Unlocking a goldmine of untapped engagement
Bridged knows what makes audiences click
When I briefly covered a startup called Bridged back in June, I had a feeling they were worth mentioning but perhaps still a pivot away from something that truly ‘clicked’.
They recently got in touch and told me they had made that pivot (or perhaps just a precision swerve) into helping publishers and content marketers keep their audiences engaged and make more money.
So, I figured it was time to talk to them in detail. Scroll down to read all about this recent Techstars graduate startup.
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Bridged wants to unlock a goldmine of untapped engagement
Online publishing isn’t easy. Perhaps surprisingly, creating high-quality content is often the simplest part of the puzzle. Getting people to read and engage with that content is the really challenging part; if you can unlock the secret to making that work for you, you’re on the route to success.
Bridged is the latest in a long line of startups looking to help publishers keep their audiences engaged. But the London-based company thinks it has an edge thanks to its machine learning chops.
If a publisher wants to generate more subscribers, get readers to sign up to a newsletter, watch a video, click a sponsor’s link, or any other objective, Bridged can adjust the onscreen content to make that outcome more likely.
The tech can also help publishers generate more first-party data about their audience, which is increasingly important as third-party cookies become less ubiquitous, and users and lawmakers become more conscious of privacy.
CEO and co-founder Maanas Mediratta describes Bridged’s technology as “empathy intelligence”. The startup uses code on a publisher’s website (compatible with any content management system) to learn about how audience attention works on that particular site. It’s compatible with text, audio, and video content.
Mediratta says the startup uses multiple open source libraries and its own models to create attention scores. These scores are aggregated to identify ‘hotspots’, where users’ attention tends to concentrate. The tech then inserts the publisher's chosen call to action at those points.
Over time, through A/B testing, Bridged’s tech refines its data about where converts best and focuses on those locations. Mediratta describes this as the way the company will build up customer loyalty. “The more we get to learn more and more about their audience, the more we are well-positioned to convert their business targets better than anyone else.”
Bridged is working to make its model even more detailed by incorporating more data about individual user sessions, such as paying attention to tracking codes on URLs (so they can tell where a user is sourced from, be it social media, an ad etc) to predict those users’ intent for their visit.
Since I gave Bridged a brief mention in this newsletter back in June, the startup has pivoted from its previous incarnation offering a plugin solution helping persuade audiences to act on societal and environmental issues. It now uses more lightweight embedded code and has a laser focus on the commercial goals of publishers and content marketers. And from what Mediratta says, it’s working.
“We have created up to 10 times more conversions in our trials. We have trials ranging from small publishers to big publishers… and we are generating first party data, which is something that is very valuable, something that the publishers never had. Even content marketers had very little. So the amount of impact that we are creating is substantial.”
Mediratta declines to name the specific publishers they are working with for contractual reasons, but I understand there are some names you might recognise on the list.
As someone who has sat through many sales pitches for media tech software, I know how easy it is to accumulate multiple paid-for tools to achieve business goals across the many different revenue streams many publishers have these days, be they ads, subscriptions, events, shopping, and the like. Bridged aims to save these publishers money by helping them improve their return on all these streams using one tool.
The expansion in focus from publishers to content marketers came as Bridged realised that selling into publishing companies can take a long time. “The sales cycle is quite long and complicated. So we've started doing trials with content marketers who create content for different brands. And we essentially give them the same value, which is more conversions and more data.”
Bridged is Mediratta’s second startup. He says he sold his previous startup, CabAmigo, to Ola Cabs in the middle of the last decade. More recently, he started a news content app that was more of a publisher than a tech company. But as he and co-founder Rishabh Lohia experimented with different ways of encouraging audience engagement, they spotted the opportunity to build a product around that problem.
The pair–who first met while studying for an MBA–took Bridged through Techstars’ London accelerator programme last year. While Mediratta is based in Barcelona, Lohia and the company itself are London-based. Bridged is now a team of eight.
Companies have been offering engagement tools to online publishers for years, so Bridged isn’t short of competition. Perhaps most prominently, Piano has been around for over a decade and offers conversion optimisation and engagement tools for all kinds of businesses.
Other prominent competition includes Apester, which started way back in 2012 in the social games space, and UK-based Zephyr which focuses on optimising subscription businesses and was recently acquired by subscription tech company Zuora for $44m.
“The biggest way we differentiate ourselves is the A.I. that we have built,” says Mediratta. “A lot of the competitors are focusing on creating personalised journeys - ‘when someone comes on this article, show them this’... Which is like laying a net and seeing what falls on it.
“What we are doing is very different. Our approach is finding the intent and giving [the visitor] a call to action based on their intent, which is finding the right reader for the right call to action. So the forward-looking technologies that we're using, which is A.I. and natural language processing, sets us apart from the competition.”
Investment and future plans
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