Goodbye Cookie Monsters — Why We Invested in Terragon

By Semir Mela, Vice President @ VestedWorld and Euler Bropleh, Founder and Managing Director @ VestedWorld

Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted. The trouble is I don’t know which half. — John Wanamaker (1838–1922)

It was more than 100 years ago when John Wanamaker, a marketing pioneer, uttered this famous complaint. Wanamaker’s era was a time when word of mouth, print newspapers, and catalogs were the most popular marketing channels. Even though Wanamaker was committed to improving the effectiveness of his marketing investment, marketers at the time had limited tools to measure their effectiveness. If Wanamaker were alive today, chances are he would be among the growing number of marketers who are increasing their investments in data-driven marketing technology.

Marketing has evolved over the decades from print, billboard, radio, and television advertisements to digital channels such as search, social media, video, and mobile, driven by technology and analytics. As more people have gained access to the internet via computers and mobile devices, businesses have allocated a significant portion of their advertising expenditures to digital channels. In 2019, digital marketing spending surpassed traditional marketing globally, with 50.1% of total ad spending going to digital channels. One of the primary reasons for this shift has been the ability of marketing software technology to segment and target consumers. However, the African continent is one of the few regions where spending on traditional advertising, particularly television ads and billboards, continues to exceed expenditures on digital advertising.

Globally, two of the biggest beneficiaries of the shift to digital marketing have been Facebook and Google. Almost all the revenue that each firm earns comes from digital advertising, and advertisers on these platforms have benefited from Google’s and Facebook’s ability to target customers using first-party data that those firms have on each of their users and also third-party data that others collect by using cookies which track users’ online activities. All this information allows advertisers to target specific users, measure how effective their ads are, gauge general consumer behavior, and leverage this information to make ads even more targeted and effective.

The dominance of the duopoly is not as profound in Africa. While Facebook has 2.6 billion users around the world, only 10% of those users reside in Africa and it earns less than $2.77 per user in Africa, as opposed to $53.56 per user in the US and Canada. Although Google has more users across Africa than Facebook (primarily due to the popularity of the Google Chrome browser), Google is unable to track and target mobile users in Africa as well because of data consumption habits (most African users limit their data usage because data is relatively expensive).

Mobile network operators (MNOs) across Africa have a large user base and are sitting on a trove of user data but, to date, have not capitalized on that resource. For example, while Facebook has 32 million users in Nigeria and 10.5 million users in Kenya, there are over 185 million mobile subscriptions in Nigeria and 55 million mobile subscriptions in Kenya. Globally, while MNOs have unique knowledge about their customers’ location and granular details about the consumption habits, they generally lack the tools needed to gather, organize, and monetize their subscriber data and they do not have a great track record of building these capabilities internally, as evidenced by Verizon’s failed attempt to build Verizon Media.

The digital marketing industry is also going through a profound change because of data privacy changes that will phase out the use of third-party cookies. Third-party cookies track users across websites, recording their demographic information, preferences and behavior, and create profiles for each user so that it is possible to display personal ads to them regardless of which site they visit. This decision is driven by the growing awareness of privacy issues and policy changes such as the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the ePrivacy Directive. These changes will make cookies and data brokers increasingly scarce.

Why Terragon?

Brands in Africa have struggled to find the best way to engage with consumers through digital means due to a lack of actionable customer data and efficient digital engagement channels. MNOs can help brands engage with their customers since the network operators have significant volumes of user data, but most MNOs are focused on their core business and have limited expertise leveraging and monetizing user data.

Terragon is solving this problem by providing MNOs with the tools needed to gather and monetize first party data collected directly from their users in compliance with data protection regulations and allowing brands to effectively target existing and prospective customers and measure the effectiveness of their ad campaigns. The company’s software organizes and enriches customer data from various sources and helps brands gain a deeper understanding of consumers. In return, consumers receive more personalized engagement from brands without sacrificing the privacy of their data.

Credit: Terragon Group

Terragon delivers services to its customers through three main products:

  • Customer Data Platform (CDP): collects real-time first party data on customer behavior and uses this data to run predictive models for improving customer lifetime value (LTV), churn rates, and marketing return on investment (MROI), among others.
  • Adrenaline Software: serves advertisements to mobile users through end-of-call notifications, SMS, USSD, and push notifications.
  • Adatrix: enables brands to partake in real-time bidding for advertisement space through online channels.

Terragon’s CDP has become even more relevant as the digital marketing industry adapts to the new data privacy paradigm and the transition away from the use of third-party cookies. With more than 100 million user profiles, Terragon allows its clients (MNOs, financial services institutions, and consumer brands) to become more informed about their customers and is well on its way to becoming one of the leading repositories of consumer data in Africa. They have achieved this while receiving certifications for compliance with International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 27001, which details the requirements for establishing, implementing, maintaining, and continually improving an information security management system to ensure that information assets are held securely. They are also compliant with both the Nigerian Data Protection Regulation and the EU’s GDPR.

The Terragon team has been working closely with marketing departments on the continent over the past decade and has gained deep market knowledge of African consumers. Their product and business model are custom-built for the African market, and we believe that this gives Terragon a competitive advantage. The company is also the only data platform in Africa that has access to Facebook’s Conversion API. This allows businesses to share key web and offline customer activities directly from web servers to Facebook’s servers to help improve the performance and measurement of Facebook ad campaigns.

Credit: Terragon Group

And perhaps most important of all, Terragon is led by an experienced and dedicated management team. Several members of the team have prior experience building and scaling companies in Nigeria and other countries on the continent. The core management team has also worked together for several years, has a very strong working relationship, has proven the ability to be resourceful and responsive to shifting dynamics, and has prioritized building strong relationships, both internally and externally.

What’s next?

The market for customer data platforms is one of the fastest growing segments in the marketing technology industry and there have been a number of acquisitions in the space over the last year. Twilio acquired Segment, a customer data platform, for $3.2B, its biggest acquisition to date, and plans to use the acquisition to move deeper into customer engagement services. Similarly, SAP acquired Emarsys, an omnichannel customer engagement platform, for approximately $500M and plans to integrate it into their existing customer experience portfolio. Salesforce has been an active acquirer and investor in this space as well. However, it is very fragmented, and clients’ needs vary from industry to industry and geography to geography.

Terragon offers a comprehensive solution with key integrations with MNOs and financial institutions in the markets where it operates. While more companies will enter the CDP segment and foreign players will enter the African market, we believe that the partnerships that Terragon has established and its position as a first mover on the continent will provide lasting advantages as the segment matures and the digital marketing industry in Africa continues to grow.

With new funding, Terragon will expand into new markets, invest further into R&D, and bring additional partners and customers onto the platform. The company has a great team and has developed a strong, collaborative and growth-oriented culture. Terragon is also working to bridge the talent gap in Nigeria by tutoring and upskilling computer science students and developers in the country.

We are excited to partner with Elo, Deji, the entire Terragon team, and our co-investors in the business. A special thank you to the teams at TLcom and WTI for their collaboration during our due diligence process. We look forward to working with all the stakeholders to help Terragon scale across the continent.

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