Every advertiser wants a captive audience. And that captive audience is even better when they are seeing messages they want to see.
Mira makes this promise with technology that collects behavioral data from mobile devices and in real-time uses that data to target advertising messages on screens in taxi cabs, on billboards or at gas pumps and mall kiosks. Today, Mira is testing its technology on six screens around the American Tobacco campus in Durham. People who download the Acehopper event and venue discovery app will be delivered relevant messages when they walk by a screen.
Early in 2015, Mira will pilot with thousands of yellow taxi cabs in New York City.
A pair of brothers are behind the company. Between several tours of duty with the U.S. Marine Corps, Jon Frangakis (upper left) worked in technology sales in New York City. His brother Gabe Frangakis (upper right) studied applied mathematics and computer science at Harvard and upon graduation worked at a Connecticut hedge fund first in economic and statistical research and then developing proprietary software infrastructure around interest rate swap strategies.
It was on a trip to Chapel Hill to visit their parents that they dreamt up the idea. They wondered why billboard space is wasted on irrelevant messaging when we’re all carrying around GPS-enabled mobile devices.
They initially called the company The Spoken Thought, because they were shocked no one had done it before. They would be the first to turn the thought into an action “out loud.”
The older Frangakis went back to New York after that 2012 trip and got to work on (now provisional) patents for the process. Earlier this year, they decided to raise funds so younger brother Gabe could quit his job and dedicate his time to the business.
They heard of The Startup Factory's Chris Heivly at a VetsinTech event at Union Square Ventures in New York, and then applied to the accelerator in hopes his background at MapQuest might aid their mission. They could also take advantage of the free digs at Mom and Dad’s.
When the program began in August, Jon Frangakis told me “Within the first 48 hours of being here, we’re 100 percent sure this is the right decision. What they are helping us do is take this business plan with so many little pieces floating around and boil it down to its finest elements."
The business model behind Mira is to empower mobile app developers (through a few lines of code) to monetize their apps by enabling advertisers to deliver relevant messages on a different, more captive screen. Mira's technology lets developers compile behavioral (not personalized) data about mobile users who've downloaded those apps in order to deliver the advertising messages through an ad network. Mira and the app developers share in the revenue from the network.
It sounds complex. That's why Heivly has been working with the men on the local test at American Tobacco.
"Someone with an app can be used to find behaviors, interests, etc. which will signal a screen and change the ad that is being displayed," Heivly says. "Show me that all the way, once."
The brothers calculate there is $30 million in annual revenue opportunity in New York City only delivering the service on taxi TVs. The total market is $9 billion.