GumGum: Photos with a Business Model

Screen Shot 2013-01-24 at 5.29.45 PMThe Visual Web might be the hottest consumer tech trend right now.

Communicate with photos on $70M Snapchat. Collect them on traffic drivers Tapiture and $2.5B Pinterest. Share them with 100 million others on $1B Instagram. Besides photos, big user #’s, and massive valuations, these visual web startups share another trait: no revenue or business model.

Granted, like Twitter, a model will materialize for these web powerhouses, however there’s one LA Tech company that is rocking the visual web behind the scenes – one with a business model.

I got to chat with Launchpad company GumGum’s CEO, Ophir Tanz about just that – monetizing images.

Ophir_Tanz_head shot

GumGum’s key insight was photos are the last area of the web to monetize, “Video, social, text all monetized. Not images – until GumGum,” Ophir explained. Google has search ads. Facebook promoted stories. Youtube has preroll. Gumgum has in-image ads.

“Our in image ads have 10x-20x better click through rates than traditional banner ads,” because they’re highly contextual and images are where our eyes go says Ophir. That’s why the visual web is huge, that’s why Fortune 100’s choose GumGum for brand campaigns.

I get it. It’s an amazing insight and simple when you think about it. Put the ad where the eyes are.

What I didn’t expect from my conversation with Ophir was the ridiculously cool tech they’ve built that powers the platform. It’s nothing like what you think. GumGum might have the best startup technology portfolio in LA. Good call, Suster.

Ophir’s team has developed advanced algorithms to detect content on publisher sites to deliver the most relevant ads. Not only cool semantic analysis stuff of page content, but computer vision tech to understand the image.

As an engineer I’m fascinated by vision tech – this is the cutting edge stuff, it makes the buzzword data science and machine learning tech look like child’s play. Truly a competitive moat.

They’re solving the hard problems like anti-targeting (don’t show ads on a hurricane story) and inappropriate image detection (brands don’t like thier ads on nude photo’s, and GumGum tech prevents it). It sounds like a fun place to work for engineers.

On top of all the tech, GumGum is a bona fide B2B company, offering Ad Agency like services, from ad creative to distribution through their 150M uniques publisher network.

LA Tech has a storied history of finding business models for major trends in tech and GumGum seems to be the first to break the code for monetizing the visual web megatrend.

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