With a smartphone in basically every pocket these days, it has probably never been easier for retailers to directly reach out to those who visit their store. But, the market for beacons, as the small, low-cost devices that enable companies to reach out to customers are typically called, is still relatively new and Norwegian startup UNACAST intends to soon enter the fray.
UNACAST, marketing a small white device that enables advertisers/retailers to track customer behavior for advertising purposes, is primarily focused on retailers, telling me that they have thus far partnered with 10 companies, through whom they intend to place 100,000 beacons in various malls, stores, cinemas, stadia, bars, and other locations by the end of this year. COO and co-founder Kjartan Slette says that the network is available to businesses at no cost, as the startup has opted to instead generate revenue by taking a cut from media companies whenever communications (an ad, for example), is transmitted through the beacons. He adds that they intend to implement a revenue-sharing arrangement with companies that use the beacons. The startup launched back in September 2014, but have not yet introduced their platform to the commercial sphere. We will not have to wait long for that to happen, however, as the platform is expected to launch this month.
One of the notable aspects of this startup is that the co-founders were previously part of the management team at TIDAL, a streaming-music service which was recent acquired by Jay-Z. Slette tells me that he and co-founder Thomas Walle Jensen wanted to analyze the behavior of those who listen to music online by connecting their listening habits to concerts that they would go and attend. However, they discovered that there was a void in this area and decided to fill it themselves.
UNACAST tells me that they obtained their first funding in the form of a grant worth 150K Euro from the Norwegian government, but they have improved upon that considerably, announcing just last week that they have picked up $1.6 million in seed funding from New Mark Invest, Ice Leopard Invest, Blystad Invest, and further private investors. The startup is already an international business, maintaining offices in London and Oslo, but they are hardly satisfied and have announced that they intend to open a new branch in New York City, as well as bring in new staff.