Investments

Bonanza Investing In Fintech And Unlockd Unlocks $12M In Funding

Advertisers face something of an unusual problem at the 2010s are past the halfway mark and roaring away toward the ’20s.

Consumers have a screen in their pocket at all times – and, even better, a screen that is digital and connected to the Web and ready to have an advertisement beamed to it at any moment.  

That’s the good news –well if you’re an advertiser. The bad news is consumers are getting sort of sick of watching ads — and when they can skip them, they usually do. Only 20 percent to 45 percent of those hit with ads actually watch them; most people navigate to another window while an ad is playing. Almost half of all consumers report finding mobile advertising so annoying they’d pay to block it, according to Accenture. That doesn’t even count the number of times that consumers think they are scrolling and inadvertently launch a video hidden on the page. Admit it, that’s probably happened to you at least three times today already.

Accenture also notes that while a lot of money has been spent on blocking ad blockers, that is probably not the best way to go about things. 

“There’s no point in following the music industry’s failed attempts at thwarting piracy,” says Gavin Mann, Accenture’s global broadcast Industry lead. “It’s futile to focus all efforts on trying to outsmart ever-evolving ad-blocking technologies to force audiences to watch ads. The industry needs to do everything possible to make ads less of an infringement on precious screen time.”

Mann goes on to suggest various methods of making ads less an infringement on the people who see them — making the ads more directly relevant to consumers, more entertaining, etc. And while there is likely much to be said for improving the quality of advertising content in general, there are other ways of looking at the problem then just trying to make ads customers will love and find personally engaging or deeply entertaining.  

The team at Unlockd, for example, is less interested in the ads themselves — and much more interested in making watching ads a rewarding process for consumers. 

As in, literally, a rewarding process. Customers are being paid to watch those ads. Sort of. 

Unlockd has a simple premise: it shows users a short advertisement in that brief window when a phone’s “locked” screen transitions to its “in use” screen.  That is a bit unique, but not entirely, as there are a few startups that have started trying to crack in on lock screen advertising. 

But that model, according to CEO and co-founder Matt Berriman, has one big limitation.

“You can’t guarantee [the consumer has] seen it.”

In this case, on the other hand, you can almost guarantee the customer has seen it because it will have popped up just after they’ve unlocked their phone — presumably to use it some way.  

But why would a customer want that, since, as we mentioned above, customers hate ads? Well customers may not like add  – but they do like saving money and Unlockd has partner with telecom providers so that customer who want adds will get a (small)discount on their bill.   

Unlockd is relatively new. After launching in Australia in the fall of 2015, it officially crossed over into the U.S. in January of this year. So far, only Sprint-owned Boost Mobile has partnered with the service in the U.S., offering users a $5 discount on their monthly bill. 

Next on the firm’s agenda is an expansion into the U.K. and Asia — an effort greatly aided by the $12 million in Series A the startup just bagged. The round was backed by previous investors PLC Ventures, Peter Gammell Sam Mostyn and Lachlan Murdoch, as well as new investors Radek Sali  and Greg Roebuck.

All in, Unlockd has now unlocked more than $17 million in total venture-backed funding.

Investments in the week ended April 22

Investments played catch up – a lot of catch up – this past week. The FinTech sector, as has been the custom for, well, ever, held the bulk of investment activity, with 98 percent of the total tally for the week, and this time around we’ve gone from cold snap to spring thaw in a hurry. Whereas not long ago the weekly totals were a few tens of millions of dollars, or perhaps a leap into the triple-digit realm, this past week saw a – wait for it – bonanza of over $1.3 billion.

This time around, more than half of the activity came from a single transaction, with MasterCard entering exclusive talks over a VocaLink takeout to the tune of $1 billion — which though not necessarily completely official — has been far enough along in the process that numerous outlets have reported on an agreement between the 13 banks that are the major shareholders in VocaLink to let MasterCard navigate a takeout of the U.K. payments firm. The next largest deal came as Beijing Xuantie Tech invested $120 million into Fenghuang Xiangrui, while MEMSQL had a closing of a $36 million round of Series C financing to help boost its data processing business.

Any trend here yet, thus far into month? Only that FinTech rules the roost, as noted by our Investment tracker, and that seems to be an inexorable one. For now.

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