth Venture Partners, said he's not worried that browser controls or regulation will hamper this and other types of ad targeting.
"Consumers are voting every day where they are spending their time and how they're consuming digital media online and on mobile," he said. "Frankly, Microsoft hasn't been out in front on any of this evolution, so to have a laggard try to change the discussion -- that 's not something I'm terribly worried about as an investor."
Mr. Habegger said OwnerIQ will be "well into double-digit millions in revenue" this year and should also reach profitability by year's end.