Collider12 Alumnus Avocarrot raises $2M

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We’ve got big news from the US – Collider12 alumnus Avocarrot have just closed a $2M seed round! We’re so happy for the guys, who moved to San Francisco after participating in the first Collider programme in London. Their round is made up of investors Giorgos Zacharia, Darling Ventures, Odyssey Ventures L.P. After an exclusive VentureBeat article provided some insights into the native mobile ad space, we had the chance to get down to the details with Co-Founder Conno Christou. Read on for some insights into working across the pond, raising funding, and the challenges of running a multi-national company from Conno.


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•         What were some of the struggles and opportunities you faced when moving to SF?

The biggest struggle is to find a way to network and get out the word for the company to a totally new audience in a new environment with brutal competition and noise. There’s not a standard recipe to succeed on this, however the 3 tips from me would be to try and keep your confidence levels high at all costs, to listen carefully even if you don’t necessarily agree and to be as specific as possible when asking for favours.

If you re a first timer and you'll learn by doing, then by definition you'll make a lot of mistakes that will seem silly to you after a while. The large abundance of potential clients, partners and investors in Silicon Valley will help you accelerate this learning process to nail your pitch and understand better the mechanics of the game. Remember to listen carefully to what everybody has to say.

•         This is a big seed round of funding. How will you manage the money and how far are you expecting it to take you?

In Europe this might be one of the biggest seed rounds so far, however in Silicon Valley it is rather the norm. A general rule of thumb is that you get the money for 12-18 months runway. In our case, we'll mostly invest in expanding the team with exceptional people both in SF and Europe, while at the same time market the ad exchange to both app developers and demand sources.

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•         How did you choose your investors for this round and how long did it take? Was it what you anticipated?

It was much worse than we thought - both in terms of time and resources but also in terms of energy consumption and expectations. The VC game in SV is extremely different compared to Europe and the time to adapt to the new rules might be underestimated. A VC once told me that bad fundraising looks like a 100 no’s and a successful one like 99 no’s. As you see, continuous rejections are part of the process, which at some point makes you question your own credibility and value, resulting to low confidence. Remember that if you lose your confidence then you lose the game.

•         You have some of your team based in Greece and others in SF with visits back and forth to London. What are some of the highlights and pitfalls of running an international company?

You get to see lots of different people and replicate processes to create a quick buzz in new territories, given that you know what you re doing. The challenge is that you have to be disciplined and systematic on how to maintain excellent communication bridges between the distributed teams. A catalyst here is to create strong, well-defined processes and find ways to enforce them so that the team embraces them and doesn't reject them.

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•         What advice would you give to entrepreneurs in the MadTech space who are looking to raise a similar round to you?

The mobile adtech space is a huge space that is kind of doomed and blessed at the same time. Doomed because there s a lot of noise and few successes; blessed because unlike the web adtech landscape, there are no dominant players in the mobile space yet, so there s a huge opportunity to be amongst the first ones.

If you re looking to get money, then start meeting with VCs at least a month earlier to start getting to know them under no time pressure. If you have a rockstar team and a strong vision then you have pretty good chances to secure a seed round. If you manage to report steep hockey sticks in your KPI graphs then you have great chances for a big seed. Don’t give up and stay confident. 99 no’s is the norm..


From to Preceptiv: A Pivotal Journey


** This is a guest post from Andrew Ko, Co-Founder of Preceptiv **

Pivoting. The very definition means to turn on or around a central point, and this is what we did as a business. Our central point was the idea that useful insights for companies could be extracted from people’s music listening behaviours. This main idea has never changed since the beginning of our journey. However, the way we went about it before our pivot is completely different to how we are going about it now. Let me explain...

The company started out with the BIG IDEA of revolutionizing the way advertising was experienced and consumed. This concept got us into the Collider programme in London and jump started our road to the 'Billion Pound' idea. We created our own free streaming music app (no ads or subscription fee) with the hopes of gaining traction rapidly and attracting advertisers onto our platform.

Describing our music player in a nutshell, it displayed other people’s “moments” (hence our first company name: Moment.Us) with the song you were currently listening to so that you can experience what they experienced when they were listening to that same song. This created a more social and connected music listening experience and was a fun way to discover new music socially, an idea that I still hope gets implemented in the future by one of the larger players (ie. Spotify, Google, etc). The app was also beautiful, which was usually the first thing a new user would tell us. It was iOS 7 flat design before iOS 7 was released by Apple. So we thought we had everything tied down: the concept, the platform and the music licenses. Now all we needed was to convince brands to start putting their ads in there and we’d be in business because, I mean, how hard could it possibly be to attract a million users to our platform while giving away free full-length songs?

But what was that saying again? “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry”. Yeah, that’s what happened to us. It wasn’t for lack of trying though, as our team did its very best to make it a success. But when we approached brands or advertisers, we ran into a few problems. The three most common were:

        1. They wouldn’t get on board without the user numbers
        2. They wanted to see proof that it worked before they committed
        3. They wouldn’t pay for the music royalties

We essentially ran into the 'chicken-and-egg' scenario in which we couldn’t get advertisers on board if we didn’t have enormous amounts of traction, but we wouldn’t be able to pay for the amount of music we were giving away unless we had revenue coming from the advertisers.

We also learned that giving away free music didn’t help sell the app (trying to buy word-of-mouth advertising) and that we actually needed money for marketing.

The numbers our app generated told a two-sided story:

In terms of user numbers to appease brands and get them on board, it was quite small. We managed to attract around 3000 users from the UK on word-of-mouth marketing as our app was limited to UK iOS users only (due to music license and resource restrictions).

However, in terms of engagement numbers, it was through the roof (higher than Facebook sponsored posts) and people found this way of music discovery extremely enjoyable.

Based on the feedback we received, we knew that our concept of using music to connect people was solid but the way we delivered it was just too expensive for anyone to buy into. So now what?

We had to pivot fast as we were running out of time and money. So we took our special sauce (our knowledge in connecting music with people’s experiences), threw out the delivery mechanism (the streaming music app) and started over again.

Music + Personality

We knew that our strength was linking music to people’s behaviours, experiences and identities so we decided to start there.

One of the key elements that people liked about our app was using music to determine someone’s state of mind. But what if we could also use music to determine not just someone’s state of mind at a particular time, but also their personality overall. This was actually a part of my PhD research; how music can be used to figure out people’s identities or personalities. The reason being that there really is nothing more personal than the music we listen to.

Armed with this new idea (and a new name: Preceptiv), we set off to verify that we could build such an engine. Drawing on previous academic research in this field, our mission was to turn raw quantitative music listening data into rich, insightful qualitative data that can be used to profile people’s personalities.

Why personalities you ask? Because we looked at the current state of the customer analytics market and they only profile users in two-dimensions - demographics and behaviours. However, the key to our technology is that it enables companies to profile their customers in three-dimensions by adding the key missing variable: psychometrics. This additional signal informs companies the motivations behind their customers’ actions and enables them to take the appropriate action to increase engagement, conversion and loyalty.

I’ll give you a very simple example: If Expedia knew that Joe (who’s 35 and lives in San Francisco) recently took a trip to Vietnam and they wanted to recommend him other places to visit, they’d probably suggest other trips to Southeast Asia just based on the fact that he went to Vietnam but not knowing what he did while he was there. However, if Expedia also knew that Joe is the adventurous type and likes thrills (because of his personality type), they could also send him more relevant and meaningful recommendations such as a safari trip to Africa or a volcano hiking excursion in Hawaii (which is closer to home for him). It’s been scientifically proven that a key aspect of what drives us through life and motivates our actions is through our personality. Being able to tap into this insight is incredibly powerful, and to do it on mobile devices (instead of solely on the web) is a dream for most companies.

This is actually what our secret sauce is all about and why we’re extremely excited about our pivot. We’ve cracked how to gather all of this data on mobile devices in seconds, with the same accuracy as a 50-question personality test, and without the user having to provide any input manually. It only takes minutes to harness the power of our technology, as its just a simple SDK being dropped into a mobile app. However, we realize that music is subjective so we need to continue collecting data, testing and refining our model in order to provide as accurate a view about people’s personalities as possible.

And that’s what we’re doing right now. Once we prove this works, there are a whole range of applications and companies that could benefit from the results of our experiment (we’re currently targeting the retail, financial and travel verticals). We’ve had great responses so far, trialling the technology with a few companies and getting useful feedback to refine our model. But we’re not done yet. All of this work is required for our journey towards the holy grail of startups: product / market fit. It’s taken us quite a while to get to this point, with a lot of twists and turns, but it’s definitely been worth it.

Collider12 Startups Pitching to Become TheNextBigThing

Three of our Collider startups will be presenting  tomorrow at ad:tech London for the chance to be crowned The Next Big Thing. Avocarrot, Locomizer, and Miappi will be up against some great startups and will be pitching to a panel full of large brands. The winner will be announced on Thursday, so stay tuned to find out who will be victorious.


Simply Be Agree Ongoing Commitment with WhichSocial After Successful Trial

Manchester-based WhichSocial have established a new cooperation with Simply Be, which is part of J D Williams & Company Limited. Simpy Be specialise in offering the latest fashion trends in women apparel exclusively in sizes 14-32, and have a very active following online. WhichSocial will provide their services to Simply Be in order to optimise their social media marketing on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. The social media ROI software offered by WhichSocial will help Simply Be determine how successful their Pinterest pins, Facebook posts and Tweets are in driving sales and traffic to their website. The software will also identify influencers, discover trending best sellers and the most effective social channel. Having such measurements available, Simply Be will be able to revise, and hence optimise, their social media marketing strategy.

WhichSocial is dedicated to helping Simply Be improve their social media marketing efforts by allowing Simply Be to immediately react to WhichSocial real-time alerts based on trending on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Avin Wong, WhichSocial’s Managing Director, commented, “We appreciate the opportunity to provide our services to Simply Be and continue working closely with FTSE 250 N Brown Group Plc, which Simply Be is a part of. We are hoping Simply Be will set an example for the rest of the 32 brands under FTSE 250 N Brown Group Plc, demonstrating the success of using our software.”

Simply Be have been extremely satisfied with WhichSocial’s software trial and committed to using WhichSocial on a daily basis. Simply Be's Social Media Manager mentioned, "We were impressed to see the updates that the Which Social team had made to the platform on our behalf and to hear of new developments in the pipeline as well".

Manchester-based WhichSocial is a real-time social media ROI tracking software with actionable alerts for ROI-driven digital marketers. The technology helps retailers measure, quantify and improve ROI from Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter. WhichSocial has received investment from various business pioneers and institutional investors, such as Creative England, Unilever, Ingenious and Bauer Media. The company is currently working with fashion retailers from FTSE 250 group and Sunday Times’ Fast Track 100 list, as well as one of the 1000 most visited UK website. Visit for more details.