Every day people surfing the web waste the equivalent of 134 years confirming that they are, in fact, human. That’s because so many online services, from ticket sellers to comment boards, are the target of robots looking to scalp tickets or leave spam comments. The standard solution is a human verification tool known as the CAPTCHA: that annoying box that asks you to retype a pair of words that have been distorted or obscured so they’re hard to make out. We spend 14 seconds on these CAPTCHA boxes, 280 million times a day.
NY based Solve Media, which launched today, thinks it has a better solution. Since big brands have a hard time getting users to engage with online banner ads, Solve plans to replace the random words in each CAPTCHA with a targeted ad instead. The startup has signed on big name advertisers like Microsoft, GE and Toyota.
The real question of course is whether or not Solve Media can provide the same level of protection as a standard CAPTCHA. “We’re actually a security company with an advertising business layered on top,” said co-founder and CEO Ari Jacoby. From 24-hour global traffic monitoring to re-pixelating the image on each ad impression, Jacoby insists his firm is going the extra mile.
That’s about as dead simple as a business plan can be. Take something annoying but necessary, make it easier, and offer some added value to boot. It made Jonathan Wegener, co-founder of ExitstrategyNYC.com, a little curious. “Why did Solve media need investment?” Wegener tweeted. “This business could be bootstrapped, no? Is this a case of a ‘landgrab’?”
Mike Brown Jr., a VC at AOL Ventures, responded. “Of course it could be bootstrapped but would take them longer to get there – payment terms suck in ad sales (among other things)”
The heavy hitting publishers Solve has enlisted to help negotiate these ad deals include Meredith, Tribune and AOL, a group which solve claims will allow it reach tens of millions of unique viewers a month. Solve plans to bill advertisers between 25 and 50 cents each time someone types in their brand and split that revenue 50/50 with publishers. AOL Ventures, along with First Round Capital, New Atlantic Ventures and angels like Chris Dixon, Roger Ehrenberg, Aydin Senkut and Shervin Pishevar, have put $6 million into Solve Media.
The average CAPTCHA takes 14 seconds to figure out. Solve Media says its version cut that down to seven. In terms of making a good impression on potential customers, these ads kind of sell themselves.
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