Herow, a French startup that helps marketers and app developers engage with mobile users with contextual messaging, has said that it closed a $18.6 million series B round of funding from Xerys Fund, Siparex, and Calao Finance.
In truth, Herow has only raised a fresh $8 million in funding, given that it apparently closed its series B round of funding at $10.6 million way back in 2015. So it appears to have re-opened the series B round four years later and almost doubled the pot, taking its total funding to $19.7 million since its inception.
Founded out of Paris in 2007, Herow was previously known as Connecthings until just a few days ago when it changed its name to match the augmented location platform it brought to market a year ago. Herow was introduced last October with the promise of giving app developers and marketers the tools to deliver contextual messaging to consumers through apps installed on their mobile devices. Its name-change last week was designed to reflect the company’s “enhanced focus on user context,” according to a statement at the time.
How it works
Any third-party app can access Herow’s platform through APIs and a software development kit (SDK), with end-users asked to opt-in to share their location. Assuming the user agrees to share their location, Herow uses on-device sensors such as GPS (location), accelerometer, and gyroscope (motion) to figure out what the user is doing and when. Armed with this data, the Herow platform can help developers and marketers better understand user behaviors, such as how frequently they visit certain places, at what time, and so on and — and issue notifications based on this information.
Among Herow’s customers are food waste apps such as Yourlocal, Phenix, and Food4all, which use Herow’s platform to let users know when there are discounted goods available nearby.
Herow also offers its customers a dashboard where they can see a breakdown of how their app is being used, including which ones are regular users, which are new users, the device that they’re using, whether they’re at work or in their house, and so on.
The Herow dashboard also offers a map-view of where a particular app’s users are currently situated.
It’s worth noting that Herow still works if the user chooses not to share their location — it will use data such as the times and frequency that a user interacts with an app, while the company told VentureBeat that it’s looking to leverage additional data to “infer” location — for example, if they are connected to the same Wi-Fi network at certain times on a regular basis, it’s likely they are either at work or at home.
“In an increasingly saturated mobile app market with highly demanding consumers, offering personalized mobile experiences are of critical importance to app marketers and developers in order to stand out and build long-lasting relationships with their end users,” noted Herow founder and CEO Laetitia Gazel Anthoine. “We purpose built Herow to support the creation of more intelligent engagement campaigns and combat mobile saturation while protecting user privacy. This new funding round will help us bring these benefits to customers in new markets.”
Privacy should now be a key consideration for any organization that builds a business from monetizing user data, and countless startups are now raising large sums from investors to help other companies adhere to regulations such as GDPR. Herow, for its part, is focusing a lot of its attentions on letting the world know that it’s serious about data privacy.
A spokesperson told VentureBeat that it uses hashing to ensure that any data it garners can’t be associated with any specific individual. It’s worth noting here, however, that even if a company anonymizes or de-identifies such data, as Herow told VentureBeat it does, it can sometimes be re-identified later by combining the data with other non-de-identified data sets to spot shared patterns. According to Herow, its customer contracts stipulate that the data it provides can’t be combined with other data sets or be used in other ways not explicitly stipulated in their agreement. Whether that is adhered to is another matter altogether, however.
Context is key
Herow fits into a broader trend that has seen numerous companies emerge to leverage mobile location data gleaned from consumer mobile devices — this can be used to help marketers sell products, or for cities to plan infrastructure. Israeli startup Neura, for example, recently raised $16 million for a platform that helps developers personalize their apps using real-world activities and behaviors, while San Francisco-based Streetlight Data aggregates mobile app data to help cities measure traffic flow. And last month, Google’s sister company Sidewalk Labs spun out a new standalone company called Replica, which aggregates mobile location data and then combines it demographic data from public sources such as censuses, as well as public transit data, to create “synthetic population” for city-planners.
The global mobile marketing industry alone was pegged as a $53 billion market in 2018, but with smartphone users facing a deluge or alerts and notifications, finding the right moment to grab their attention with useful and relevant messaging is pivotal to keeping them coming back. For a platform such as Herow — whether it’s a marketer looking to sell coffee, or a grocery store trying to increase footfall — context is very much key.
Herow currently has offices in New York and Barcelona, in addition to its Paris HQ. It said that its fresh cash injection will be used to continue its global expansion, including in North America where it plans to open a San Francisco office later this year.