What advantage do ad tech start-ups gain from being in London?

London is a hotbed of tech innovation where media owners can mix with a vibrant start-up scene. Together they can re-engage the savvy consumer. Here Ian Merricks, chair of The Accelerator Network and programme director of FIPP’s upcoming London Start-up Tour sheds some light on the specific ad tech areas that London start-ups are attracted to, and also comment on why these areas are the target of UK media and tech entrepreneurs.

When looking at the emergent digital media and ad tech start-ups in London, there are a large number of them, and their founders and management teams are drawn from a very broad pool.

For today, I want to look at ad tech start-ups on our radar at The Accelerator Network – many of whom will be part of the FIPP London Start-Up Tour in November.

There does not appear to be an obvious single area of focus – instead London is creating amazing start-ups across all disciplines of the ad tech / digital media space. This includes (non-exhaustive summary); 

  • Programmatic advertising
  • Private ad exchanges and creators of emerging ad formats
  • Agency Trading Desks / Demand Side Platforms
  • Dynamic ad profiling
  • Niche social media platforms
  • Affiliate marketing
  • Behavioural targeting
  • Display advertising
  • Email marketing

With this breadth in mind, I wanted to consider the question: “What advantage do these ad tech start-ups gain from being in London?”

Below are examples of some of these most promising ad tech start-ups, each working with key players from the UK publishing industry, and what can be pinpointed as the competitive advantage they gain from being in London. 

Programmatic advertising

Captify is the leader in Europe for search retargeting. Advertisers harness the accuracy of search and combine with the scale of display advertising. Captify has developed a specialised technology platform that enables advertisers to reach customers at their exact moment of intent. Launched in 2012, and voted a Top 6 Young Companies of the Year by 2014. Its CEO has previously run Forward Digital, and held senior roles at both Eyeconomy and BBC. 


Private ad exchanges 

Onscroll is an ad technology platform which is redefining the way in which the industry values and trades online advertising. They verify and validate millions of impressions every day and work with all sides of the ad eco system – buy, sell and tech. Their clients include AutoTrader, Infectious Media, Virgin Media, Incisive Media, IPC, Netflix, RadiumOne, Media IQ, Dennis Publishing and Thomson.

Onscroll is co-founded by Babac Vafaey and chaired by Andy Evans, who both worked together at ad network Net Communities, which Andy founded in 1999.


Email marketing

Experienced email agency Email Switchboard has a strong reputation of being email innovators. They are using this reputation to develop a trusted marketplace for email advertising, allowing large consumer-facing advertisers and their media buying agencies to run cross channel advertising campaigns, more efficiently, through better targeting and at a lower cost. It does this by using email as a universal identifier, allowing them to target consumers on any device, using any form of advertising. Via the platform, advertisers can buy and sell email inventory by audience profile and use the information to target via email or another channel. It automates and brings online the buying process for advertisers and publishers, as well as being an email sending platform. With an established reputation in the market and a large customer base including Group M and other household names directly, the company is on track for its first £1m of revenue.


Social media

Twizoo is the intelligent layer on Twitter that discovers the customer opinion when you’re deciding where to go, what to watch, or what to buy – by using Tweets as our customer ‘reviews’. They work with Hardens Guides on content partnerships. Twizoo offers restaurants a unique advertising opportunity to promote their organic Tweets in the app. This automatically expands a restaurant’s existing reach on Twitter, which is usually only their followers, to new customers looking for a place to eat on Twizoo. Twizoo measures a restaurant’s ROI from advertising on Twizoo using iBeacon technology, which measures footfall from a user seeing a restaurant’s Tweet ad in Twizoo, and subsequently visiting the restaurant. Over fifty clients are currently signed up for Twizoo’s advertising business in London. Twizoo is backed with multi-million pound investment from UK angels and a recent VC round, and will soon launch its disruptive advertising model in San Francisco as well.  CEO Madeline Parra cites their access to capital, even at a pre-revenue stage as key to their success. 


With just these few examples, it is clear how London’s position in driving ad tech / digital media is derived from multiple inputs. From its strong foundations in traditional media, to early and thorough experiments in digital media over the last decade and half, London has a tight-knit community fostering recycling of knowledge, as well as having open-minded clients and agencies willing to try new things and companies, and access to appropriate growth capital. 

The start-ups we have featured here are all “born global” and are currently already working with international clients, or looking to expand internationally. The FIPP London Start-up tour will give international publishers the opportunity to meet these types of companies and understand first-hand what they do, who they do it for, and how their expertise can be leveraged internationally to create competitive advantage for tour guests.

FIPP London Start Up Tour logo ()

Be a part of FIPP’s London Start-up Tour

This is your opportunity to observe in close proximity the London media and digital scene, and be introduced to thought leadership around collaborating with start-up companies, meeting the leading lights in the space, across a variety of start-up stages: established, emerging and future, alongside a senior peer group of innovative international publishers.

The FIPP London Start-up Tour will take place on 16-18 November and in the coming weeks we will reveal the companies that will be on the programme.

Secure your place today

You can now register your place for the FIPP London Start-Up Tour.

If you have any questions, contact Christine Huntingford.

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