CEO Anil Mathews bills it as “the largest platform on physical world behaviour.” His company, Near, has access to location data from 1.6 billion people in 44 countries, selling it under a subscription-based Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model to customers seeking insight into where people are going, what they are up to – and the holy grail: what they are likely to do tomorrow. And now it is $100 million richer.
Near (which runs machine learning on aggregated data sets from a sweeping array of sources, including telecommunications companies, apps, payments companies and more) today announced a fresh $100 million investment from London-based private equity firm Greater Pacific Capital (GPC). The Series D funding round brings its total funding to $134 million. Computer Business Review spoke to CEO Anil Mathews to learn more about what the company does, and its growth plans.
Near, founded in 2012, is headquartered in Singapore with offices in San Francisco, New York, Bangalore, Tokyo and Sydney. Its partners include News Corp, MetLife, Mastercard and WeWork. It provides two main products: Allspark (“large scale real world data sets such as home/work location, brand affinity, geo-radius” – essentially individual data) and Carbon (to “enrich digital-world customer data with real-world attributes”: i.e. information on local environments, spanning dwell times, catchment areas, spending patterns et al on a given map).
To boil the offering down to its simplest level, it’s data-driven intelligence that aims to make “segment of one” marketing ever-more viable, allowing buyers to push highly personalised adverts to a targeted device.
Before we’ve even asked a question about growth plans, Mathews is keen to emphasise that the company does not collect “Personally Identifiable Information” (PII).
“We are a privacy-led platform”, he says in a call with Computer Business Review. “We don’t store anything that can identify an end user. No first names, no last names; one of our biggest concerns is privacy.” GDPR, as a result, has not been much of an issue, he emphasises. “As we were not collecting PII from day one, compliance was not as difficult for us as it was for some.”
(The company subcontracts such issues to Germany’s ePrivacy GmbH: its listed data protection officer and EU representative is ePrivacy CEO Dr Christoph Bauer).
What it does tap mobile devices’ unique identifier. This allows app publishers and marketers to track user activity on mobile devices for advertising purposes (e.g. Google’s Android Advertising Identifier (AAID) and Apple’s Identifier for Advertising (IDFA)). Allied with the other data sets that can now be bought on the open market, the data it furnishes is manna for marketers, once someone has done the data science on it.
Obtaining world-scale data sets is also expensive, as is storing and analysing them however, and Mathews says the influx of investment will go into acquiring more data, and paying for the data centres that host it. (Near is based on Azure, but also provides customers with an on-premises alternative for those seeking it…)
He said: “We’re processing 10 terabytes of new data every day. We need to store it before we can even start looking at it. Then once you have all of it, you have to make sense of it. Investing in data science has been a priority from day-one. We’re going to double down on acquiring data now: we are the largest platform on physical world behaviour. If, Google, Facebook, etc. are the masters of the digital world, we’d like to be that equivalent in the real world.”
He adds: “We can say X likes golf because we can see pseudonymous personal data shows regular attendance at a golf course; is a parent regularly dropping kids off at school; we are looking at a lot of retail data and transaction data from financial services companies. If you look at that alongside more granular data like navigation behaviour, you can try to answer what someone might do tomorrow.”
It’s an offering that its new investors are firmly buying into.
As Ketan Patel, CEO, GPC, comments in a release: “Near provides insights into human behaviour by analysing where people are, and combining that with a multitude of data points to predict and influence behaviour. Given it does this across the globe in a privacy protected manner, it is well-positioned to create an exciting new space that delivers value to both people, and those that wish to build relationships with them.”
“Allspark has scaled its SaaS revenues faster than anything we have historically seen.” Mathews adds. Like most scale-ups, the focus is on growth rather than profitability, he notes. With marketing budgets hovering at over 10 percent of most companies’ revenues and CMOs telling Gartner that 16 percent of their budgets are allocated to innovation, his company might just be onto something…