Integrate, a new lead generation platform for advertisers, today will announce that it has raised $4.25 million in first-round funding from Foundry Group. So I spent a bit of time chatting with Integrate co-founder Jeremy Bloom.
If that name sounds familiar, it may be because Bloom is the former Olympic skier who was barred by the NCAA from simultaneously skiing (i.e., taking paid endorsements) and playing football at the University of Colorado. He eventually did get some ball in for the Buffalo, and later had stints with both the Philadelphia Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers:
Fortune: You and your co-founder, Hart Cunningham, previously formed a company called MDInfo. Is there a business relationship between the two companies?
Bloom: “We started MDInfo two years ago, and scaled it up to 194 companies. As we were running healthcare offers through MDInfo, we had the idea to get further distribution on those offers, so we created the Integrate exchange. It originally was just MDInfo, but we watched it scale into 34 verticals and realized that an aggregation point was needed. So we separated Integrate into its own company.
Do you still run MDInfo?
Both are still run by me and [co-founder Hart Cunningham], but MDinfo is a bit more established than Integrate, so it requires less time.
Ok, so why another lead generation platform?
There are hundreds of ad networks and thousands of affiliates and even more publishers. It’s disjointed. So, on the demand side, we integrated all of that into a single aggregation point.
We’ve also very particular about who we allow inside. We have a blacklist and run credit checks.
In general, we also combined the offline world with the online world. If you upload your campaign into Integrate, your placement can be on billboards and other offline verticals, including through remnant deals. But you’re only paying once.
For the online side, we work with ValueClick and other huge ad networks and affiliates and publishers. If 50 publishers pick it up, an advertiser can see who is converting, say, at 15% and who is converting at 5% — and then could shut off the lower ones and perhaps place more with the higher ones.
Prior to this round, how had Integrate been financed?
We had basically bootstrapped ourselves. We weren’t really interested in taking seed money, and we began meeting with VCs once our run-rate got high enough. We picked Foundry because they are very well positioned in the ad-tech space, and we really were impressed by Seth [Levine] and Brad [Feld].
One of your two offices is in Denver. Was picking Foundry due, in part, to the fact that it’s one of very few remaining Colorado-based VC firms?
Not as much as you would think. I spent a lot of time in Mountain View and Palo Alto and Menlo Park, but just had the best comfort level with Foundry. They’re very entrepreneur friendly, and there are synergies with many of their portfolio companies… like Triggit, AdMeld and Trada.
What do you see in terms of future financing?
I’d hope that we’d eventually get a run rate high enough to do a Series B round, but this is a tremendous amount of capital for us, and lets us hire a lot of really talented people in the ad space.
You looking mostly for engineers or sales & marketing types?
More focused on sales and marketing, to help build out our infrastructure.
You’re pretty well-known in Colorado for your athletic accomplishments. Does being a celebrity help open doors, or become problematic because people don’t take you seriously?
It’s definitely both. I try to stay away from the celebrity as much as I can. In fact, I’m glad that all of your questions focused on the company and not athletics.
That said, I’m obviously proud of my accomplishments in sports, and there are a lot of similarities between building a football team and building a company. Plus, when I was with the Philadelphia Eagles, I spent time in a real estate and entrepreneurial finance class at Wharton, which is where I learned the most about business.