Durham-based Sift Media, an ad-tech marketing startup, is on a mission to collect data on every smartphone user in the world—and it probably has a profile on you.
Sift, founded in 2015, is a spinout of Austin-based Digital Turbine and has more than 2.4 billion unique profiles of smartphone users. The company sifts through 50 billion mobile ad requests every day to target app install advertisements for its clients. Sift Media’s clients are typically advertising agencies, and the advertising agencies work with a variety of companies, such as Facebook and Twitter.
The company was founded around the idea that each smartphone user’s set of apps reflects who they are and their interests. Sift is able to accomplish the sheer volume of mobile ad requests by using its advanced AI, machine learning and automation algorithms.
CEO Jud Bowman founded the company with CTO Slawek Pruchnik, Chief Software Architect Jesper Rasmussen and Lead Software Engineer Aaron Schwager. Bowman explained that he works with a team of “geniuses” that has created Sift’s algorithms to be effective at targeting ads for users.
“We build these probability models, like Facebook and Twitter, but instead of microtargeting it on Facebook, we’re doing it for other apps,” he said.
Bowman is a serial entrepreneur who founded his first startup, Motricity, as a platform for ringtones and games to be delivered straight to mobile phones while he was still a senior at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics in Durham. Bowman led Motricity to grow to more than $100 million in annual revenue with 500 employees. Motricity then successfully completed a $50 million IPO led by Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan and the company’s market cap eventually reached as high as $1.25 billion.
Bowman then founded Appia, a platform that delivered more than 100 million app installs for advertisers, in 2008. Appia was acquired by Digital Turbine in March 2015 for approximately $100 million.
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Sift Media was able to raise $3.25 million in funding from a variety of investors, including Durham’s IDEA Fund Partners, Wakefield Group, Piedmont Capital, Alerion Ventures, and more. Sift has been profitable now for two years. The company’s revenue last year was around $13 million, which was up 110 percent from 2017.
In addition, the company has over 100 clients and works with three global data centers in Virginia, Singapore and Beijing. Sift Media was also selected as the winner of the “New Media/Digital Marketing” Award at 2018 NC Tech Awards in November. In April 2018, the company was listed on Scot Wingo’s 2018 “Tweener” list of 39 Triangle Startups Worth Watching.
Bowman said he wants Sift Media to reach revenues of more than $50 million in the next three years.
“We knew there was a big market because of our work at Appia, and as an entrepreneur, I’m really attracted to big markets,” Bowman said. “We just thought we could do it even better this time.”