Boston 500 Startups Startup: Privy To Make Online Advertising Easier And Transparent

Privy,Boston startup,500 startups,startup,startups,startup interview, founder interviewBy now every new business owner knows that they need to have some kind of internet presence. Many also know that they need to advertise online. After business owners decide they need to advertise online, where to go and what to do often becomes a headache.

Google’s AdWords product is typically one of the easiest points of entry into online advertising. If you live in a small or medium sized market AdWords can work perfectly for you. However, when you get into larger cities, signing up and using AdWords can be a shot in the dark.

AdWords algorithm based advertising can be confusing to someone with very little online experience. Naturally, the more money you put into a platform like AdWords the better your conversions will be. Or at least that’s what many advertisers think.

When a company with a new online presence sprinkles in social media and other possible revenue streams, the overall plan can become a disorganized mess. It doesn’t take long to lose track of where your ad dollars are going, and how different efforts are paying off.

Boston startup Privy is creating a much easier online advertising platform to use and understand. Privy’s founder Ben Jabbawy is hoping to add a layer of transparency to online advertising that hasn’t existed before.  Jabbawy wants to make it easy for local businesses to buy online advertising and know exactly how many customers they get for every dollar they spend.

Sounds easy enough right?

Dave McClure liked the concept enough to bring Privy out to Mountain View California for the current session of 500 Startups. We got a chance to talk to Jabbawy about Privy, his hometown of Boston and what makes advertising work.  Check out the interview below.

Privy Introduction from Privy on Vimeo.

What is Privy?

Privy makes it easy for local businesses to buy online advertising and know exactly how many customers they get for every dollar spent.

We’re building a brand around transparency and trust. For years local businesses have invested time and money into advertising, building out a website, social media and email databases. We believe you should always understand the true return on anyone of those investments. In short, how many customers do you earn for every dollar that you spend. Our goal is to automate the creation and distribution of content that drives sales, all while giving you insight into analytics that really matter, customers.


In layman’s terms, how does it work?

Restaurants set an advertising budget of their choice and simply select a promotion that works for their business. That’s it.

Behind the scenes, Privy then uses the budget to buy advertising across the web and uses the promotion as the creative for the advertisement. You can even publish the promotion to your website and social media accounts with the click of a button. Once the promotion is published across the web, high quality consumers claim it online with their email address and redeem it inside the restaurant using their mobile phone – no extra hardware or training necessary. Campaigns are measured in terms of total number of customers who claimed the promotion, so businesses can track the literal ROI and sales attribution of their advertising money.

Who are the founders and what are their backgrounds?

Ben Jabbawy,is the founder of Privy.  Before starting Privy, Ben was a cofounder of GPush which, in 2010, was the 17th most paid for iOS app in the itunes store, and #1 in the productivity category worldwide. He was also a member of the founding team of Oasys Water.

Where are you based?

Boston, MA

What’s the startup scene/culture like where you’re based?

The startup scene in Boston is awesome. It’s a really tight knit community that combines great talent, successful entrepreneurs and capital. There’s now thousands of startups in clusters across kendall square extending all the way to the seaport. Everyone is really rooting each other on to have more big success stories in the Boston startup community.

How did you come up with the idea for Privy?

Growing up in a family of small business owners, I had seen both of my parents struggle to bring their businesses online. First it was a website, then email marketing, then advertising and social media. I watched them test out different services like google adwords, groupon and more but they could never really understand what worked, and if any were driving high quality, repeat customers. After speaking with hundreds of other similar businesses, we realized this was a huge opportunity.

How did you come up with the name?

We wanted to come up with a name that felt special and empowering to businesses owners. Using Privy should give them the confidence that they can market themselves, and don’t need an agency to help them understand how to buy and measure advertising campaigns. i.e Privy to the fact that they can do this themselves.

What problem does Privy solve?

Advertising for local businesses sucks. Big time.

Every year, local businesses spend ~$15,000 on advertising. If you ask any of them how that’s working out for them, they never know. And it makes sense. Today, digital advertising is complicated. You have to understand keywords, and set bids on cost per clicks, and at the end, all you get is a number of impressions, and a click through rate. As the marketing director of a restaurant chain, you have no idea if that drove actual customers and if it did, who those people are, and where did they come from (facebook vs google vs twitter vs yelp). We’re changing all of that.

We simplify the buying process down to a few clicks, and can tell you exactly who your customers are, where they came from and a true ROI on your monthly advertising campaign.

What’s your secret sauce?

Simplicity and transparency. Our interface is incredibly user friendly, which gives them the confidence to get started. Then our transparency around customer delivery, campaign results and performance is what keeps them coming back.

Behind the scenes, we’re working constantly on improving our automation algorithms for ad buying and campaign optimization.

What’s one dilemma you’ve encountered in the startup process?

Finding a balance between building your vision, and giving your customers what they want can be challenging. It’s important to listen to your customers speak about existing pain points, and how they want you to solve it, but it’s also important to understand that you’re in control of the vision.

Who are some of your mentors and business role models?

We’re part of the 500 Startups accelerator, so we work closely with their incredible staff and mentors, as well as Randy Parker, who is the founder of PagePart, who was previously the original founder of Constant Contact.

What’s next for Privy?

We’re changing the way local businesses advertise on the web, and adding new merchants every day. Next stop? Global domination :)


Find out more about Privy here

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