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AdRoll Raises $70M Led By Foundation As Ad Tech And Retargeting Hit The Big Time

TechCrunch TechCrunch 21/04/2014 Ingrid Lunden

AdRoll, a pioneer of online advertising retargeting (the technology that pushes you ads for products that you have viewed online previously), is today announcing a major round of funding that it will be using to capitalise on the current surge of interest in ad tech: $70 million, one of the biggest rounds for an ad tech startup this year.

Aaron Bell, CEO and co-founder of the company, tells me that the Series C round will be used for acquisitions (mobile is a key focus) to expand its product, and to grow its footprint globally. The company had a in October 2013, and Bell says that it’s on track now for $150 million, with some 15,000 customers using its technology.

This new round was led by existing investor Foundation Capital, with participation also from several new investors such as Institutional Venture Partners (IVP), Northgate Capital, Performance Equity and Glenmede; as well as existing investors Merus Capital, Accel Partners and Peter Thiel. Eric Liaw of IVP is also joining AdRoll’s board as a board observer.

The funding brings the total raised by AdRoll to $89 million.

AdRoll and its investors are not disclosing the company’s valuation in the wake of the new funding, but Charles Moldow, a general partner at Foundation, says that it puts it on par with other major ad tech companies on the market today such as Criteo. As of right now, publicly-traded Criteo has a market cap of.

The ambition, Bell says, is to be as central to the process of buying online display ads as Google’s AdWords is for search ads. “We were inspired by Google AdWords,” he says of AdRoll’s founding in 2008, “back when ad tech wasn’t cool.”

Bell calls himself a “technical CEO,” in that he himself got an early start in the tech world as an engineer. A native of Redmond, Washington, Bell started working at Microsoft aged 16 on Exchange before eventually matriculating at Stanford and then working on artificial intelligence (including used in the Space Shuttle).

“I was drawn to ad space because of the global scale and the thought of how you could apply machine learning to it,” he says. A key interest for him, he says, was to find the next “breakout technique that brought companies into online advertising that had never considered it before.”

That is essentially what AdRoll has done. Whereas Criteo has built a large retargeting business around working with large, global clients, AdRoll’s specialty has been to build and package this technology into a product more accessible by small and medium businesses. That continues to be a major focus for the company — borne out also by some of its recent acquisitions, such as back in January — but it’s also setting it sights wider and higher.

Bell says that its new office in New York, led by (a former exec at Google and Say Media), is one of its fastest-growing, which is one indication of how AdRoll is moving in closer to Madison Avenue.

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