Projections on Cars? Adway Gets Funding to Pioneer an Unusual Advertising Method
Culver City-based Adway is offering Uber and Lyft drivers hundreds of dollars every month to project ads on the sides of their cars.
So far, the company has signed up about two dozen drivers in Los Angeles, where competitor Firefly faced fierce pushback a few years ago from city officials who sought to ban digital ads on moving vehicles.
Adway promises drivers $50-$350 a month in what they call "passive" income. All the drivers have to do is install a small device that sits just underneath their vehicle's side view mirrors.
CEO and co-founder Sasha Krylov said his wife deserves much of the credit for the idea. A feature on a car she saw called a "puddle light," which projects a logo or image on the ground when one of the doors is opened, caught her attention. She felt the image was trying to communicate something.
"I told her it was just a gimmicky logo," Krylov said. "But I thought to myself, 'what if she was right?'"
It was this epiphany that eventually led Krylov to this moment. Last week, the nearly three-year-old company clinched a $6 million seed round led by Upfront Ventures.
Among its advertisers are Webex by Cisco and poke restaurant Sweetfin. Adway gives these companies an estimate of how many impressions their ads made by determining how many Bluetooth devices came within a certain radius of the vehicle. Krylov said this one-way communication system does not collect personal data from the devices.
Krylov decided to project on the side of the car because, according to him, it was his only option. In his research, he learned that it was illegal in California to project an image on the ground, as the puddle lights do, when the vehicle is moving. The same went for the front and the back of the automobile.
"The only thing that was left, really, was the side of the car," said Krylov. "Coincidentally enough, the side of the car presents the largest possible real estate on the body of the car, which any advertiser would want to capitalize on."
Another early concern was the mere fact that projections do not show up well in daylight, meaning that Adway drivers can only make impressions on customers between dusk and dawn. At first, Krylov worried that this could be a limitation for the company, but he has seen only promising results.
"To our surprise, [it] actually makes a lot of sense if you think about this," Krylov explained. "A lot of traffic is actually concentrated in the evening, between 4 and 7pm, and if we're not talking about summertime, it goes dark around 4, 4:30. And people are more prone to making purchasing decisions after work hours rather than before."
Despite this, looking into hardware options in the future that can allow these projections to be seen during the day is also on the docket for Adway.
"This is what we're building this technology towards," said Krylov. "We just need to start somewhere, and somewhere is now, because there's still a tremendous amount of the market to be seized, and there's an opportunity for us to build a community of intellectual property around this today."
Adway's method of advertising has the potential to stir up controversy. A couple of years ago, L.A. city councilman Bob Blumenfield wrote an op-ed for the "Los Angeles Daily News" condemning San Francisco-based Firefly for their similar advertising method of digital billboards on the roofs of rideshare vehicles.
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Pejman Nozad, a founding managing partner at Pear VC, joins this episode of LA Venture to discuss Pear VC's current initiatives, including its accelerator and fellowships. He's seen as one of the most successful angel investors in the area, and for good reason: he has made more than 300 investments in his lifetime.
"I'm a child of revolution and war and difficult times," said Nozad of his upbringing in Iran during the revolution.
Nozad went to college before dropping out. That's when his brother told him about his dream to go to America. After his brother was denied a visa multiple times, Nozad went himself to the embassy and got lucky; the woman in charge of the process liked him enough to approve him.
"When you're in [your] early twenties, you don't analyze much of the future. And then your risk-takers. I came to America in 1992 with $700 and I didn't speak any word of English," said Nozad.
Nozad went from working at a carwash, then a yogurt shop, to a (now famous) Persian rug store in Palo Alto. Many of his clients happened to be CEOs and venture capitalists; Nozad wanted to be part of that community.
"I was very lucky because I had access to people who normally nobody can see them, but I was hanging out with them at Sunday barbecues while selling carpets," said Nozad.
In his early days as an investor, Nozad bet on companies that included Dropbox and DoorDash. He said he took inspiration as a venture capitalist in lessons he learned from his time playing professional soccer in Iran.
"In soccer, you can score minute one, or you can score at minute 90. Both of them [are] one goal and you can win the game. So, when you go to fundraise, don't get disappointed if you hear a lot of nos, because the yes could be the last meeting after the whole two months," he said.
dot.LA Engagement Intern Joshua Letona contributed to this post.
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In this episode of LA Venture, Julie Wroblewski talks about starting Magnify Ventures and helping modern families.
Wroblewski worked with Melinda French Gates to start Pivotal Ventures. For Wroblewski, it was her dream job as she got to lead venture capital investment strategy for five years. One of the focus areas at Pivotal was around caregiving innovation and American family homes.
Wroblewski cites a report from one of Magnify's partners that estimates the care economy at $648 billion in the United States, already larger than the pharmaceutical market. Wroblewski's fund is writing up to $2.5 million checks into companies that will transform life, work and care for modern families.
"I started to see what I thought was a very exciting and still overlooked category of investment in venture capital around the care economy, and family-focused technology and was also seeing a lot of flow and founders," said Wroblewski.
As an investor, she is particularly interested in tools like household optimization that help families be both more efficient and joyful. She also wants to let parents know they don't have to be experts. Technology can help give them access to what they need, when they need it.
"Technology is moving closer into our lives all the time and solving increasingly human, complex, difficult problems, including, how we care for and manage care for children and our loved ones--the things that are most personal to us," said Wroblewski.
"We've seen such a wave of technology innovation in the workplace. You know, we now use so many different tools to help increase our productivity at work, to improve our health and well being in some cases in the workplace," she added. "And I think we haven't yet seen the same sort of investment in innovation move into some areas of family life and household management. And so I think that that's going to change."
dot.LA Audience Engagement Intern Joshua Letona contributed to this post.