Big news from a realLIST company broke yesterday: Curren-C, the stealth-mode company in the adtech space, changed its name to Amino and raised a $1.75 million seed round to build up its product and team.
Cofounders Will Luttrell (who also founded an adtech company called Integral Ad Science), Monetate’s David Bookspan and Chris Chapman (Amino’s SVP of Engineering) have been quietly building a team out of WeWork’s 1900 Market spot. Luttrell told Technical.ly the round started out as a small angel raise — until First Round Capital founder Josh Kopelman caught wind of the company.
“Josh was in L.A. and called David asking why he was finding out in L.A. about a company we were building in Philadelphia,” Luttrell said. “He got on a redeye and we met with him the next morning.”
(Fun fact about how the deal came together: It was investor Narayan Chowdhury who alerted Kopelman of the company. Chowdhury, of Franklin Park Ventures, was also the one who introduced Luttrell and Bookspan.)
The round, Luttrell said, will let the company work on its blockchain-enabled payments solution for online advertisement (more on how that works in a bit) and continue to build the team. A few familiar names are already on the company’s roster:
- Dreamit partner Seth Berk got drafted to the startup as Head of Brand and Agency Development. (Bookspan is also his boss at the University City accelerator: he founded it and is the Board Director.)
- Rob Falcone, Zoomer’s former head of sales, joined the startup immediately after the delivery company shut down as Director of Sales.
- RevZilla’s former CFO David Price, who left the ecommerce company last December, took the same gig at Amino.
Adtech companies these days are usually hard to explain, and by Luttrell’s own admission, Amino’s pitch it can be hard to grasp at first glance (though he has the pitch down). Bare with us for a sec:
Amino’s offering relies on the blockchain to track online ad payments. Through a secure ledger, companies can securely acquire “display ads” on websites.
“That process usually involves around 20 percent fraud, waste or abuse: sometimes there are spoofed sites, sometimes the fees change, sometimes intermediaries take a big percentage,” Luttrell said. “That’s money syphoned away from the value of the ecosystem because of lack of transparency.”
Luttrell said the blockchain-enabled platform helps helps clear out the murkiness in the space (which, in adtech, we’ve seen before) and lets both publishers and advertisers get their money’s worth by certifying the transaction.
When Luttrell started talking about the blockchain, our first question was: is there an Amino token coming out? An ICO? Luttrell said the platform stays away from the volatility of those strategies by using the dollar as a fiat currency. In other words, sellers and buyers know that a one dollar transaction equals one dollar no matter when the sale is made. Amino takes a 1 percent commission to certify the deals.
"We're very committed to building this in Philly."
The next move from Curren-C, er, Amino, is a pilot in the fall with what the exec said are national, household name brands. Though the pilot is unpaid, the exercise may lead to biz relationships with the companies, which Luttrell declined to mention.
The choice to build a company near the adtech space outside of New York may seem counterintuitive (Monetate, for example, moved its HQ from Conshy to NYC) but despite the Big Apple’s deep bench of resources, the Amino team is adamant about staying in Philly.
“We’re going to continue to expand our team,” said Luttrell who built his former company in New York while commuting in from Philly. “I wanted to reverse the brain-drain so we’ve hired some high-level talent in from New York, New Jersey and the suburbs. We’ve even had one person move to Philly from Kentucky. We’re very committed to building this in Philly.”