With technology that can improve itself every 20 minutes, LoopMe works with eight of the top 10 global brands to use artificial intelligence and big data to improve brand advertising efforts. Stephen Upstone, chair of the UK Mobile Marketing Association’s Advisory Board and founder of LoopMe, talks about starting up, making it in the New York, and pushing for progress in UK’s fast-growth tech space.
What does your business do?
LoopMe has developed artificial intelligence software that self-learns which people will change their mind about products and services after seeing video advertising, and targets the moments that change their opinions.
We have reached over 2 billion different consumers on their mobile devices and process over 1 trillion data points every day, allowing the technology to learn fast, typically improving results by over 100% compared to manual human operated optimisation.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
The idea behind LoopMe was that the mobile data generated by each person should create a loop of data, which, when applied with artificial intelligence, could be used to optimise the user experience and improve advertiser results in real time.
How did you know there was a market for it?
We had worked with artificial intelligence across major websites such as MSN, AOL, HSBC & Bank of America 10 years earlier, and observed the development of the mobile advertising market from its very early beginnings. It was clear to us that mobile would be the future of brand advertising, and that artificial intelligence would transform the entire advertising industry.
How did you raise funding, and why?
We started with advisors and angels that knew both us and the space well. They included Russell Buckley who had been first employee at AdMob, Kate Burns who was was first employee at Google outside North America and John Taysom who founded Reuters Venture Capital and had been on the board of Yahoo at IPO. After we had a working product with growing revenue we met with VCs, who we either knew from our network or who had approached us directly, for Series A funding. A key insight was that the VCs who contact you directly had a much higher interest and were more likely to invest. For LoopMe in a large and competitive market we needed venture capital to build a world class product and to win internationally, especially in the US. Additionally, Holtzbrinck Ventures and Open Ocean, the first two VCs that invested in LoopMe, had strong industry and customer ties and have helped with strategy. We are very fortunate to have an experienced, passionate and understanding board.
Describe your business model in brief.
LoopMe’s customers are brands and media agencies, who commission LoopMe to deliver their mobile video advertising campaigns against desired objectives (views, clicks or brand metrics such as purchase intent or brand awareness). We use AI and data technology to optimise campaign delivery across publisher apps and mobile sites, improving campaign results and adding value and insights for the advertiser. We run self serve and managed service platforms, which can be used by agencies and brands which on different pricing models.
What was your first big milestone and when did you cross it?
We hit milestones such as achieving our first $1million in revenue, winning customer briefs against larger and better funded competitors, reaching profitability and hiring a great team, pretty early on. However, the successes really hit home when we launched in New York and grew a profitable business in the US, beating and outperforming the world’s largest companies in the most competitive market. As Sinatra says – ‘if you can make it there you can make anywhere…’
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
Be focused on having the best product in your market, with a unique advantage, and make sure you execute well against measurable, short-term goals, while evolving fast.
It is essential to nurture your own talent internally, if you are going to be big in five years your team must grow and develop to grow that world-class business. Hire a team of people that complement each other, love working together and make sure you are developing their talent and helping them to grow.
Finally, deliver value to your customers, respect the competition and hustle – as Abe Lincoln put it ‘Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle’.
Where do you want to be in five years’ time?
At my previous company, Velti, I was fortunate enough to be in New York and ring the NASDAQ opening bell, peaking at over $1billion in market cap – I learnt that with the right factors in place technology businesses can get big fast. The real challenge for any company is endurance. LoopMe’s goal is to provide customers, employees and investors, with outstanding value and build a lasting global business.