AdFlight Scores $20M in Second Round

Automated online ad sales service and network AdFlight will be heading abroad, after landing a hefty $20 million in second-round funding from some high-profile venture firms last week.

WorldView Technology Partners led the investment round, with additional funding from existing venture partners Sierra Ventures and Sienna Holdings.

The company’s online automated system enables advertisers to buy ads across its network, as well as to upload creative, manage campaign delivery, track and optimize their ads. The system supports rich media, transactional ads, in formats including email and wireless.

AdFlight’s self-service ads are aimed at serving smaller businesses, which wouldn’t merit much attention from Web sites’ sales staffs.

The company’s executives say they will use the funds to fuel global expansion and to beef up their domestic infrastructure.

“The global markets themselves are very interesting to us, because of our engine, which is fully automated and self-service, so the smaller sites have a much better usage for our system,” said company president and chief executive officer Albert Lopez. “And outside the country, the sites are prefect for AdFlight’s platform.”

Under the guidance of WorldView Technology Partners, which is primarily geared to help its companies expand internationally, AdFlight plans to soon begin offering services in Japan and mainland Asia, a region that is expected to experience a jump in Web advertising revenue within the next five years.

One estimate by Lehman Brothers puts online ad revenues in Asia at $5.4 billion in 2005, up from $344 million currently.

AdFlight will also be targeting northern Europe in its plans for expansion. Lopez declined to comment on specifics of either initiative.

“We are breaking down barriers with an efficient and accessible marketplace that democratizes Internet advertising for businesses of all sizes,” he said.

The funding will also allow the company to bolster its domestic ad-serving infrastructure.

“One of the things that has happened, we’ve been so successful that we’re serving a lot of ads, about a billion a month,” Lopez said. “Just cranking it up to make sure everyone gets the response time they deserve, to make sure capacity levels are above needs of the market.”

AdFlight currently has about 2,500 publishers and 1,000 advertisers using its system.

“We’re showing significant growth in the number of advertisers and expect even more traction as we ramp up our marketing campaign,” said Steve Fioretti, AdFlight vice president of marketing.

Additionally, the company said its revenues have grown by more than 230 percent since January 2000, and Lopez said he expects to attain profitability in the second half of 2001.

That might be tough, however, in the face of some well-financed, well-known competitors.

In addition to ad rep and network companies’ outright competition for ad sales, large portal plays like MSN increasingly are adopting the self-service sales and serving model, to entice and service smaller advertisers with a minimum of sales force effort.

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