Blueshift raises $30M for its AI-based, integrated approach to marketing

The concept of the “marketing cloud” — sold by the likes of Salesforce, Oracle and Adobe — has become a standard way for large tech companies to package together and sell marketing tools to businesses that want to improve how they use digital channels to grow their business.

Some argue, however, that “cloud”, singular, might be a misnomer: typically those tools are not integrated well with each other and effectively are run as separate pieces of software. Today a startup called Blueshift — which claims to offer an end-to-end marketing stack, by having built it from the ground up to include both traditional marketing data as well as customer experience — is announcing some funding, pointing to the opportunity to build more efficient alternatives.

The startup has closed a round of $30 million, a Series C that co-founder and CEO Vijay Chittoor said it will be using to expand to more markets (it’s most active in the U.S. and Europe currently) and also to expand its technology.

“The product already has a unified format, to ingest data from multiple sources and redistribute that out to apps. Now, we want to distribute that data to more last-mile applications,” he said in an interview. “Our biggest initiative is to scale out the notion of us being not just an app but a platform.”

The company’s customers include LendingTree, Discovery Inc., Udacity, BBC and Groupon, and it has seen revenue growth of 858% in the last three years, although it’s not disclosing actual revenues, nor valuation, today.

The round is being led by Fort Ross Ventures, with strong participation also from Avatar Growth Capital. Past investors Softbank Ventures Asia (which led its last round of $15 million), Storm Ventures, Conductive Ventures and Nexus Venture Partners also invested.

The concept for Blueshift came out of Chittoor’s direct experience at Groupon — which acquired his previous startup, social e-commerce company Mertado — and before that a long period at Walmart Labs — which Walmart rebranded after it acquired another startup where Chittoor was an early employee, semantic search company Kosmix.

“The challenges we are solving today we saw firsthand as challenges our customers saw at Groupon and Walmart,” he said. “The connected customer journey is creating a thousand times more data than before, and people and brands are engaging across more touchpoints. Tracking that has become harder with legacy channel-centric applications.”

Blueshift’s approach for solving that has been, he said, “to unify the data and to make decisions at customer level.”

That is to say, although the customer experience today is very fragmented — you might potentially encounter something about a company or brand in multiple places, such as in a physical environment, on various social media platforms, in your email, through a web search, in a vertical search portal, in a marketplace on a site, in an app, and so on — the experience for marketers should not be.

The company addresses this by way of a customer data platform (CDP) it markets as “SmartHub.” Designed for non-technical users although customizable by engineers if you need it to be, users can integrate different data feeds from multiple sources, which then Blueshift crunches and organises to let you view in a more structured way.

That data can then be used to power actions in a number of places where you might be setting up marketing campaigns. And Chittoor pointed out — like other marketing people have — that these days, the focus on that is largely first-party data to fuel that machine, rather than buying in data from third-party sources (which is definitely part of a bigger trend).

“Our mission is to back category-leading companies that are poised to dominate a market. Blueshift clearly stood out to us as the leader in the enterprise CDP space,” said Ratan Singh of Fort Ross Ventures in a statement. “We are thrilled to partner with the Blueshift team as they accelerate the adoption of their SmartHub CDP platform.” Singh is joining Blueshift’s board with this round.

Read More

Ingrid Lunden