UM Incubator Hatches Pixlee

Marketers have a new platform for sorting and ranking the millions of photos that consumers tag with their brand names. It’s called Pixlee, and is formally launching this week, although it has been quietly working with clients for a while.

Based in San Francisco, Pixlee -- which is housed at Universal McCann’s startup incubator Mad Valley -- just received a $1.5 million round of seed funding from Andreessen Horowitz, XSeed Capital, Ariel Poler, Rothenberg Ventures and tech investor Mark Gorenberg. 

The platform has already attracted a number of clients including 1-800-Flowers, sandal marketer Sanuk, Yamaha and a number of National Football League and National Basketball Association teams.

UM clients -- which get first crack at the platform  are also plotting its use, said Doug Chavez, the agency’s SVP Emerging Media. Client Ghirardelli will use it in a new campaign that will break soon. Others will follow.

Chavez says the Pixlee platform is the best and fastest that he’s seen at curating and filtering the hundreds of millions of images that are uploaded to social media daily, and doing so in near real-time.



“It’s a hard process to harness, but they’ve done it in a way that creates a brand-safe environment,” Chavez said. The platform helps marketers create timely video endorsements, merchandising, site personalization, photo galleries, live events and other programs.  And it also yields a ton of data that can be analyzed to reveal new insights into how consumers are using images to talk about brands. “That’s huge,” Chavez said.

“Frankly,” Chavez added, “this is something that Instagram should have built.” But Pixlee saw the opportunity and came up with a solution that helped fill a marketer need. “It’s exactly the type of company we look for” to house at Mad Valley, he said, where 30 to 35 companies are developing their start-up ideas at any given time.

Pixlee has a patent pending on its “PhotoRank” technology that drives the platform.

Kyle Wong, co-founder and CEO of Pixlee, said the company is essentially taking advantage of rapidly evolving media usage patterns “to help brands personalize marketing using authentic customer content.”  

The platform also just appointed digital marketing veteran Sharon Goldstein to the position of CMO.

How long Pixlee remains in Mad Valley is unclear. “We want to hang onto them as long as we can,” said Chavez.

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