This NYC Startup Raised $5M for Storytelling 2.0



Prior to the world moving into the digital era, content, for the most part, has been one directional.   A reader consumers the content that is published by an author.  Digital content should allow for some interactivity in the user experience and this is where Apester comes in. Through its platform, Apester allows publishers to seamlessly integrate an entire suite of interactive items like polls, quizzes, and videos into content to make it more engaging to drive more views and shares while making readers a part of the story.  This is storytelling 2.0.

Who were your investors and how much did you raise?

Apester raised a $5 million Series A financing led by Mangrove Capital Partners, with additional investments from former AOL CMO Tal Simantov, Wix Co-Founder Gigi Kaplan, Silverstein Properties President Tal Kerret, and Amdocs Founder Morris Kahn (Wellborn Ventures). As part of the investment, Mangrove Partner Roy Saar will join the board.

Tell us about your product or service.

Apester is a leading digital storytelling platform for publishers that inserts the voice of the reader into its editorial coverage. Publishers use Apester to embed interactive units called VoicRs — polls, surveys, personality tests and video quizzes – to complement any editorial story and use the resulting data to shape future coverage.

We can make any piece of content more engaging and sharable. Our click-through rates average an impressive 17% across our entire network (more than 100 times better than standard banner ads). VoicRs can also be used by advertisers to create branded content opportunities that appear natively within editorial coverage and directly engage readers.

What inspired you to start the company?

We were amazed to see with everything that’s been changing in this digital age, the experience of content creation and content consumption has barely changed for centuries. We started Apester to help create a more complete and better experience around content creation and consumption.

How is it different?

Apester is different – it was created by content creators for content creators, so it truly delivers on its promise. We are not in the business of making specialized, interactive content – but rather to make every piece of content more interactive. Apester’s vision is to eventually become a full suite of storytelling enhancement products, with a layer of data insights helping content creators create better stories.

What market you are targeting and how big is it?

More than 400 premium publishers use Apester including AOL, Telegraph, The Huffington Post, The Next Web, Weather.com, Food Network and London Evening Standard. The value proposition for publishers is simple – drive increased engagement, social sharing and traffic to your site, with an opportunity to monetize it with advertising partners.

What’s your business model?

Apester’s publishing network is supported by an advertising model that uses Apester to integrate branded content natively within editorial stories. We share the advertising revenue with the publishers.

What’s next for the world of digital publishing?

Editors are always thinking about the evolution of storytelling in the digital world. Today, the missing piece of digital storytelling is the voice of the reader. Editors want to give consumers a more complete story, and Apester fills this void by using consumer sentiment to give readers more influence over the content they are consuming.

We are also working closely with publishers to empower them to use the data from our platform to help plan future coverage based on the sentiment from their readers.

imageWhat was the funding process like?

It all started with an amazing network of people surrounding Apester. Through them, we met a number of potential investors, and with our slick product design, and the strong growth we exhibited – we were able to attract Mangrove Capital Partners – a talented group of people and investors with whom we felt the strongest “click” with.

What are the biggest challenges that you faced while raising capital?

In the end, the challenge for us was to find a solid partner, not just an investor – someone who shares our vision for the industry, and has the knowledge to build a successful company.

What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?

Ultimately what I believe made Mangrove Capital Partners invest in Apester is the following: (1) The talented team we have built (2) A real need for the product in the marketplace (3) A deep product vision and roadmap.

What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?

We have 4 key milestones ahead of us:

  1. Expanding our US footprint with more leading publishers and brands
  2. Reach over 500M interactions a month (from 200M now)
  3. Releasing 2 new products which herald the voice of the reader in a unique, and powerful way
  4. Triple our team from 20 employees currently to approximately 60

What advice can you offer companies in New York that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?

My best advice is a little hard to follow, but I assure you it is one worth following: “Drive in 5th gear towards the wall” – don’t lead your young business as if it is on its final breath until you find sufficient funding. Lead it “head on” and hopefully, the “wall” will move as you raise the funding you need.

Where do you see the company going now over the near term?

We are now focused on growing our publisher network by educating editors how easy it is to integrate the platform into their everyday editorial coverage to create beautifully designed experiences for their readers.

Where is your favorite place to enjoy the summer weather in the area?

New York City in the summer is such a magical place so I’ve really been trying to take advantage of all that this city has to offer. After a long day, you can find me running along the west side highway taking in the spectacular views of the Hudson River, or catching up on some reading at Battery Park.

On the weekends, I’ve been trying to venture to the outer boroughs to check out places like the boardwalk at Coney Island, the Brooklyn Flea Market, and the Botanical Garden. Hopefully before the summer is over I’ll get a chance to take in a Yankees or Mets game.

About the author: AlleyWatch

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