Israeli Trend Tracker Taykey Raises $15 Million From Google Chairman Eric Schmidt

It can be hard out there on social media for the brands. Their tweets and Facebook posts reach millions of people, and while the results can sometimes be iconic, it seems they’re more likely to make a splash for the inevitable apologies after cringe-inducing attempts to join a national conversation (as the Super Bowl-bound Seattle Seahawks demonstrated on Monday).

The difficulty of catching the right trend–marketing your tween-friendly product to Justin Bieber’s “belieber” fans when he’s trending, but not if it’s as part of scandal, for example–is great enough that big brands like Disney and Procter & Gamble PG -0.07% have complete war rooms where many marketing and social media professionals are trained and prepared to react in real-time to advertise according to a clear strategy. But even a shiny war room can get overwhelmed.

Israeli startup Taykey, run by precocious programmer Amit Avner, now 29, has made capturing those social trends into a big business, working with clients like those two and Coca-Cola, GE and Unilever to tweet and post more opportunistically, while helping to avoid the mistakes that come when a brand reaches out of its comfort zone. It’s good money for Taykey: Avner says the startup of nearly 100 people in Israel and New York tripled its revenue in 2014 to about $30 million. But as Avner looks to get to $100 million in revenue and beyond, he’s distancing himself from the media buying ad tech models of his many peers–and that move has caught the eye of someone who would know about where big ad budgets are going online, Google chairman Eric Schmidt.

Schmidt’s Innovation Endeavors has led a $15 million funding round in Taykey alongside MSR Capital and existing investors SoftBank Capital, Sequoia Capital, Tenaya Capital and Marker LLC, nearly doubling the funding its raised to date of $32 million. The timing of the funding news comes with Avner’s big reveal for his six-year-old product, a switch to a subscription model that he claims will get clients better rates as they buy against trending topics at scale.

“Every agency I know is offering a room full of people looking at what’s trending, and you can buy around the Super Bowl or March Madness. But you can’t hire another 500 people when you want to scale fast.”

Taykey’s original product will still be for sale and can hit “buy” when Justin Bieber’s a buzzy topic for positive reasons and directly turn off the spigot when Bieber backlash immediately follows (like most recently, the abs controversy of “Photoshop lol“). What’s new is that Taykey–one of ad tech’s bright young stars of the past several years given its top customer list–doesn’t want to be thought of as ad tech anymore. There are too many ad tech companies looking to make transactions marginally faster or more efficient, Avner says. As the big companies like P&G move closer to the source and look for tools to have more say over their millions, leasing them the tools to do so is a safer long-term option, and keeps Taykey a more complementary piece for the giants of online advertising like Schmidt’s own company, Google.

Buying directly from the host of the ad, like Google or Facebook, allows the ad agency or direct brand to pay one fewer layer of cost. Taykey still gets its $0.20 in the long run, but off of a total fee of $1.00 for 1,000 impressions, not an effective price of $1.20. And in exchange for taking its cut on a monthly rate and not the individual ad itself, Taykey gains the stability of regular revenue from its major clients without having any conflict of interest to pinpoint more trending events to transact more buys against them.

According to Avner, the companies Taykey’s gunning for now aren’t mature ad tech plays like Millennial Media or Rocket Fuel any more–they’re end-to-end marketing giants like Adobe, Oracle and The founder says his company can become profitable this year and avoid another fund raise in the future. But if Taykey’s new business finds traction, he may have a harder time fending off those marketing leaders’ acquisition teams.

By: Alex Konrad | Forbes Staff
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