Promote helps any online marketplace get into the ad business

Anthony Ha

The latest company to emerge from startup accelerator Expa Labs is focused on helping online marketplaces make money from advertising.

Promote founder and CEO Siddharth Vora used to lead the engineering team for advertising products at StumbleUpon. (StumbleUpon's founder Garrett Camp went on to start Expa Studios and Expa Labs.)  Vora said he became convinced that with their user data and the "strong purchase intent" of those users, most marketplaces have a big ad opportunity — but few were really taking advantage of it.

"Each and every marketplace has the potential to generate a significant amount of revenue," Vora said.

The problem is that if marketplaces run any advertising at all, it's usually generic banners. Otherwise, they have to build an entire adtech platform in-house, which may be out of reach unless if they don't have the engineering resources of Amazon or eBay.

So Promote's technology allows marketplaces to incorporate advertising with minimal work of their own. More specifically, by allowing sellers who want more attention for their products to buy a promoted listing. Eventbrite is already using Promote's technology to power its Promoted Listings.

The placement of the ads is supposed to be determined by analyzing  user data. The idea is that the ads shouldn't hurt the marketplace experience or direct them to another site. They just show potential buyers more of what they're looking for.

Do all marketplaces have enough information about their users for Promote to deliver this kind of optimization? Vora acknowledged that data collection varies between Promote's customers, but if nothing else, all of them have purchase data.

Vora also said his team provides some level of customization for each customer, but he added, "Our platform is very flexible," with a setup process should take two weeks at most.

Eventually, Vora wants to help marketplaces offer promoted listings beyond their own properties, allowing the ads to run on other marketplaces and other platforms. In fact, he said Promote will be launching integration with Facebook "very soon."