A Q&A with Sightly founder and CEO John McIntyre. The San Diego-based hyper-local, multi-device video ad platform startup announced the completion of a $1.7 million Seed funding round in late January. Investors include Mack Capital, Tomorrow Ventures and 500 Startups. It was founded last year by McIntyre and John Zdanowski.
SUB: Please describe Sightly and your primary innovation.
McIntyre: Sightly is a multi-screen video advertising technology company focused on reaching micro-targeted, local audiences. We give businesses the ability to target video ads across all devices and reach prospective customers with locally relevant messages. Our comprehensive network reach, combined with advanced segmentation and data-driven optimization intelligence, provides one of the industry’s most effective platforms for local brand awareness and customer engagement.
SUB: Who are your target markets and users?
McIntyre: Our target users are multi-local brands—e.g., franchises, chains, OEMs, etc., local businesses, and their marketing partners. We provide the ability to locally target video to reach prospective customers with messages tailored just for them. The Sightly advertising platform strengthens brand relevance and response by personalizing ads with elements that resonate with each viewer’s location, demographics, and interests—and it drives more in-store purchases with interactive offers and deals that are also targeted by those variables, as well as things like time of day, climate, time of year, etc.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition, and what differentiates Sightly from the competition?
McIntyre: Although there are other companies that provide video ad solutions, none are focused on local, nor do they provide the combination of content personalization and automated campaign management. And we are Google’s only local video platform partner, providing access to YouTube and the GDN, as well as other programmatic video, mobile, and social networks that support video advertising.
SUB: You just announced in January that you’ve raised $1.7 million in new Seed funding. Why was this a particularly good time to raise more outside funding?
McIntyre: We raised the funding to respond to market demand. With the shift in media viewing habits from single-screen TV to multiple screens, the market is primed for our solution, and the demand for scalable personalized video ads and campaigns has grown exponentially. The related demand from potential channel partners moved us to raise funds to expedite our product development efforts.
SUB: How do you plan to use the funds?
McIntyre: The funds will be used to continue expanding our product line to best serve multi-location businesses and channel partners with scalable localized campaigns.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for Sightly? Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
McIntyre: Our corporate roots stem from local video advertising. My co-founder, John Zdanowski, and I started an Internet video production company in 2006 called PixelFish, where we focused on providing affordable ad creation for local businesses. Around 2011, we began developing a partnership with Google, which allowed us to reach online audiences more effectively.
The ‘aha’ moment came when we began to see the seismic audience shift to multi-screen video. This shift to smartphones and tablets inspired us to make it possible for businesses to reach prospective customers on every screen they use. This gradual shift in our business, coupled with the evolution of video advertising, ultimately resulted in the launch of Sightly in 2013.
SUB: What were the first steps you took in establishing the company?
McIntyre: It wasn’t a first step, but rather a process that evolved into the company we are today, driven by market demand.
SUB: How did you come up with the name? What is the story or meaning behind it?
McIntyre: We knew what the product was and we were looking for a name that provided a related, positive connotation. Our team brainstormed dozens of names, and ‘Sightly’ was visually related, had a positive connotation, phonetic and accurate spelling and, honestly, was a domain name we could afford as a startup.
SUB: Do you have plans to seek additional outside funding in the near future?
McIntyre: We will consider additional funding as our progress and the market demand.
SUB: What have the most significant challenges been so far to building the company?
McIntyre: As a pioneer of local targeted video, our biggest challenge is educating the market about the seismic shift underway in video viewing habits, and at the same time how that is revolutionizing video advertising. Fortunately, we’re finding many early adopters who clearly see the competitive value of our innovative technology and platform features.
SUB: How do you generate revenue or plan to generate revenue?
McIntyre: We charge fees for generating personalized video ads and localized, micro-targeted campaigns across hundreds of locations, and then charge a percentage of the advertising budget to manage the campaigns and optimize them for greatest performance over time, based on the client’s goals and objectives.
SUB: What are your goals for Sightly over the next year or so?
McIntyre: In the near term, we want to continue developing our platform to make it frictionless for multi-local brands and their agency partners to create and deliver ads. Our roadmap also includes product developments for reseller partners who serve small businesses. Our ultimate goal is to make localized video ads easy, accessible, and affordable for all brands, local business, and their marketing partners.