High Alpha, tech vet team up on ‘marketing experiments’ startup

When former ExactTarget executive R.J. Talyor left Geofeedia last summer with the goal of starting his own tech company, he had a few startup ideas in mind. One took aim at a problem that vexes many marketers: How to avoid spending too much time, money and effort on marketing experiments. 

That idea is now a business called Quantifi, and it was announced Tuesday by Indianapolis-based venture studio High Alpha as its sixth portfolio company.

RJ taylor mugR.J. Talyor

Talyor is co-founder and CEO of the firm, which officials said is a research-and-development platform for digital marketing. He secured more than $2 million from various investors to help it get off the ground.

The idea behind Quantifi is to help ad buyers quickly discover the most effective channels, audience, and messaging in a fast-paced digital world. 

Its software not only enables marketers to rapidly test hundreds of ad campaigns based on their own hunches, but it also uses artificial intelligence to make suggestions on new experiments based on what's worked well at other companies.

"We help marketers try everything without the manual labor," Talyor said in an interview. "They want to try everything, but they don't have the time, resources, money or energy."

The company was founded last fall and today has seven customers, including Lids Sports Group, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Butler University and Menguin. It has 10 employees—including iGoDigital software architect Matt Brown as its chief technology officer—and it plans to add six more by the end of 2017.

Its $2 million-plus round of funding included participation from venture firms High Alpha Capital and Omaha-based Router Ventures, as well as individual investors such as former ExactTarget co-founder Chris Baggott.

High Alpha Studio is an affiliate of High Alpha Capital that creates or adopts startups, and Quantifi is its latest after Sigstr, Doxly, Zylo, Clear Scholar and Structural.

Quantifi is focusing, at least initially, on e-commerce retailers that spend ad dollars on social media sites. Today, it can glean data from and publish ads to six channels—Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Reddit.

When users log on to Quantifi, a dashboard displays old and active experiments, top audience segments and more. New experiments are ushered by a chat-bot that grabs input, makes recommendations and runs campaigns. 

Traditionally, Talyor said, marketers may run two or three social campaigns in one month, tally results the next month then decide whether to continue. On the same budget, Talyor said, Quantifi can create scores of campaigns (by splicing audience and channel parameters), run them over the course of a few days and assess winning and losing campaigns almost immediately.

That assessment is powered by a collection of anonymized experiment data from other companies that Quantifi calls its "Constellation Data Co-op."

"Because we have the data not just from your account but data anonymously shared through the [data co-op]," he said, "we compare experiments that look just like yours with other customers and then understand with statistical significance what works and doesn't work."

For a subscription-coffee company client, Quantifi was able to test 336 campaigns in 22 days, Talyor said, finding a previously unutilized social channel and driving a 10 percent increase in sales.

Talyor, a 38-year-old DePauw University graduate, spent more than 10 years at ExactTarget and Salesforce. In 2014, he jumped to the Indianapolis office of Chicago-based Geofeedia, where he was vice president of product management. He left Geofeedia in August 2016 to start his own company and became an entrepreneur-in-residence at High Alpha that fall.

Talyor said the thinks there's massive potential in the so-called "marketing R&D" field, which could ultimately include testing experiments on channels such as emails, push notifications, landing pages and more. And even just for social ads, the future appears bright.

"The percentage of marketing budgets that are going toward digital ad spend on social is growing from 12 percent to 20 percent by 2020," he said, citing numbers from research firm eMarketer. "So, it's almost doubling, and that means that $50 billion will be spent on social ads by the end of 2019."

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