The newspaper industry’s print model has hit a rough patch—its outdated pricing strategies continually fail to produce reliable revenue. And with local classifieds moving online, it’s easy to see why some small-town papers have folded.
“We’re trying to personalize classified ads,” he said. “We want it to be less intrusive and more and more about the presentation, so stuff finds you based on your interests.”
The startup’s app can live on any publisher’s site as an “adPortal,” which pulls in contextual data in order to serve targeted ads.
And publishers are interested.
“We’ve presented it to customers and they literally said ‘we’re salivating over this,’ ” Meng said. “It’s encouraging that you’ve built the right product for your customer.” Earlier this month, adFreeq classifieds began appearing (below) on the Columbia Missourian’s newspaper website.
What sets adFreeq apart from traditional web-based ad providers is the hyper-local, user-generated content. So if you’re reading an article about the St. Louis Cardinals’ opening day roster, adFreeq might serve up local offerings from folks selling tickets.
Meng got the idea about four years ago, when Twitter launched its search feature. He was fascinated with the potential of social and location-based ads. Two years later, Meng pitched adFreeq for the Missouri School of Journalism‘s Reynolds Fellowship.
Missouri gave him the go-ahead to start research in Fall 2011. “We were able to prove that the market validated it, that the customers wanted and needed it,” Meng said. “This wasn’t an idea that we were throwing up against the wall, hoping it would work.”
In Spring 2012 the startup finished its prototype, and earlier this year, adFreeq launched its first version.
The business’ success hinges on three users: publishers, sellers and buyers. Meng said adFreeq benefits the lot. Publishers want in because they get a cut—70 percent—of the posting fees. AdFreeq lets sites control parameters such as pricing and topic matter through embedded adPortals. Sellers get access to a specific market, and buyers get an aggregated, personalized feed of products, along with search and filtering features that help adFreeq outshine sites like Craigslist.
AdFreeq also aims to stand out with a Pinterest-like feature called adBoards, which lets users curate and share classifieds they’re interested in.
The U.S. branch is funded by a $50,000 investment from Capital Innovators—a St. Louis, Mo., startup accelerator—and Meng’s $80,000 fellowship. The startup last week added another $50,000 from St. Louis when it earned an Arch Grant. As a result, Meng said his company will add a sales office in the city.
In China, the government granted adFreeq $160,000, which was enhanced by an angel investor—they’re hoping to launch that version by month’s end.
AdFreeq plans to make that money back by taking 30 percent of each posting fee. Meng aims to get adPortals on 200 to 300 sites in the next 6 months, but noted that hooking bloggers could accelerate the process.
“If we build like we think we can and create a viral product that a lot of blogs will want to have, it’s going to be significant,” he said.
They’re also working to grow their network of providers; Meng’s goal is to have 10 million user and business ads within system by the end of the year.
adFreeq, a socially integrated classified ad system incubated at the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute, has been named one of the top 10 startup companies to watch in 2013 by Silicon Prairie News, a digital media company focused on highlighting and supporting entrepreneurs in the Midwest.Just in the past couple weeks, the adFreeq team announced the launch of its mobile system on the Columbia Missourian newspaper website, the opening of two new offices including one at a world-class technology incubator, as well the acceptance of a $50,000 grant [more].
BY JENNIFER NELSON ON MAY 7, 2013 Columbia, Mo.
Buyers and sellers can now place and view ads through a new socially integrated classified ad system on the Columbia Missourian’s newspaper website.The adFreeq, LLC development team is working with the daily newspaper as its initial public test site and will be expanding to other online newspaper and media publishers soon, said Peter Meng, adFreeq co-founder and chief executive officer.
Demo Day presents sampling of St. Louis IT pioneers
By David Baugher, special to the Beacon
4:01 pm on Thu, 05.09.13
When his slide clicker malfunctioned up on stage, Brian Kohlberg kept his cool. Afterward, he was philosophical.
“It was just one of those things I can’t control so I had to keep moving on and show the resilience of our company,” chuckled Kohlberg, founder of Manufacturers’ Inventory, an online marketplace for industrial and electrical components. “We’re going to hit some bumps in the road….we’ll still make it through.”
It’s a spirit of optimism that might describe not just Kohlberg’s enterprise but any of the 11 presenters who pitched to dozens of investors at Wednesday’s Demo Day, Capital Innovators’ annual showcase of local up-and-coming IT businesses on the start-up scene. Among those strutting their stuff in eight-minute presentations at the Pageant this year were an analytics service to help lawyers predict the actions of juries and judges, a concierge company that connects customers with caterers and an electronic platform to encourage fans to stream music from their favorite band.
“This is a bit of a graduation ceremony for the companies,” said Judy Sindecuse, CEO and managing partner of Capital Innovators. “It’s like their coming out party.”
St. Louis Business Journal
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The stage at The Pageant has hosted musical acts and performers of all kinds, but nobody was expecting much of a show Wednesday at the Capital Innovators Demo Day event.
After all, it was supposed to be the founders of startup tech companies giving their PowerPoint presentations in front an audience of investors.
The annual event served as a graduation ceremony for the 11 companies who received $50,000 in seed funds and went through the 12-week accelerator program.
But the business casual-clad crowd at The Pageant got a show nonetheless.
And it started with, out of all things, an accountant delivering an 80’s style rap about the companies.
We are pleased to announce that we have been invited to join the Missouri Innovation Center!
From their website:
Missouri Innovation Center works with innovators and entrepreneurs to translate research innovations into technologies, products, processes, and new ventures that benefit society.
The public and the private sectors share the risks inherent in the translation process – with public funds to the fore in the early research phase, and private and corporate capital coming into the picture to move innovations through the development process and into the marketplace.
When the process of commercializing technology is functioning well, quality jobs are created and economies and communities benefit. Life Science and Technology firms in particular have a large and positive impact on the economy and quality of life.
Communities that pursue technology-led economic development strategies employ three synergistic approaches: they license technologies to generate capital to intensify research and innovation; they create home-grown technology ventures; and they recruit technology companies to their region.
Missouri Innovation Center supports all three of these strategies by leveraging research and innovation by and with the University of Missouri for the benefit of the region and the state.
BY JENNIFER NELSON ON FEBRUARY 8, 2013
COLUMBIA, MO. — A new division of the socially integrated classified ad platform, adFreeq LLC, incubated at the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute (RJI) at the Missouri School of Journalism, is being developed for the Chinese market.
The new development has been made possible with the help of a 321.cn Economic Development grant from the Chinese government, valued at 1.25 million Yuan (approximately $200,000). The adFreeq development team has also raised 1 million Yuan (approximately $160,000) in matching funds through local investors in Nanjing, China. adFreeq.CN is expected to launch in early summer 2013.
adFreeq was recently selected as one of ten startups to watch here in the Silicone Prairie. Click the following link to see the article.
December 02, 2012 12:16 am • David Nicklaus email@example.com 314-340-82131
This region has many interesting startups, but only one of them has been touted as a savior of the newspaper industry. So, I had to meet Peter Meng.
His company, adFreeq, is based in Columbia, Mo., and has an office in downtown St. Louis. AdFreeq is backed by a journalism think tank, the University of Missouri’s Reynolds Journalism Institute, and the buzz was that its classified advertising software could rejuvenate newspapers.