nFluence Media is taking the wraps off its stealthy service today, showcasing for the first time a new mobile offering that the founders believe will transform the way people receive relevant advertisements and deals on the go. As part of the unveiling, the company is disclosing that it has raised $3 million in funding.
The 10-person company was started after Seattle venture capitalist Tom Huseby and SnapIn Software founder Brian Roundtree started kicking around mobile advertising ideas with Henry Lawson, the former president of Donovan Data Systems.
“We concluded that the real solution going forward — that people are really looking for — hasn’t been invented yet,” says Lawson, who is serving as CEO of the Seattle and London-based company. “It is effectively enabling consumers to profile themselves and giving consumers control back of the digital profile that they use for anything, from the advertising that gets served to them to the offers that they receive and even down to the media content that they are exposed to.”
Later this month, nFluence plans to unveil its first mobile application. Dubbed dealBoard, the free iPhone app aggregates dozens of daily deals and then targets them directly to individuals.
Lawson says it does this without asking users to contribute personal information such as email, gender or Twitter handles. Instead, he said in 30 seconds or less, utilizing a game-like experience, users fill out a short profile in which they are asked to identify brands that they like or don’t like and retail shops that they enjoy or don’t enjoy.
“It enables us to build a very accurate profile for them, but the magic of this is that the consumer during no point during that process has told us anything that is personally identifiable at all,” said Lawson.
DealBoard is pulling more than 35,000 offers from dozens of daily deal sites, including Groupon, Living Social and Gilt City, as well as large retailers. No emails are sent, with the offers presented within the app.
“If you tell us that you like good steak dinners on a Friday, then you are likely to get offers for good steak dinners on a Friday,” said Lawson, adding that offers can be shared with friends and family via text messages or email.
Lawson was quick to point out that dealBoard app is simply the first showcase of the technology, adding that it represents only about 20 percent of what the company is about.
In fact, he said the company is currently in discussions with shopping centers, mobile carriers, broadcasters, game console makers and others who want to use the company’s front-end “brand sorter” technology which is used to build profiles of individuals without collecting personal information.
Lawson said that the largest mall operator in the world is working with the company to create a way to develop geo-centric offers for individuals inside malls.
“If you haven’t got kids, it won’t light up when you walk past Toys R Us,” he said.
Potential competitors include recommendation engine Hunch, which was sold to eBay late last year. Lawson said that Hunch “got pretty close” to what nFluence is trying to build, but he added that they seemed to lose track when you ask people various questions about their personal interests.
“We enable the consumer to create a personal interest network, and that basically means that we will connect you with commercial opportunities, based upon your personal interests,” he said. “Much as your social network connects you with new people who are your friends, we are connecting you with new opportunities around your interests.”
Lawson concedes that Facebook, Amazon and Google are potential competitors as well, but he said the nFluence allows consumers to retake control of their personal profiles “so they don’t have to accept their data being sniffed by a whole variety of players who are fighting over them.”
Backers of the company include Voyager Capital and the Alliance of Angels. Seven of the company’s employees are based in Seattle, and two are in London with Lawson splitting time before the two locations.
Roundtree, who is serving as CTO of nFluence, is best known for creating SnapIn Software. The mobile software company sold to Nuance for about $200 million in 2008.
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