Q&A with Mark Bembridge, Founder at Smartology

Media 7 | July 7, 2021

Mark Bembridge, Founder at Smartology, has worked on the creation of semantic recognition platforms for at least 15 years. He has a wealth of AdTech experience that he brings to bear in his work at Smartology, helping them grow globally and continue to succeed.

While your product/solution remains key, if you don’t have the right people around the table with the necessary skills and experience, you’ll rarely fly.

MEDIA 7: Can you please take us through your professional journey to establishing and making Smartology the grand success that it is today?
MARK BEMBRIDGE:
Starting any new business is always a rollercoaster ride from the outset. And like climbing a mountain, it doesn’t get easier as you expand…just steeper and riskier! I was lucky in that Smartology was the third business I have been involved in from early inception and experience counts. The most important lesson for evolving from a start-up to an early-stage business is to hire experienced and like-minded professionals in key roles at the right moments for the business, who can help support and grow critically important areas as you scale. While your product/solution remains key, if you don’t have the right people around the table with the necessary skills and experience, you’ll rarely fly.

Smartology started out in 2010 using AI to personalize publisher content and after two years saw an opportunity with the rise of branded content within social media, to unify branded content in ad creatives alongside contextually relevant publisher editorial. This was a more commercially viable and scalable offering than working exclusively with publisher content. As we scaled our proposition across global premium publishers, our B2B brand client base increasingly grew internationally with the US becoming our largest market in 2018. We evolved our SmartMatch solution to run via programmatic advertising channels during 2019 and more recently this year via a B2B SaaS platform we have been able to scale at speed and add new clients in broader B2C verticals. But it’s all ultimately thanks to the collective team and their hard work that have taken us to this exciting stage in the company’s continued growth.

M7: Smartology initially worked with premium publishers like The Financial Times and The Independent to help them improve how they target editorial content on their websites. How did you increase free-to-paid conversion rates for these publishers?
MB: Our work with the Independent and FT.com when we started almost a decade ago contributed to very significant increases in traffic, average page views, and consumption of news content on their sites. By contextualizing news articles for example in ‘Recommended Reads’ alongside relevant articles on The Independent we increased traffic by 21% across their site as a whole. Our award-winning personalized news application for the Financial Times saw more users read personalized ‘My News’ within the app than consumed articles via the ‘Home’ page.


Brands producing the best content will drive the highest engagement when contextualizing their content in the right time and place.


M7: What is your approach to market research, both customer and competitor focused, in a data-driven advertising industry?
MB:
At Smartology we connect content and context, so we aren’t interested in user data collected via cookies or demographic sources. In an audience data obsessed advertising industry, we are therefore unusual in that we focus on researching brands and scoring the quality of their branded content. Brands producing the best content will drive the highest engagement when contextualizing their content in the right time and place. Given we have always been market leaders in terms of our next generation deep learning approach to content and context, while we do spend time on competitor market research to keep our product development ahead of the game, the main market research focus remains laser focused on branded content quality across our target customer base.

M7: With SmartMatch, how do you ensure contextual targeting has a greater user engagement for your clients?
MB:
Step one is making sure you have reliable base technology. With continuing advances in deep learning, we’ve made several significant changes to our underlying tech to be able to derive greater accuracy across different verticals and languages since 2020. Context is often touted within a company’s services but when looking under the hood, the technology is flimsy at best, relying on simple keyword matching or basic taxonomies which are limited in the granularity of inference and therefore accuracy of contextual targeting. When done properly context can drive tremendous impact.

But contextual targeting also depends on client’s producing quality branded content and so it is only viable as the right solution for a brand where they are seeking to promote their brand using thought leadership in editorial, video or audio formats. When next generation contextual technology is combined with quality branded content the final step is high impact engagement and we are always thrilled to hear brands, agencies and publishers reporting much higher performance uplift than more traditional audience targeting techniques are able to achieve.


I anticipate that people will not want to continue to be bombarded by intrusive and invasive ad targeting based on third parties harvesting their user data through nefarious means.


M7: What marketing channels do you see as the most promising given your target customers?
MB:
At Smartology we like to practice what we preach so are about to launch campaigns on our own newly launched SmartMatch SaaS platform to promote our key benefits and values; privacy first contextual targeting, brand safety and suitability, transparent pricing and premium quality publisher partnerships. Alongside SmartMatch we will also use LinkedIn to supplement our external positioning.

M7: In the post Covid-19 era, how has advertising and marketing changed? What is the immediate future for content marketing?
MB:
Harvard Business Review published a great piece recently titled ’10 Truths About Marketing After the Pandemic’ where they highlighted several very valuable points to consider on this topic. But the one that really stands out for me is that in the past brands have stood behind great products, but today brands need to stand behind great values. I don’t see marketeers reverting to the old ‘normal’ and they will now be faced with a new set of rules, where factors like sustainability, trust, ethical sourcing, and social responsibility are increasingly important to how consumers select their products and services. This is already being demonstrated by clients increasingly focusing their branded content around these key values.

M7: How do you anticipate what people will want?
MB:
The inverse of this question is perhaps a better place to start. I anticipate that people will not want to continue to be bombarded by intrusive and invasive ad targeting based on third parties harvesting their user data through nefarious means. But I do anticipate that adding genuine value to someone’s online journey by offering insight from a trusted brand in the moment that individual is interested in reading about that subject will build stronger bonds for that brand with their key audiences and ultimately drive awareness and tangible commercial results. And all without any user data exploitation whatsoever!

ABOUT SMARTOLOGY

Smartology’s advanced media B2B SaaS Platform, SmartMatch, solves many of the key challenges the industry is grappling with including privacy, brand protection, and transparency. It is a world leader in connecting branded content with contextual targeting to drive engagement uplift across native display campaigns.

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Grip Security launches first partner program to drive sales of their SaaS application protection

Grip Security | September 27, 2022

Grip is looking to add partners who understand the differentiated value of their offering, and the uniqueness that it will provide to customers looking for improved SaaS security. Grip Security, which makes a SaaS security solution that unifies discovery, access control and data governance, has announced the Grip Security Partner Program. Grip emerged from stealth in April 2021 with a SaaS security solution designed to go beyond the limits of traditional CASBs, while at the same time making it easy to cover a large number of apps, overcoming a problem that exploded with the number of apps where many apps were simply not covered. “The company has grown by 300% and has seen a 500% growth in engagements with Fortune 500 companies,” said Lior Yaari, Grip Security’s CEO. “The company has grown by 300% and has seen a 500% growth in engagements with Fortune 500 companies,” said Lior Yaari, Grip Security’s CEO. “There has been a lot of change and a lot market change.” Because SaaS is closely tied to identity, Grip made it a top priority to establish deep integrations with as many identity providers as possible. That phase has now been completed. “We have extended our integration to almost every identity provider in the market today – almost a dozen,” Yaari said. “We are now looking at bringing joint offerings with large security vendors to market. Many of these joint integrations have been signed, but have not yet been announced, as we are still building out joint value.” Grip started out briefly selling direct in their proof of concept stage, but the pivot to the channel was in their plans, and that too has already taken place. “We have a channel-focused Go-to-Market strategy,” Yaari stated. “14 is the number of partners that we have right now, and that is growing fast. Our third U.S. hire was our director of channel sales. This is a critical part of our strategy.” The plan is for a fairly rapid channel expansion, not just to work with a small number of partners until they become successful. “We aren’t looking to work with 10,000 partners, but we do want to find enough key partners,” Yaari indicated. “We are not looking for logos on the web site. We are looking for partners who want to work with us so that we can make each other successful, and where they can position themselves as a source of innovation with us.” Insight is one of their initial partners. “With Insight, we are not part of a special innovation program,” Yaari said. “They are an example of a partner that we have a good relationship with, who understand how to drive need and who knows that SaaS is becoming bigger.” The problem many partners face is that since SaaS is relatively new, as they think organizations don’t have the right solutions to fix it, and they themselves lack the right backdrop for channel sales to explain it to the customer. “For the partner, they keys are understanding the problem space, understanding the market and the patching that is used today, and understanding how we are unique and the right questions to ask to get a meeting,” Yaari said. The program begins with a single tier, but Yaari said that they intended to expand that as the program builds out further. Simplicity is a dominant feature of the new program. “Our product is very different from other security products,” said Young-Sae Song, Chief Marketing Officer at Grip. “It takes 10 minutes to install. It is simple enough to be demoed by a channel sales person. You don’t need a technical person with deep training to demo it.” Grip also supports partners with jointly funded programs to promote Grip, as well as co-branded sales materials. Song said that because Grip isn’t heavy like most SaaS solutions, the channel can go to market very quickly with it. “It is probably faster for them than any other enterprise security product,” he stated. It also provides support for more than 20,000 SaaS applications, allows for 80% reduction in analyst workload, and has five times more SaaS application discovery compared to CASBs.

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CHANNEL PARTNERSHIPS

Sonicu joins Schneider Electric Exchange Platform as a Certified Technology Partner

Sonicu, Schneider Electric | September 22, 2022

Sonicu, a leading provider of critical environmental monitoring solutions for healthcare systems across the nation, joins Schneider Electric, the leader of digital transformation in energy management and automation, as a Certified Technology Partner and member of its Exchange Platform. Schneider Electric's Exchange Platform is a digital marketplace that connects experts and peers in a digital ecosystem, unifying multi-disciplinary expertise in one collaborative community. The Exchange community gives entry for Sonicu to co-collaborate, co-innovate, and enhance its critical environment and monitoring solutions portfolio with an elite network of trusted experts. Sonicu's critical environments solutions and services protect some of the most respected health systems across the nation. As Certified Technology partner, Sonicu will drive innovation at scale to deliver superior operational visibility, asset management and protection, and compliance reporting to its current and growing list of healthcare customers. "We know hospitals and other healthcare facilities rely on Schneider Electric and its trusted network of partners to accelerate digital transformation, improve facility operations, energy efficiency, and patient care. We're excited to join the Exchange Community as a Certified Technology Partner and look forward to solving problems with this customer-focused organization." said Joe Mundell, Chief Revenue Officer, Sonicu. Already in 40% of the world's hospitals, including five of the top ten, Schneider Electric's EcoStruxure™ for Healthcare solutions combine connected products and edge control, apps, analytics, and services to help hospitals and healthcare facilities address tomorrow's challenges, today. "Healthcare facilities of the future will rely on technology to deliver improved sustainability, resiliency, hyper-efficiency, and people centricity. As a member of our Technology Partner Program, Sonicu will leverage EcoStruxure™ , our IoT-enabled, interoperable, platform to co-innovate solutions that enable those outcomes." David Evans, Global Healthcare Segment Lead at Schneider Electric Sonicu's membership to the Schneider Electric Exchange Community and status as a Certified Technology Partner compliments the values of its recently released Channel Partner Program. "We've invested in our technology to make it easier for our customers to install, implement and improve their operations and we're excited to be upgrading our partnerships with this exciting opportunity to be part of the Schneider Electric Exchange," said Joe Mundell, Chief Revenue Officer, Sonicu. "We've invested in our technology to make it easier for our customers to install, implement and improve their operations and we're excited to be upgrading our partnerships with this exciting opportunity to be part of the Schneider Electric Exchange," said Joe Mundell, Chief Revenue Officer, Sonicu. To learn more about Sonicu, visit our profile on the exchange. To learn more about Schneider Electric's Exchange Platform and its Technology Partner Program, visit https://exchange.se.com/.

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Smartology

Smartology’s advanced media B2B SaaS Platform, SmartMatch, solves many of the key challenges the industry is grappling with including privacy, brand protection, and transparency. It is a world leader in connecting branded content with contextual targeting to drive engagement uplift across native dis...

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