With nearly 2 billion active Facebook users and every marketer vying for these eye balls, you can’t slack on your social media presence and expect results. You need a strategic and memorable marketing mix that can engage users in unique and innovative ways especialy at in-person events. M-ND creates experiential moments on social media through interactive displays. The all in one M-ND platform fuels promotions, events, and branded memorabilia with the interactive displays that connect brands not only with customers but more importantly rich data. With customers like Google, Visa, Porsche, and Samsung, this company is showing the world that they mean business.
AlleyWatch chatted with M-ND CEO Jim Hopper about the Startup and their newest round of funding.
Who were your investors and how much did you raise?
We raised $5.5M in private funding from a group of influential individual investors in the entertainment, sports, music and hospitality spaces. Two-time Grammy nominated artist Paul Oakenfold is one of our investors and continues to be an avid M-ND supporter.
The $5.5M we just raised comprises our Seed and Series A. We bootstrapped it for the first two years but had immediate demand from brands, so we’ve been able to offset costs with revenue since the beginning. We’re using the current funding to expand internationally, produce thousands of our interactive experiential marketing displays, and keep up with the crazy demand we had in 2016 and continues to have in 2017.
Tell us about your product or service.
M-ND is an experiential martech company that converts social media sharing into in-the-moment experiences and content for brands and their fans. While social media networks keep customer data away from brands, we help them transform their social media investments into owned customer data that fuels ongoing marketing initiatives.
Our M-ND Matter interactive displays act as branded connection points for consumers, who–depending on each brand’s program–are invited to use them to convert social media posts into tangible memorabilia (like personalized stickers, postcards and commemorative tickets) or loyalty rewards (such as VIP event passes and instant redemption offers). The displays also perform transactional and data-gathering functions, including payment processing and on-the-spot customer surveys.
Brands use the data they gather to fuel ongoing marketing, loyalty, sales and influencer efforts, and to increase their own social currency. Brands can access this data and update their campaign content anytime they want–across a single or multiple displays–from anywhere in the world using our dedicated client dashboard.
What inspired you to start the company?
My business partner Peter Wells and I both had a long history working at companies in the advertising and marketing space, usually with a focus on experiences. We watched brands’ and consumers’ interest in photos increasing with the growing popularity of the iPhone, and saw an opportunity to use photo technologies as a medium for connection. We wanted to create something to fill the gap between the virtual and the physical. So, our original goal for the displays was to create brand experiences that aligned with the very organic ways in which consumers were using social media and mobile commerce. This took off like wildfire so we knew we were onto something. Our next step is to complement our event activation model with something more permanent by taking the model we created for our display-driven brand activations and transforming it into a display-driven global network. The physical devices are central to a ubiquitous and portable media channel that brands can activate independent of a dedicated event activation.
How is it different?
There are other technology-driven experiential companies out there but our solution transcends the event-based component. We’re essentially building a new broadcast medium that’s interactive, and which makes use of both online and offline elements. We fuse a bit of old (print, display, sampling) with the new (targeted, social, measurable), giving our brand clients a completely unprecedented way to engage with their target consumers. Our approach has been to bring technology to experiential and out-of-home marketing, thereby providing our clients with the insights and measurable results typically only available through digital campaigns.
What market you are targeting and how big is it?
We don’t fit into an existing box–we’re carving out our own market within the advertising and marketing space. I usually describe us as “the center of a venn diagram,” made up of Digital Display, Experiential, Social and Mobile.
What’s your business model?
Our clients pay a fee for access to our campaign management platform, which is priced-based on the duration and number of locations in the deployment. Most common is an annual contract with a monthly billing or fee. The spending either comes from advertising revenue or direct brand sales, depending on the market or brand we’re working with. We work with some customers on a revenue split where sponsorship spend is in place.
Would you please share some thoughts on privacy in this era where technology is getting to the point where we can tie online to out of home?
We take privacy very seriously. Our data is used at an aggregate level to measure underlying trends in behavior and to develop insights on campaign effectiveness. The only piece of data we hold onto in the overall chain of cloud activity is the physical interaction with our system. I have more concern for the data being stored by the Apples, Googles and Facebooks of the world, which touch on every interaction throughout a consumer’s day/life.
What was the funding process like?
We struggled a bit in our early days, when we were out pitching people a business that relied on hardware. At the time it felt like we were moving against the tide while everyone wanted to invest in the next App or in purely online businesses, rather than investing in “tech-enabled” companies that are rethinking how existing industries can be transformed using technology. It feels like there’s been a real shift in people recognizing business models that have a tangible value, which I think has helped us.
What are the biggest challenges that you faced while raising capital?
I think people tried to put us into a box, without really trying to understand our long-term vision. They wanted to know if we were hardware, software or an app. As we have built up our repeat client roster, customer success stories and product capabilities, the buy-in on the direction and vision we’ve had all along has come to the forefront. We no longer have to rely on people to use their imaginations; they can now see it.
What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?
We started bringing in revenue from big name clients before we ever raised outside capital, and our platform has wide applications across many industries and markets. The technology itself is also impressive and they’ve seen us constantly iterating, showing our ongoing dedication to the devices at the core of our business.
What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?
A big initiative for us this year will be expanding our media network of M-ND Matter displays in public spaces, such as on university campuses, arts and cultural venues, travel & tourism destinations and sporting venues.
Within the next six months we’ll also have displays in the UK, UAE and Malaysia.
With our displays now strategically positioned around the world, we’ll be able to offer brands access to millions of customers simultaneously.
We’re additionally focused on building out private display networks for large sports stadiums, music venues and other highly-trafficked event spaces. This will offer brands their own internal media networks, which they can use to upsell and provide advertising opportunities to their corporate sponsors.
What advice can you offer companies in New York that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?
Get your product in front of as many potential paying customers as early and often as possible. Bring in people who believe in your company and will focus all their time and energy building it with you. Learn from your mistakes; you’ll make lots of them.
Where do you see the company going now over the near term?
We have a target of placing our technology in 2,500 locations by the end of this year, generating millions of brand interactions across our network every day.
Where is your favorite bar in the city for an after work drink?