French Tech Hub had the opportunity to interview Placecast president and founder, Anne Bezancon, whose company is nominated for the French-American Business Awards in the High Tech category.

Who has more data on mobile users than Facebook and Google?”

Placecast is the turnkey enterprise platform for monetizing mobile location and user data. We are the only company that has deployed this software solution at enterprise grade scale in Media, Telecom and Financial Services. Global companies like AT&T, Telefonica and Rogers run our platform

The problem we are solving is an interesting one… ask yourself, “Who has more data on mobile users than Facebook and Google?”

The answer is the telecom operators who see everything that happens on every phone, tablet and laptop, and can locate you anytime, and financial service firms like banks and credit card networks who see everything you buy. Like Google and Facebook, these companies have realized that their data can become a new source of revenue and can help open up value-added services for their consumers. But these companies have unique needs with respect to their data – strict protections for privacy and security, and technology that reliably scales. They also do not know how, and do not possess the technology nor the products, to monetize this proprietary data themselves.

Placecast monetizes the proprietary data for the Telcos and Fin-Services companies with a complete platform of services and products, and shares in their continuing revenue. We offer an easy turnkey integration with an effective audience-targeting platform for advertisers. And in the process, we enable our partners to gain valuable insights from the data that can be used in a variety of ways, including for new products and services that reduce churn.

Geolocation and mobile advertising

The market we chose to focus on first is mobile advertising, which accounted for $18B in spending in the US in 2014 and will grow to over $50B by 2018. Geolocation is the interesting vector we chose to look at the problem, because on a mobile device, where you are and when you are there is a very important signal for informing the content you receive on the device. We use location a variety of different ways, from triggering ads when a consumer is in proximity to a store, to local search for in-store offers nearby and using anonymized location histories to build profiles of users. With this frame of reference, it means that much of the mobile ad market is up for grabs. While Facebook and Google account for over 60% of mobile ad revenues in 2014, our business is focused on enabling carriers and financial institutions to take their fair share of that revenue. Remember, at this point Google and Facebook are extracting value across telecom operators’ networks without sharing any revenue (a similar analogy to Netflix and the cable companies). Our customers see the value of their Big Data and want to compete as well – we help them do that.

PlaceAd: a new mobile display ad product

We recently announced PlaceAd, a mobile display ad product enabled through programmatic buying. PlaceAd combines our Big Data management capabilities with a privacy-safe capability, and delivers mobile display ads into applications that are tailored based on location and other data. Using real-time bidding through exchanges, PlaceAd shows consumers ads for things nearby, and can be linked to mobile coupons. Some of the largest CPG and retail brands are already using PlaceAd and seeing terrific results.

At the end of last year, we also initiated a pilot connected car program with Harman Kardon to deliver location-based audio ads into the dashboard of new vehicles. Using a virtual geo-fence around stores as a trigger, consumers received an audio ad for a nearby offer. If they liked what they heard, they tap a thumbs up button on the dash, and a coupon was emailed to their phone. It’s a safe way to do really relevant advertising in the car, and if you like what you hear, you can get a coupon to use later on your phone. Quiznos was the first advertiser and the program generated enormous interest in the advertising world, in the press and on TV. See:

Keys to success in the US

Persistence, fail fast and learn from out, figure out how to build a real business

Three essential qualities will not be a surprise – a taste for risk and failing fast (and learning from it), passion for what you do and persistence. A healthy dose of self-confidence is also key: the road will likely be rough, and it is these factors that get you through those bumpy patches. A good nose for “foutaise” vs. what is real is also important… the start-up world is full of hyperboles and you need to pick your partners wisely. And don’t forget to build a profitable business that delivers value for real, paying customers. It’s easy to get distracted by hype trends – having lived here through two tech bubbles, there is no replacement for revenue when the bubble bursts.

I also realized that being French matters:  it turns out that our cultural belief in the importance of quality, intellectual curiosity and aptitude for abstraction are all valuable for long-term success here.

Before launching your solution in the US…

Get to Silicon Valley, find an American partner, and consider working at another start-up before going out on your own (since you don’t know what you don’t know).

First, get yourself to Silicon Valley. While it is my sincere hope that France becomes a friendlier place for entrepreneurs, there is no other spot in the world for entrepreneurs than northern California. The combination of engineering talent, capital, diversity and a beautiful place create an environment for pure unbridled innovation.

I would also strongly suggest working at another start-up before going out on your own. The experience is invaluable for learning all the things that you never thought of in your business plan, and the pedigree will help with your own venture.