A Q&A with Savveo co-founders Shafi Mustafa and Steve Villa. The Charlotte, North Carolina-based company was founded in July of this year and raised $2 million in Series A funding in mid-August. Investors include BayCrest Capital; David Jones, the CEO of cloud firm Peak 10; and Tim Biltz, CEO of fiber-based service provider Lumos Networks, among others.
SUB: Please describe Savveo, and the value proposition you bring to advertising.
Shafi Mustafa/Savveo CEO: Savveo is a platform that facilitates the buying and selling of local advertising. Savveo consists of an online marketplace and a suite of services that allow advertising buyers and sellers to efficiently connect.
SUB: Who are your target users?
Steve Villa/Savveo President: The target users of Savveo are local advertising decision makers, including local and regional ad agencies, small businesses, and franchise organizations. The buying of media within this segment is fragmented and filled with challenges and inefficiencies that Savveo solves.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition? What differentiates Savveo from the competition?
Shafi: Savveo is a unique, cross channel platform. While there are players that tackle the local advertising challenge with single medium and vertical solutions, there is nothing that offers advertising inventory across out of home, print, radio, sponsorships, etc. in a full-featured Web platform like Savveo.
SUB: When was the company founded and what were the first steps you took in establishing it?
Steve: Savveo was founded in July 2012. However, the genesis of the idea began with OverstockAds.com, which was founded in January 2011. We developed Savveo based on feedback we received from various stakeholders including media companies, agencies and small businesses.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for Savveo? Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Shafi: The market learning and experience garnered through OverstockAds for the last 18 months served as a breeding ground for Savveo. Through feedback from both our media partners and local advertisers, we realized that there was an unmet need and a huge market opportunity in driving efficiency in the local ad space. While the existence of this problem has been known for some time, there has yet to be an effective technology solution specifically for the local segment that we serve.
SUB: How did you come up with the name? What is the story behind it?
Shafi: Lots of brainstorming! Our team wanted a name that had a unique quality and represented the essence of what we think we are bringing to the marketplace. The name Savveo is a derivation of the word savvy. True to its naming origins, Savveo provides easier access and data to local advertisers to assist in making informed advertising decisions.
SUB: What have the most significant obstacles been so far to building the company?
Steve: Whenever you are bringing innovation to a space that has essentially done business the same way for almost 50 years, it’s tough to shift mindsets and behaviors. One major obstacle is getting legacy media sellers to break glass with you and think about different ways to earn sustainable revenue. A lot of forward looking media sellers have embraced Savveo, however, there are a few who have been slower to adopt our approach.
SUB: You recently had your official launch. Why was this a particularly good time to launch?
Shafi: Our recent announcement was regarding the funding and formation of Savveo. Savveo’s soft market launch will be in Q4 of this year, with new features rolling out in Q1 2013. This timing is particularly relevant given the post U.S. election hangover leaving media sellers looking to fill excess supply.
SUB: Do you plan to raise outside funding in the near future?
Steve: The mountain we are scaling is a big one. To effectively accomplish this mission we will need substantial resources. We have an excellent group of blue chip investors and we are continuing the dialogue with new prospective strategic partners.
SUB: How does the company generate revenue or plan to generate revenue?
Steve: Savveo generates revenue through a revenue sharing model with our media partners as well as earning revenue from a suite of related products and services for advertising buyers and sellers.
SUB: What are your goals for Savveo over the next year or so?
Shafi: Our goal is to create a strong offering of inventory across various channels. We want to grow into the one stop source for finding relevant local advertising.
Savveo – www.savveo.com