Q&A with Clovr Media co-founder and CEO Tom Burgess
Clovr Media connects credit and debit card transactions to interactive and loyalty advertising. The Boston-based company was founded in 2010.
SUB: Briefly describe what Clovr Media does and the value proposition you bring to your markets.
Burgess: Clovr Media delivers Loyalty 2.0 to the financial services and digital media ecosystems by bridging the gap between credit and debit card loyalty and interactive advertising in a way that is seamless and simple for consumers. Clovr Media has built the first platform converting banner, text, video, or mobile ads into Card Linked Offers—delivering pinpoint targeting and accountability for online and mobile advertising. When clicked, CLOs link savings directly to a consumer’s credit or debit card—no point of sale integration, no mail-in rebates or paper coupons—and the savings appear directly on the consumer’s bank statement. CLOs are an evolutionary leap forward for financial institutions encouraging loyalty and increasing reward points redemption. Clovr Media’s Gateway gives advertisers the direct link between digital ad spend and consumer purchases with 100 percent attribution. CLOs allow consumers to shop their favorite brands, and see big savings.
SUB: What is the user experience like for your customers: advertisers, financial institutions, and advertisers alike?
Burgess: Consumers opt into Clovr’s card linked offer, or CLO, program via their banks or directly through the ad experience. Based upon their card purchase history and within all channels—retail web sites, banners, email, social media, traditional—consumers will begin to see relevant CLOs. Once the consumer selects a CLO it is automatically attached to their existing credit or debit card. When the consumer ultimately visits the retail location or makes a purchase online, there is no paper coupon and no rebate; the savings is automatically credited directly to their card. In addition to opting-in via Clovr, consumers can also opt-in to the CLO program via their bank or credit card company. This adds a new level of dimension to loyalty programs, creating “top of wallet” status for banks. Additionally, advertisers can track the success of their advertising campaigns that are CLO enabled because each ad has 100 percent attribution to purchase.
SUB: Was there a particular “aha” moment where the inspiration for the business came together, or was it a more gradual process?
Burgess: One of my co-founders, Doug Spear, and I came up with the original concept during a casual breakfast at a small diner in Newport, RI. We were not planning to design a new business but based on the unique blend of our separate fields of expertise, we uncovered a ground breaking opportunity that leveraged the inherent assets of two very different industries. What eventually evolved was a breakthrough consumer shopping solution. What we discovered was so unique that we have since filed a patent based on our first of its kind invention.
SUB: What were the first steps you took in building the business?
Burgess: Lots of research. Before we developed one line of code we spent several months traveling the country interviewing an array of experts and VCs focused on our field of endeavor. If done carefully the process produces mutual benefits. The expert and VC gets a chance to hear about a new business model and the entrepreneur receives advice, guidance and contacts that may prove valuable in building the enterprise. This type of process helps define the proposed product/service and most often uncovers customers and investors that will ultimately form a successful venture.
SUB: Who do you consider your primary competitors?
Burgess: There are a few early stage companies in the card linked offer marketplace and each have a unique approach to the business. Offermatic is pursuing a direct to consumer model by emailing special deals to registered users, Cardlytics is building an online ad network that restricts their offers to specific online banking statements and Edhance is targeting the college market by enabling offers on cards issued to students.
SUB: What differentiates Clovr Media from the competition?
Burgess: Clovr is unique in two primary ways. One, Clovr’s platform introduces a new, cross channel, advertising functionality, allowing advertisers to turn any of their advertisements into a Card Linked Offer. This includes online, mobile or traditional mediums—print, TV, radio and outdoor. Secondly, Clovr can support merchant based or SKU/MFG based offers.
SUB: How are you marketing your services?
Burgess: Our services are marketed direct to advertisers and via strategic sales channel partners in the media industry. If a brand wants to run a Card Linked Offer campaign they can contact Clovr directly or work through their ad agency or media network provider. In addition, our banking partners are offering Clovr’s solution direct to their card holders. Card holders will be able to activate this new feature directly through their bank and reap all the benefits associated with having a card linked activated card.
SUB: Have you accepted outside financing? Do you plan to in the near future?
Burgess: Clovr has raised approximately $10 million in two rounds of financing. Investors include Bain Capital Ventures, Kepha Partners and Common Angels.
SUB: Where do you see Clovr Media in a year from now?
Burgess: Good question. It’s an adventure! That’s part of the thrill of starting a new project. You never know what’s around the next turn. So far we have assembled a very strong team and produced a beta version of our product. We have recruited some early customers and partners and completed our first round of consumer research. Everything looks very promising for a successful launch in a couple months. We’re breaking new ground with our Card Linked Offer platform. One thing is for sure, in a year from now we will have made some mistakes, conquered challenges and uncovered many new opportunities. I’ve been down this path before. The first year is challenging and thrilling. It’s a significant part of what keeps me coming back for more.
SUB: Finally, a question I always ask—as an entrepreneur who has weathered the recent financial crisis, what advice do you have for those just starting a business now?
Burgess: My last business was launched during the recovery of the dot-com boom. Investors and customers were emerging from a form of hibernation so we experienced market exuberance and pent-up investor enthusiasm for new opportunities. We rode that wave to success. I believe the current market is very similar. In my opinion, this is an excellent time to launch a new business.
Clovr Media – www.clovrmedia.com