AdTech startup Grapeshot made headlines earlier this week after it was acquired by cloud-platform Oracle.

The terms of the acquisition remain undisclosed, but according to Techcrunch, Grapeshot’s last known post-money valuation, in May 2017, was estimated at around $56m (£40.2m).

The firm has been praised by Oracle for its intelligence platform, saying the acquisition will dramatically expand the company’s ability to improve marketing outcomes for their partners worldwide.

According to the startup, Grapeshot’s Contextual Intelligence Platform allows marketers to avoid unsafe content and extend global audience reach by targeting the most relevant context.

But, how did a data analytics startup out of Cambridge get sucked into Oracle’s data cloud?

Here’s everything we know about Grapeshot so far.

Mathematical beginnings

Grapeshot was founded by John Snyder and Dr Martin Porter in 2006. Both attended the University of Cambridge; Porter as a Mathematics graduate followed by a PhD in Computing Linguistics, and Snyder as a Fellow in Entrepreneurship.

It was then that the pair developed an algorithm for multiple keyword information retrieval, intended to suit buyers and sellers of digital advertising. The algorithm analysed URL’s to group together masses of webpages, and analysed keywords to identify and select the editorial content most relevant to a brand marketer’s messages.

Porter and Snyder then spent four years developing the technology before launching it to the world.

By this time, the algorithm could now give every keyword a ‘WordRank value’, which updated  in real-time, matching ads to specific keywords, rather than general webpages. Grapeshot claims this enables brands to analyse customer behaviour and decide how to best target them with marketing, and then anaylse how they react to it.

By 2011, Grapeshot counted Mail Online, MSN, Trinity Mirror, Reuters amongst its customers. 

Funding flurry

Fast forward to 2014 and Grapeshot secured its first major batch of funding. The startup raised $3.3m and UK-based Albion Ventures joined existing investors IQ Capital and Grapeshot chairman of the time, Tim Schoonmaker, in the round. By this point, the company had developed an app on the AppNexus RTB platform called “Grapeshot Keywords”. They had also opened a New York office alongside its existing London base.

Its platform was now integrated in Appnexus, MediaMath, The TradeDesk, Adform and AOL. This really accelerated its growth, and in 2014 they opened an office in Singapore.

Grapeshot was offering a way to not only improve engagement between advertising and audiences, by delivering more relevant campaigns, but also counteracting awkward situations arising from the complex nature of the ever changing online industry, which sometimes automotive ads appearing next to an article about a car crash.

It took just another two years for Grapeshot to be flushed with cash again. This time, the raise was $8.5m and the round was led by existing backer IQ Capital and Draper Esprit. The money was used to open new offices in Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Sydney. 

To date, Grapeshot has raised a healthy $22.4m.

Rapid global expansion

Snyder was confident in his businesses’ ability to optimise the amount of money companies could make through marketing. “Our ability to determine context through keywords is a vital signal for understanding consumer behaviour,” he had said.

And his confidence was well placed, it seems. Grapeshot had achieved what every startup would like; rapid global expansion. With 10 global offices and more than 140 employees, it was sharing its algorithm with brands, publishers, buy-side and supply-side partners alike. The company then went back to its origins.

In November 2017, it opened a new HQ in Cambridge, at Park House, Castle Park. The HQ houses the company’s core employees. It’s hunger for growth is unsurprising; in 2016 it recorded a £9m turnover and featured at number 64 in The Sunday Times Tech Track 100.

What’s next?

Currently, Grapeshot claims to works with some 5,000 marketers globally, covering some 38 billion programmatic ad impressions.

If you visit the Grapeshot website, you will be hit with information on its ‘Contextual Intelligence Platform.’ This is a complex platform that came from Porter’s algorithmic breakthrough back in Cambridge, but it no longer just offers targeting.

Its key features include; ‘custom targeting in 31 languages’, ‘detection of over 170 languages’, a ‘customizable user interface’, ‘integration via flexible APIs’, ‘real-time page evaluations’, ‘scalable high-speed infrastructure’, ‘predictive campaign tools’ and ‘live reporting’.

Now that it has been bought by Oracle, the startup will work specifically in audiences and measurement, which already provide data for custom segmented audiences.

At the moment, Grapeshot’s biggest rival is tech giant Google. Earlier this year, Google released AdSense, which uses machine learning to understand content of a page before sending an ad to it.

Still, Grapeshot, and now Oracle, have the benefit of being independent, and with a growing rate of over 100% year-over-year according to the company, it seems like they have a bright future to look forward to.

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