DataXu: MIT Rocket Scientists take Advertising to Next level

So a lot of what we do in e-commerce and digital media is based on backing great entrepreneurs, watching our capital intensity and helping them execute well on a given opportunity.  It’s not for nothing that my hardware colleagues and competitors consider us to be the “light tech guys”.  We pride ourselves on being simple :-)  But everyone now and then, as is the case for DataXu, we will attack a really hard problem with some serious tech.

How do you help large ad buyers move their efficiency to the next level ?  Ad exchanges are out there, all the tools are in place yet most folks still buy undifferentiated volume CPM for their display budgets.

What you really want to do is bid on single impressions depending on the criteria you care about or, even better, based on data you (and only you) own.  It’s easy in theory but to get there you need to be able to make decisions in real-time in 1/10 of a second.

So i am extremely proud that today we take the wrap off one of our first investments in Fund VIII in the form of DataXu.  In one sentence, “the DataXu platform values, bid manages and buys each ad impression individually, making real-time decisions on each ad opportunity, as it occurs.”

Think campaign-specific self-learning bidding algorithms.  How cool is that ?    DataXu even has a blog  (so far it has one entry, with no links.  Hey, it’s OK, they are about optimising display ad spend right ?).  And even a Twitter Account: It’s one cool company.  Seriously, taking rocket guiding tech to ad optimisation excellence is exactly what makes me excited about this job!

It goes to show that early financings still get done by VC’s, but that the bar has been set very high.

If you are looking for the ingredients that make this a great deal, here they are:

  • Hard tech from MIT’s Astronautics department (yes, we have real rocket scientists at the heart of this, Sandro and Willard)
  • A great and passionate CEO to run the show (Mike Baker, CEO and founding investor, whatever this means, at Enpocket — a Nokia acquisition)
  • A close and collaborative set of VCs to take this out of the lab (Jeff Fagnan, Jeff Bussgang)
  • And a great, kickass, major global reference customer (Havas Digital) who will agree to be quoted in the launch release

For us it’s one more example of a promising MIT spinoff, but this gives you a sense of the ingredients you need to make a great deal come together.

09-14-09 2:30pm to 3:00pm part 2 by TechCrunch50-2009.

<— On his maiden flight, Mike takes a grilling from Andreessen, Mayer and Graham.  Nice !

We had to wait for my friend and fellow Belgian Robin to get his exclusive, which you can read at TC here.  The Press Release is here.

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