Photograph by Jahi Chikwendiu — The Washington Post/Getty Images

Premise uses people on the ground across the world to collect fruit, grain, and oil prices.

By Leena Rao
September 24, 2015

When the World Bank and the Philippines devised a tax program to help curb smoking in the country, they needed a way to ensure that merchants in rural areas collected the extra money on all cigarettes sold. Instead of gathering the information themselves, they called on Silicon Valley startup Premise, a data technology company that helps organizations track economic trends in real-time.

In addition to the World Bank, Premise new counts the Rockefeller Foundation, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as well as a number of investment banks and hedge funds as clients. That is one of the reasons investors are pouring more money into the startup.

On Thursday, Premise announced a $50 million funding round led by SpaceX and Tesla investor Valor Equity Partners. Previous investor Social+Capital is also participating in the round, which brings Premise’s total funding to $67 million.

Founded by David Soloff and Joe Reisinger in 2013, Premise gives corporations, non-profits, and governments access to business and economic data in Asia, Latin America, the U.S. and Europe. Premise monitors food prices and availability certain countries — both on the ground from e-commerce sites.

To do this, Premise has assembled tens of thousands of local residents who take pictures of food, cigarettes, or other items in stores using their mobile phones. They then add the images to Premise’s website, along with price, and availability of the item in exchange for payment for their work. Some workers earn as much as $40 weekly.

Prior to Premise, companies could get this data from internal government indexes, but often the data was old, and not updated in real-time.

Soloff explained that some banking clients want to see data related to the availability of certain goods in developing countries, or price fluctuations. For example, Standard Chartered bank recently enlisted Premise to create two food price indicators in Nigeria and Ghana that give a real-time view into food prices on the shelf. The startup has also built indexes for customers to monitor fruit, grain, oil, and vegetables prices.

Premise charges customers for a subscription to its indexes and also makes money from individual annual contracts, which cost in the six figures, the company said. While Premise didn’t reveal exact revenue numbers, the company said that it will end the year in the low double digits of millions in annual recurring revenue, and is expecting to triple or quadruple that next year.

Currently Premise gathers data in 80 cities in 30 countries worldwide. In July, it received a big vote of confidence when economist and former Treasury Secretary Lawrence H. Summers joined the company’s board. The World Bank is currently the startup’s largest customer.

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