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Unacast Hires Mobile Tech Vet, Investor Chris Cunningham As CRO

The founder of Appssavvy was attracted to the vision and opportunities presented by tying the 'physical cookie' that beacons can generate.

Less than a six months after Norwegian proximity network Unacast opened its New York office, the company has brought in mobile marketing pioneer and digital media investor Chris Cunningham as its first Chief Revenue Officer.

The hiring comes a week after Cunningham announced that he was leaving Israeli app distribution and analytics startup ironSource.

Separately, Cunningham is formally launching C2 Ventures, a privately-held fund company providing early stage seed rounds to digital media companies, but notes that his primary focus is Unacast.

A Unacast advisor since November 2015, Cunningham is charged with managing the creation, development, and sales programs associated with the proximity platform’s ad and data products.

“The proximity and beacon industry is growing rapidly, and with Unacast´s position as the world´s largest network of proximity solution providers, we see a strong demand from marketing platforms, retailer and brands to use proximity data for online retargeting and attribution,” Thomas Walle, Unacast’s CEO and co-founder, told GeoMarketing. “Chris has deep industry experience and a network few can match. We are thrilled to have Chris join the Unacast team to pioneer and continue to develop our offerings of data and marketing solutions.”

Unacast Enters Phase Two

Things have been moving quickly for Unacast since Walle and Kjartan Slette, Unacast’s co-founder/COO, started the company in September 2014. Early on Unacast took a different approach to proximity than most companies in the location marketing space.

For one thing, Walle and Slette didn’t come from a strictly mobile tech background; the two had previously worked on the music streaming service Tidal that was acquired by Jay Z in January 2015.

Whereas most platform providers in the proximity arena either provide beacon hardware and software (or use other types of sensor technologies, such as wi-fi, audio waves, or LED lighting to trigger notifications to smartphone apps), Unacast has positioned itself as an organizer and manager of a global network of “proximity solution providers.”

In other words, it works with beacon hardware and software companies in concert to retarget consumers who have previously opted-in to a branded app at a retailer, airport, entertainment venue, or any other place with sensors.

Unacast takes the opt-in, offline data from beacons and allows retailers and brands to send ads to consumers later, when the customer has left the store or venue, is at home, or other locations, based on the consumer’s interactions with beacons.

The company’s goal is to be “the backend, the one API, for all proximity,” so that all players in the ecosystem — on both the supply side (proximity and location services entities) and demand side (media and ad companies) — can use harmonized and aligned proximity data, tagging structures and privacy through the Unacast PROX network.

Unacast’s network already includes 48 major proximity solution providers, which cover an estimated 25 percent of the world’s beacons. In addition, Unacast has struck partnerships with a number of programmatic analytics and ad serving companies, including MediaMath, Oracle/BlueKai, and Lotame.

“The market opportunity is a blue ocean and Unacast has a solid head start in a booming industry,” Cunningham said. “As an advisor, I’ve been very impressed by working closely with the founders and the team. I’m excited to join the company full time and look forward to the challenge of making proximity data accessible and actionable to a wide range of companies and investors.”

Exploring The Physical Cookie

Cunningham’s, decision to join Unacast, which has roughly two dozen staffers, after his stint with the 500-person ironSource, reflectes his interest in building something new and timely.

Cunningham earned a great deal of respect during his years running Appssavvy, which was focused on using automated ad serving to target app users during “natural breaks” on their content viewing experience.

“Over the five-month period since I became an advisor, I became really intrigued by the vision and the size of the opportunity involved in creating the ‘physical-world cookie’ or ‘physical world pixel’ for marketers and publishers,” Cunningham said. “And in terms of looking back at the heyday of Appssavvy, the goal is similar: evangelizing and establishing a marketplace for repeatable ad products.”

As for his separate interest in C2 Ventures, Cunningham said that he’ll be “at least 97 percent, if not more, focused on Unacast.”

His position with C2 simply continues the kind of investing and advising activity Cunningham has been doing for years. At the start, C2’s investments include Arbor.io, Zenrez, JenJo, mighty.tv and Fresco News, while it’s advising digital media companies such as Unacast, Inkboard, Tapinator and fullbottle, and Techsters.

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of GeoMarketing.com. A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.