10 Cool Marketing Automation Startups to Watch

Marketing automation can help can help businesses better target prospects, find and test new products and services. These 10 startups can help businesses plug gaps in their marketing strategy and offer solutions to problems companies might not even know they have.

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Marketing automation can help businesses target prospects, separate out the tire kickers from the real buyers, and even help you find and test ideas for new products and services.

The major platforms out there, such as ExactTarget (now Salesforce Marketing Cloud), Marketo, Pardot and HubSpot, are designed with larger enterprises in mind. For the midmarket on down, there are many point solutions, including MailChimp, Aweber, Hootsuite, Nimble and even a dizzying array of Wordpress plug-ins, but these all leave gaps to be filled at a later date.

Many businesses don’t really have the time or the dedicated personnel to justify investing in the big platforms, but are completely satisfied with existing solutions, which may be a combination of point products spot-welded together with in-house developed tools. Even large enterprises using the established marketing automation suites still encounter gaps as they shift their focus to new channels or devices.

The startups below (listed in alphabetical order) will help you plug gaps in your marketing strategy that you may not even know you have, with many of them offering solutions to problems that the big platform players aren’t even aware of yet.

1. AerServ

What they do: Provide a mobile ad mediation platform that helps publishers monetize mobile inventory and increase revenue, with a focus on mobile video advertising.

Headquarters: Newport Beach, Calif.

CEO: Josh Speyer. He founded Automotive.com in 1998 and recently was CEO at BBV.

Founded: December 2013

Funding: AerServ has raised more than $2 million in seed and angel funding, coming primarily from Briteblue Ventures.

Problem they tackle: Marketers and advertisers know that there is gold in those mobile video hills, but they’re not sure how to mine it. The problem is even worse for publishers, many of whom have no idea how to even begin to monetize mobile.

Spending by U.S. advertising firms and marketers on mobile video ads will reach approximately $1.5 billion by the end of 2014, more than doubling the total spent in 2013, according to eMarketer. Spending on mobile video ads accounted for nearly 19 percent of all digital video ad spending in 2013, a number that eMarketer believes will reach 26 percent by the end of this year.

Meanwhile, continuous ad technology consolidation has left publishers with few choices for publisher-friendly, high-quality ad mediation, and the depression of ineffective, traditional banner CPMs is eroding publisher ad revenue.

Why they're on this list: AerServ seeks to empower publishers by giving them control over how they sell their ad inventory, who they sell to, and what the ad formats are. AerServ works with thousands of apps, from premium publishers to independent developers, to optimize their existing ad network revenue through mediation. They also offer a marketplace, AerMarket, which publishers can use to better align ads with user demand.

According to AerServ, its entire platform and infrastructure were built with a publisher-first mentality. Technical integration of complex ad units like mobile video and SDKs are done for you, and publishers can serve multiple ad formats through one integration, reducing the time it takes to publish new ads.

Customers include: BitTorrent and Perk.com.

Competitive Landscape: AerServ will compete with legacy mediation and ad serving companies, such as DoubleClick (acquired by Google), Admob (also acquired by Google), Mopub (yep, another Google acquisition), and Liverail (acquired by Facebook).

As you can see, the companies serving up mobile ads at scale are the major social media companies, most notably Facebook and YouTube (i.e., Google), which leads one to wonder if AerServ is positioning itself for a near-term acquisition.

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