A Q&A with MixRank co-founder and CEO Ilya Lichtenstein. The San Francisco–based company was founded in May 2011.
SUB: Please describe what MixRank is, and the value proposition you bring to advertising.
Lichtenstein: MixRank is marketing research software that automatically identifies the most effective ad copy and traffic sources for any market. Instead of spending time and money blindly testing different campaigns, advertisers can use MixRank to better target their ads and get more, higher-quality traffic.
SUB: What are your target markets?
Lichtenstein: Our product works best for performance advertisers—businesses that are looking for measurable results like conversions and sales rather than branding or awareness. The more than 4,000 advertisers building campaigns on our platform range from small ecommerce merchants to SEM agencies to large lead gen companies.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition?
Lichtenstein: Our biggest competitors are large enterprise research companies like Nielsen or Comscore.
SUB: What differentiates MixRank from the competition?
Lichtenstein: We’re taking marketing data that has previously only been accessible to huge brands and making it available to advertisers of all sizes. We’ve also developed technology that automatically generates actionable suggestions and media plans. Instead of showing a lot of random data, we can dynamically identify the advertising strategies that will be the most successful.
SUB: When was the company founded and what were the first steps you took to establishing it?
Lichtenstein: The company was founded in May 2011. We applied and were selected for Y Combinator, a fantastic early stage accelerator program that was incredibly valuable with all aspects of getting started.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for MixRank? Was there an “aha” moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Lichtenstein: Before this startup, I was running an affiliate marketing business, and faced many of the same problems we’re solving today with MixRank. There was no single “aha” moment—I gradually started writing code to automate the work I was doing as a marketer, which eventually came to form the prototype version of our product.
SUB: What have the most significant obstacles been so far to building the company?
Lichtenstein: Our biggest challenge is staying humble and scrappy. A startup is such a rollercoaster, but raising money is only the beginning and should not be equated with success. We’ll need to maintain the bootstrapping mentality that has served us well so far.
SUB: You recently raised $1.5 million in Series A funding. What are your plans for the funds?
Lichtenstein: We’ll be using the funding primarily to hire engineers as well as overhaul and expand our crawling infrastructure.
SUB: Do you plan to raise more outside funding in the near future?
Lichtenstein: We’ve been fortunate to have some fantastic investors who add tremendous value join us on this journey, and we would certainly be open to talking to more investors who can be very valuable at some point in the future. But right now, our focus is on revenue. We’re hoping that most of our funding will come from customers rather than investors.
SUB: What are your goals for MixRank over the next year or so?
Lichtenstein: 2012 will be a very important year for us—the year we move on from being a very early stage product to a real company. We’ll be significantly growing the team and building even more exciting and sophisticated products.
MixRank – www.mixrank.com