A Q&A with BIScience co-founder and CTO Assaf Toval. The Tel Aviv-based company was founded in 2009 and closed its initial funding round of $3.5 million in late October. Investors include CyHawk Ventures and Bright Capital.
SUB: Please describe BIScience and your value proposition.
Toval: BIScience is a business and competitive intelligence solution provider for the online media industry. We provide media intelligence services and tools which unveils the complex eco-system of the online advertising industry. We offer compelling solutions for online marketers which enable them to maximize ROI by reducing lost budgets over trial and error activities, generate new business and reduce operational cost. Our flag ship product, AdClarity, currently focuses on the ad display channel and is soon to support mobile, social, video and search channels. Our first generation product, GeoSurf, is the world’s largest premium proxy network which provides multi-geo gateway solutions and enables our users to surf locally from over 100 locations worldwide and experience the web as a local user in each of those locations.
SUB: Who are your target markets and users?
Toval: Our solutions serve media buyers, media planners, sales managers, affiliates, ad operation managers and Internet professionals with a stake in online media and advertising. It is suitable for publishers, advertisers, media agencies and ad networks which require deep understanding of the advertising eco-system in order to get transparency over their own inventory and benchmark against their competitors as well as form new business partnerships and generate new leads. Our portfolio of competitive intelligence solutions provides valuable insight that enhances our clients’ marketing operations and empowers efficiency, transparency and cost reduction.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition?
Toval: AdClarity is an innovative product which aims to compete with companies such as ComScore and Nielsen. There are also some other early-stage startups which are building similar solutions with different approaches than ours though we believe our solution has some serious advantages over the competition. GeoSurf solutions are compatible for Internet browsers, desktop applications, mobile devices, VPN and API. Most of the services in this area are lacking the variety of solutions as well as the stability, credibility, robustness and security GeoSurf provides, and are considered commodities with a very poor service level, so I can’t really say there’s a major player out there which can meet the same standards GeoSurf offers.
SUB: What differentiates BIScience from the competition?
Toval: BIScience offers complimentary solutions both on the tactical and strategic levels.
AdClarity lets you understand the media spread across hundreds of thousands of websites. We have invested close to two years developing our virtual agent technology, an innovative content discovery platform, which allows us to deploy millions of agents which behave like real Internet users and interact with websites. By doing so, we can mimic real user behavior and expose the entire targeting setting for each campaign we encounter on the web. This is done in order to tackle the fast-growing advertising technologies and their advanced targeting algorithms which use geographic, behavioral, contextual and demographic user characteristics in order to optimize their ad serving algorithms. Our technology is independent and not bounded to any third-party data source, such as user panel or integrations of any sort, and thus allows us to cover any advertising channel, traffic source or country relatively easy and adjust quickly to the market beat while staying dynamic enough for the sake of our client’s needs.
GeoSurf lets you get the local perspective as it happens right now, in real time, and is mostly used for real-time competitive intelligence and QA of ad deployment in the various channels. It also serves as a global platform for fetching geo-targeted content in an automated way.
SUB: When was the company founded and what were the first steps you took in establishing it?
Toval: The company was founded in early 2009. We first built our long-term roadmap and business goals and contemplated how to achieve them while confronting the common challenges of every early stage startup company, from funding up to a go-to-market plan in the broader vision.
The first product we released was GeoSurf, which provided the reliable geo-surfing solution which was so needed through the industry. GeoSurf had two main goals: the first one was to generate revenues fast enough and we indeed had the first clients following the first month of launching. The second goal was to create the intimate relationship with the leading market players so we could work closely together as beta partners while building AdClarity, tailored to the industry use cases and specific requirements. We wanted to touch the market as soon as possible so we could shorten our development process while building our solution towards our clients’ needs.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for BIScience? Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Toval: I can say the idea came more gradually than a stroke of lightening. Me and my partner, Kfir Moyal from Cyhawk Ventures, had been part of the founding team of Matomy Media group. With over ten years’ experience in the online advertising industry building advertising technologies, we have repeatedly identified the common challenges every online marketer is dealing with on a daily basis. The lack of transparency and insufficient business intelligence tools had been a major obstacle for companies becoming more efficient with their media operations and strategic planning. The online advertising industry is highly competitive and our vision was to lift the curtain over the information chaos, which for most people is considered to be a ‘black box’ without any means to understand what is really going on. Because we know the industry so well, and in light of the fact we have been dealing with the same challenges ourselves, we knew we could build better, more productive tools which can really assist today’s online marketer in making smarter decisions without being blindfolded to the enormous advertising activity being done out there.
SUB: How did you come up with the name? What is the story behind it?
Toval: The core of our solutions is targeted for business intelligence purposes. Our solutions are based on real life experience and advanced algorithms yielding actionable insights which contributed the ‘science’ notation to the name.
SUB: What have the most significant obstacles been so far to building the company?
Toval: We spent a lot of time developing our core technological solution as it involves a few challenges such as big data processing, highly sophisticated behavioral web scraping capabilities and algorithm modeling. We are also working with world class mathematicians from Tel Aviv University, which help us with our data mining and knowledge discovery processes out of the huge amount of data we collect every day.
SUB: You recently raised your first funding round–$3.5 million. What are your plans for the funds?
Toval: Funds will be used mainly for enhancing our infrastructure and R&D teams and will help us expand to the next advertising channels. We are also planning to ramp up our marketing and sales activities in light of our goals for 2013. A few surprises are on the way which I can’t speak about, and are going to shake up the industry. Stay tuned.
SUB: Why was this a particularly good time to raise more outside funding?
Toval: We have been moving forward quite well and feel this is the turning point of BIScience to leap towards the next step. We have clear targets and business goals to achieve through 2013 and time to market is critical for us. The funds will be invested to accelerate our capacity to meet the planned milestones through the next year.
SUB: How does the company generate revenue or plan to generate revenue?
Toval: Both our products, GeoSurf and AdClarity, already have been generating revenues and are available for purchasing. GeoSurf includes different packaging options which anyone can choose from on our website according to his needs. AdClarity is currently being sold in introductory prices but as it evolves its list price will be higher.
SUB: What are your goals for BIScience over the next year or so?
Toval: We will keep enhancing both of our products. We aim to add new channels in AdClarity and enhance our coverage in the existing ones. In GeoSurf we keep adding more global locations and new features to make it more robust and fun to use. After all, fun is part of the game.
BIScience – www.biscience.com