Priceline snaps up Israeli ad tech start-up

The acquisition of Qlika by the online travel giant is the latest win for Israel’s burgeoning advertising technology industry

The Qlika team at their Ramat Gan offices. Priceline bought the Israeli firm earlier this year (Photo credit: Courtesy)
The Qlika team at their Ramat Gan offices. Priceline bought the Israeli firm earlier this year (Photo credit: Courtesy)

Priceline, the online travel giant, has purchased Israeli advertising technology start-up Qlika. Media reports said that Priceline paid around $3 million cash for the company. A Priceline spokesperson confirmed the deal.

The Qlika deal is just the latest success for an Israeli company in the area of advertising technology, which has become an important part of the Israeli technology ecosystem.

Established in 2012 by three classmates at Hebrew University, Qlika concentrates on “micro-marketing” — targeting consumers in very small geographical areas, with very specific search results for mobile device users based on what they are looking for and where they are. Parsing through reams of big data, including location information, destinations, lifestyle data, online history, etc., Qlika’s technology creates campaigns geared to directing customers to local businesses and services. According to the company, the algorithmic approach Qlika takes to online advertising has helped several of its clients – described as “major US advertisers” — increase their return on investment in Qlika’s services by as much as 50%.

“You’d be surprised how much inefficiency exists in the online marketing of enterprises, even with highly experienced teams spending millions of dollars,” said CEO and co-founder Omri Morgenshtern. “This is especially true when dealing with mobile devices and the localization signals they provide. Qlika’s platform captures and leverages all of these signals with a breakthrough level of automation and algorithm-based decision making.”

Priceline officials who spoke to the media said that Qlika will work with the company’s Agoda discount booking travel website. Agoda, based in Singapore, was the first company Priceline acquired; Qlika is the fourth.

Qlika is a graduate of UpWest Labs, an Israeli-style accelerator located in Silicon Valley. Over the past two years, some 30 companies have gone through six accelerator programs — each four month program includes 5-7 start-ups — and this week UpWest opened its seventh class, with six companies participating. Graduates of the first six classes have raised more than $20M in funding, with average seed funding at over $1M per company; over two-thirds of the UpWest graduates have raised follow-on funding.

The company raised its initial funding last October, getting $1.7M from US firm Hillsven Capital and several other angels. Qlika, said Boris Putanec of Hillsven Capital, was developing the tools needed to move web advertising to “the next level. We believe the next phase of growth in this market is being constrained by the lack of appropriate tools to manage the exponentially increasing complexity of hyperlocal.”

And Qlika is just one example of a burgeoning industry where Israeli companies are making their mark. Over the past several years, dozens of new advertising technology companies have sprung up in Israel, and some of the biggest names in web ad tech — including companies like Kenshoo, Inneractive, Taboola and Outbrain — are Israeli.

In fact, that latter company — which promotes “back library” links on a web site, allowing site owners to re-monetize what are usually considered “dead” links — is considered a candidate for a major Wall Street IPO this year. With a valuation of as much as a billion dollars, the company could seek to raise as much as $250 million in an IPO, analysts said earlier this year.

Technology for advertising — and its natural ally, retail industry technology — has become such an important part of the Israeli tech ecosystem that this year’s edition of the TexChange program, sponsored by the UK Israel Tech Hub at the British Embassy Israel, is taking 15 Israeli companies working in the “future retail sector” (defined as online or in-store technology — including e-commerce solutions, analytics, payments and risk management) to the UK. The companies will have the opportunity to meet with the heads of British retail and tech firms, investors, and potential partners.

Screemo, an Israeli start-up that specializes in digital signage technology, was recently chosen by German conglomerate Deutsche Telekom to participate in its Fit4Europe program, which was instituted late last year as a project of its hub:raum accelerator program. Screemo provides a system that enables users to interact with a digital billboard — for example, with fans at a sporting event participating in a mass sports trivia game run right on the scoreboard, answering sports questions on their smart devices, with the names and Facebook photos showing up automatically on the scoreboard. “Our platform is the first that allows businesses to implement mobile screens interactive apps within days, and in many cases without the help of developers,” said Screemo CEO Adi Zimerman.

In yet another recent coup, a Technion team won a top award in the Google Online Marketing Challenge. Beating out hundreds of competitors, the team succeeded in putting together the most effective ad campaign among those judged using nothing more than $250 of AdWords credits from Google. The team chose as its project the recruiting of volunteers for Perach, a tutoring project that pairs up needy children from underprivileged backgrounds with university students who act as their tutors. The project was declared a rousing success — both by Perach and Google – and resulted in the recruitment of over 150 new volunteers for the tutoring program.

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