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Jun. 16, 2010 1:50 pm

Invite Media’s Philly roots run deep

The small company, headquartered in Rittenhouse, made big news when it was purchased by Google. Industry analysts were mostly concerned with how the purchase of Invite's real-time display advertising bidding software played into Google's long-term strategy.

Earlier this month, the tech world’s eyes were set squarely on Invite Media.

The small company, headquartered in Rittenhouse, made big news when it was purchased by Google. Industry analysts were mostly concerned with how the purchase of Invite’s real-time display advertising bidding software played into Google’s long-term strategy.

But here in Philly, we’d guess that there were likely a handful of celebrations taking place from West Conshohocken down to University City as Invite Media’s Philadelphia ties run deep.

The story of Invite Media can be traced back to 2005, when Invite co-founders and Penn students Nat Turner and Zach Weinberg founded Eatnow, a company that allowed college students to place food orders online. The company started at Penn before expanding to other campuses. The company eventually folded, despite expanding to 17 Philadelphia colleges.

After a stint interning at West Conshohocken-based First Round Capital, Turner, along with three other Wharton grads founded Invite and located the company at 1716 Chestnut Street before expanding to New York, San Francisco and London.

After operating in stealth mode and weathering a fire, the company launched its “Bid Manager” software in February before getting snapped up from Google on June 3rd.

According to All Things Digital, the company only raised $5 million in venture capital money from Center City-based Comcast Interactive Capital and First Round. The company also raised money from nearly a dozen angel investors. It was allegedly purchased for $81 million, likely giving its founders and investors a tidy return on investment.

According to Turner, the company will continue to run independently and will keep its offices in Philadelphia where 16 of its 48 employees are located, giving Google its first physical presence in the city.

Both Google and Invite Media have told Technically Philly that they expect for most staff members to remain at the company, save for the few that would voluntarily choose to leave.

Google’s move to display advertising and exchange bidding

Google is mostly interested in Invite’s main product called “Bid Manager,” a real-time ad-purchasing dashboard that allows markets to buy ads across numerous networks, including Google.

In 2009 Google made over 99 percent of its revenues with advertising, mostly the text-based ads that appear after search results. The company has been targeting display advertising, such as banner ads, as an area for growth. As a result, it has snapped up companies like DoubleClick, AdMob and now Invite Media.

“We’re investing really heavily in display and exchange,” said Susan Wojcicki, Google’s VP of Product Management at CM summit, an event hosted by Federated Media during New York’s Internet Week. “Agencies have expressed a desire to buy other ads through Google. We’ve opened up the ability for AdSense to be purchased across all networks and we want to be as open as possible.”

The company’s customers will still be able to purchase on other advertising networks similar to the relationship that DoubleClick has with Google.

“We’re going to invest significantly in developing Invite Media’s technology to enable its clients to easily and effectively buy ads in real time across multiple exchanges,” said Neal Mohan, Google’s Vice President of Product Management in an email to Technically Philly. “In time, we’re planning to make their technology work seamlessly with our DoubleClick for Advertisers.”

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Sean Blanda is an adviser to Technical.ly, the local technology news network, having cofounded its flagship Technically Philly in February 2009. He is a media consultant, engagement editor for Behance and lives in Brooklyn, NYC.

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