Umbel Unlocks Value in Hidden Data

By TIM GREEN
Reporter with Silicon Hills News

H.O. Maycotte, chief executive and co-founder of Umbel, courtesy photo.

H.O. Maycotte, chief executive and co-founder of Umbel, courtesy photo.

A basketball team’s most valuable assets – the players – are in full view during a game. The players’ skills attract paying customers to the arena.

There’s another asset on hand, one that isn’t visible, but if handled the right way, can keep those fans returning for more games.

The asset, according to H.O. Maycotte, chief executive and co-founder of Umbel, is the trail of data the fans leave in their interactions with the team. The team can use that data to increase the fans’ loyalty and enthusiasm. They come to more games and buy more hot dogs and team jerseys.

This is where Umbel takes the court. It collects data the spectators leave behind on their digital journey to the arena. The journey could include stops at the team’s website, a ticket seller’s site, the team’s smartphone app as well as Bluetooth-enabled beacons in the arena.

With Umbel’s patent-pending technology and tools, the team can send emails and other outreach with specific offers to specific fans. The idea is to improve the fan’s experience while increasing the value of the fan to the team.

“We simply help our customers understand their client base better,” he said. “There are a lot of consumer touch points out there that have some really valuable data that companies just aren’t aware of.

Umbel, which received $3.7 million in Series A funding led by Austin Ventures in 2012, is one of seemingly dozens, if not scores, of companies developing ways to slice and dice data for sales and marketing purposes.

Maycotte is a veteran of several startups and was the Texas Tribune’s founding chief technology officer. The other co-founders of Umbel were Meredith Maycotte, Travis Turner and Nick Goggans.

Both Umbel’s headcount, around 75, and revenue, which the company doesn’t disclose, have about doubled each year, Maycotte said.

imagesThe company counts about 100 customers in consumer-facing businesses. They include the Indiana Pacers (owner Herbert Simon is an investor in Umbel), the Florida Panthers, the Circuit of the Americas, Asics, South by Southwest, ACL Live, Gallery Furniture, and Vox Media. Through its customers, Umbel reaches about 700 million consumers, according to Maycotte.

At the heart of Umbel is the Digital Genome, a database of information about consumers. The company has filed for several patents on the technology.

The database provides Umbel customers 90 percent of the value of an in-house data warehouse at 5 percent of the cost and presents the information in a fraction of the time, Maycotte said.

He emphasized that Umbel uses only information that consumers have granted permission to share.

“One hundred percent of the data we touch is opt in,” he said. “We just believe in that. We believe it creates a healthier relationship between consumers and brands. We think that ethical data will be the most valuable data in the future.”

Besides its customers, Umbel works with a range of companies to collect data and integrate it into a software package used by its customers.

Beyond the database, Umbel has developed a software platform and tools to extract, analyze and present data in ways that its customers can use to quickly set up email campaigns and media buys to interact with their customers. It also helps its customers determine where and when to reach out to consumers.

For a membership drive, the YMCA of Austin used Umbel’s tools to identify existing members and places to find new members and ways to reach them. It conducted contests as a way to gather rich data about current and potential members, who willingly shared their information. The Y reported a fourfold return in its investment and that it exceeded the campaign goal by 160 percent.

The Knight Foundation, which supports journalism with grants, activities and research and is an investor in Umbel, is interested in how Umbel could help media companies better identify, reach and engage audiences beyond those who already read their publications.

“This trend has accelerated as more and more news consumption is happening on third-party platforms like Facebook,” said Ben Wirz, the foundation’s director of venture investments. “Umbel enables publishers to meet this challenge by providing deep audience analysis, segmentation and reach on-site and off-site.”

He said that the expanded reach that Umbel unlocks can bring increased audience engagement and more revenue from advertisers.

So far, the foundation likes what it sees.

“We are bullish on what Umbel has built and the potential it unlocks for media companies,” Wirz said.

Maycotte said that Umbel is ready for another round of funding and should have an announcement soon. The company has room to grow in the space it moved into this year, the renovated Seaholm Power Plant in downtown Austin. The company subleased about 20,000 square feet from Athenahealth.

The goal, Maycotte said, is to build a company for the long term, a place where smart people want to work and go on to start their own companies. “We’re doing this to build something really big.”

Is that what you call an Umbel brag? Not if it comes true.

H.O. Maycotte, El Umbel from Umbel on Vimeo.

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