Archive for the ‘stealth’ Category

Linking around with LinkSmart

At the core of the Internet is the ability to connect together content. It was really this hyperlinking between pages that in many ways defined the difference between the early Internet and the bulletin boards and Usenet that preceded it. Google clearly saw the value of links, which they interpreted as people “voting” on the online content which they saw as most valuable. At the core of their search engine is the measurement of that linking activity. However while a huge amount of attention and investment has gone into tools to support publishers’ ability to create and post content and, of course, to create advertising around that content (literally around, by surrounding it in ads), publishers have lacked tools to properly support inserting, analyzing, managing and optimizing links in their content. Inserting links has remained a highly manual activity and a very static one – once a page has been created the links that were initially inserted are the links that remain.

LinkSmart is changing all that with the Total Link Management (TLM) product, which they announced today. TLM is an intuitive, scalable, automated platform that analyzes and controls keyword text linking with the goal of optimizing reader traffic flow – but all under the complete control of the publisher (no spam-like text link ads, no pop-ups). TLM works by identifying valuable keyword links within articles that have the highest performing click engagement, then utilizes the publisher’s own organic traffic to help readers find related content within their site or that of a partner or affiliate. In early results with LinkSmart’s pilot partners, the software performed 15 to 20 times better than other common traffic optimization techniques. The idea is to first give publishes insight into the links on their site and the click behavior of their site visitors. The system then gives publishers the ability to dynamically rewrite existing links, redirect traffic to different locations on their site or a partner site, suggests new words to highlight with links and gives publishers a complete view of how traffic is moving around. This is a huge opportunity for publishers to take control of their key asset – the content which they produce – and use it most effectively to better the experience for their site visitors while at the same time generating more traffic and more revenue for their business.

LinkSmart was built for publishers by a publisher. Pete Sheinbaum came up with the idea behind LinkSmart based on the experiences he had as a web publisher (Pete was the   CEO of DailyCandy which was sold to Comcast a few years ago). I met Pete well before that sale and he actually worked from our office while he was at DailyCandy for a while. LinkSmart was born in the Foundry office several years ago as Pete started working on his next big idea shortly after leaving Comcast.

I’ve written in the past about the benefits of “stealth mode” as well as the debates we’ve had at Foundry around whether or not companies should remain quiet about what they are planning, or be public about it from day one. In the case of LinkSmart, they’ve taken stealth to a new level here at Foundry – spending several years refining the idea and the product and working with early publisher partners to make the TLM both extremely powerful but also easy and intuitive to use.

So welcome LinkSmart to the light of day! We’re really excited about what you are doing!

June 27th, 2012     Categories: Foundry Companies, stealth    

Stealth mode is back. Long live stealth mode!

Recently Dan Frommer over at the Silicon Alley Insider wrote about the reemergence of “stealth mode”. While I’d argue that it never really went away in the first place, it seems that more people are seeing the virtues of staying under the radar as they build the basics of their business (despite TechCrunch’s declaration that stealth was stupid…). After some hazing from my Foundry partners about several of the companies that I work with remaining silent about their operations (and in some cases off of our website so as not to attract attention to the fact that they’ve been funded) I wrote a post on the topic here.

With one of our portfolio companies, Trada, recently emerging from 18 months of quiet operations, we’re taking the subject up once again (very timely if Frommer’s post is any indication). In the case of Trada, staying quiet about the expert SEM marketplace they were building allowed the company the room to develop their platform in relative quiet and without tipping off any actual or potential competitor to what they were doing. To be clear, we weren’t completely secret about it. We launched with a large number of customers and an active marketplace – we were just selective about who we told what we were up to. This allowed us to both work out the kinks in the system before we put it under the load of the public eye and to be able to launch and talk about not just what we were planning on doing, but what we were actually doing (and had been for some time) for many advertisers who had been users of the company’s platform for months.

Niel Robertson, the CEO of Trada, wrote one of the best articles that I think I’ve read on the subject of stealth on the Trada blog that further describes our thought process around operating the business stealthfully for a number of months. I’d strongly suggest you take a look at it.

And with all this discussion of “stealth” I think Niel and I may have won over at least one of my partners. Brad put up a post yesterday talking about how a number of companies in the Foundry Portfolio have benefitted from keeping all or parts of what they were working on under wraps and then announcing with a bang what they were up to (AdMeld, Oblong, Zynga as well as at least one more that still hasn’t announced it’s existence).

Perhaps all this conversation leads to the conclusion that stealth isn’t the problem – it’s how companies use it.

April 8th, 2010     Categories: stealth    

Join the search revolution! Introducing: Trada

image While search marketing is already a huge business, more and more companies each day are discovering the advantages of advertising directly to customers through search engines. Companies like that they can directly measure the impact of their spending – from the clicks they are generating all the way through the products they are selling as a result of those site visits and that they can quickly and easily scale up their spending on what’s working in their search campaigns. With different ad groups, ad copy and landing pages, search marketers can customize their campaigns to fit their business needs.

If there’s a downside to search, however, it’s that effectively managing search campaigns is extremely difficult. Even if you confine your efforts solely to Google the complexities of creating ad groups, generating keywords, pricing each keyword, creating deep links into your product catalogue, managing spend variants by day, figuring out broad match vs. phrase match vs exact match vs negative match, etc are daunting.

One of the ironies of search is that while technology of search itself is in many ways disaggregating the relationship between marketers and consumers (and bringing them directly together), the business of search itself isn’t something that can easily be disaggregated by technology in the same way.  Search is simply not something that lends itself well to machine automation. And while there are a few software platforms available for managing search campaigns (mostly focused on the high end of the market spending > $100k/month on search) these packages are primarily designed for people who are already search experts. It’s almost impossible to take search knowledge and put it into an algorithm. As a result, companies that lack this expertise are at a huge disadvantage in the search game (this is true of many agencies as well who use search marketing as a lead-in to offer other more lucrative services).

Today we’re launching Trada. And fundamentally changing the game in search marketing.

Trada has been working in stealth mode for the last 18 months to build a system that harnesses the power of a “crowd” of search experts to work on behalf of advertisers. The Trada system easily allows advertisers to upload campaign information and connect with hundreds of search experts. It’s not a referral site – the Trada experts work together, through the Trada platform, to create the broadest possible campaign for each advertiser. These experts get paid only for generating clicks and/or conversions for Trada advertisers (depending on whether a campaign is in pay per click or pay per action mode). We work in the middle to enable these campaigns and make our margin based on our search experts’ ability to beat your pre-determined CPC or CPA rates.

The company opened its system to a small group of advertisers in January 2009 as it worked out the specifics of the platform. Trada has served over 70 customers in that time period. The average campaign in the Trada system has over 100 ads (most proposed by Trada optimizers), 6,200 keywords and an average of more than 20 optimizers working on behalf of each advertiser. If you’re working in search marketing, these numbers blow you away. Advertisers can currently run campaigns – through a single Trada interface – on Google, Yahoo and Bing.

This company is near and dear to my heart, as I’ve been with CEO Niel Robertson and the rest of the Trada team from the very start of the business (and together with them am a co-founder of the company; read Niel’s post launching the company on the Trada blog). I’ve known Niel for almost 10 years now and one of our goals with Trada has been to step away from the traditional VC/CEO relationship. We’ve done that over the last 18 months of the business and developed an unusually close partnership – the initial result of which you see today. There’s a ton more to come with Trada. Stay tuned!

Learn more about the search revolution at www.trada.com.

March 18th, 2010     Categories: Foundry Companies, stealth     Tags: , ,