Over the past five years, West Hollywood-based Wondery transformed from Hernan Lopez's hunch about the future of audio to the sixth largest podcast publisher in the U.S., boasting over 8 million monthly listeners and 30 hit shows.

A former 21st Century Fox executive, Lopez started the podcast studio with the belief that in-depth, narrative audio stories were poised to bloom much like serialized television dramas had when he was in TV; he wanted to make "Breaking Bad" and "Mad Men" versions of podcasts.

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Online marketer Social Native is upping its AI game.

The Beverly Hills-based advertising tech firm Social Native has acquired Olapic, a New York-based competitor. Terms of the deal weren't released but the move will triple Social Native's employee and customer count, co-founder David Shadpour told dot.LA. It will also help boost the company's artificial intelligence so that it can give brands more insights into what kind of ads resonate.

Social Native connects marketers and advertisers with influencers, photographers, videographers and other talent to create ads. Olapic serves a similar purpose but uses a different method: It mines the internet for unique content on social media and elsewhere, then strikes a deal with copyright holders to license it for commercial use. The combined organization's customers include Adidas, L'Oréal, Unilever, Sony and Nestlé Group.

"We solve the same problem in different ways," Shadpour said. "The acquisition was strategic in that it added a source of content, but its primary role was to fuel our machine learning and AI engine."

Combining forces, that is, will enhance the data that Social Native has at its disposal to provide customers useful insights for how to design and deploy their advertising strategy.

The company's database of ads and the data surrounding their use will grow tremendously. Social Native has over 100,000 ads and related images its creator network has created since it was founded in 2017, while Olapic has millions of assets that it has unearthed since its 2010 launch.

The acquisition also makes Social Native's data more diverse. Since Social Native has until now centered on social media ads, it has been focused on outcomes like increasing click-through rates and decreasing customer acquisition costs for its clients. Olapic, meanwhile, has specialized in creating custom widgets — think images that appear in a carousel on a brand's website — which allow it to track different kinds of outcomes, such as how long digital shoppers stay on a website.

The goal now, Shadpour said, is to use this bigger and broader dataset to not only understand what features in an ad perform best – such as number of people, ad length, emotional sentiment, color palette and where or whether a logo appears – but also to be able to offer customers reliable predictions for how their advertising content will perform.

"(We want) to say that with x percent certainty, this creative will produce this result," said Shadpour.

Social Native has raised an $8 million seed round in 2017. Its investors include L.A.-based venture firms ActOne Ventures, TenOneTen Ventures and Sound Ventures; Carter Reum, co-founder of Beverly Hills-based venture firm M13; Richard Wolpert, venture partner at startup accelerator Amplify.LA; and Vivek Ranadivé, owner of the NBA's Sacramento Kings. The company has 69 employees according to LinkedIn.

Olapic is much larger, with over 100 employees coming in with the acquisition. It raised $21.1 million, most recently with a $15 million Series B in 2015. Its multinational operations will expand Social Native's footprint outside the U.S.

Social Native had been in talks with Olapic for a little over a year, Shadpour said. The pandemic accelerated the decision to pull the trigger.

"COVID served as, 'There's an opportunity for us today, when companies are in doubt, through M&A,'" Shadpour said. "Our mindset wasn't, 'It's COVID, what am I gonna do?' in a negative way; but, 'It's COVID, what opportunities exist? For us, that was Olapic."

Shadpour said Social Native will likely do more acquisitions to further strengthen the company's data.

Here are the latest headlines regarding how the novel coronavirus is impacting the Los Angeles startup and tech communities. Sign up for our newsletter and follow dot.LA on Twitter for the latest updates.

Today:

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