- The pandemic accelerated the adoption of cloud-based data analytics and e-commerce.
- Those trends have led a group of investors including Gary Vaynerchuk, Marc Lore and Kevin Durant to fund adtech data platform start-up Tracer.
- Lore sold online delivery start-up Jet.com to Walmart in 2016 for $3.3 billion and before that the parent company of Diapers.com to Amazon.
The pandemic forced more companies to migrate sales online and data analysis to the cloud, where they can tap computing resources without having to worry about managing infrastructure in their own data centers. The accelerated adoption of cloud services has attracted interest from investors who want to get in early on tech trends they expect will continue to grow in significance in a post-pandemic, increasingly digital, world.
Marc Lore and Gary Vaynerchuk are among the investors in a $10 million round of seed funding for data processing platform Tracer, which focuses on optimizing advertising and marketing spend for corporations, and was incubated and used as an in-house product for Vaynerchuk's media company VaynerMedia.
Vaynerchuk is known for his early bets on companies like Twitter, Uber, Snap and Coinbase. Equally significant is the backing of serial entrepreneur Lore, who sold his online delivery start-up Jet.com to Walmart in 2016 for $3.3 billion. Lore had previously sold another start-up that he founded, Quidsi, the parent of Diapers.com, to Amazon for about $550 million.
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Lore, who joined Walmart for several years after the big-box retailer acquired Jet.com, was seen by experts as a key part of the deal: a way for Walmart to bring the digitally savvy entrepreneur and his team in-house as it tried to turbocharge its online retail business to catch up to rival Amazon.
"I invested in Tracer because I know firsthand the power of data to drive business results," Lore told CNBC via email. "As more companies are challenged with how to manage data coming from multiple platforms — having a single source of truth to make better decisions will matter — especially coming out of Covid."
Competition for client data
Throughout the pandemic, competition has ramped up in the cloud database and analytics market, as well as adtech more broadly. Tracer is among those competitors, a marketing data aggregation and reporting platform that has integrations with some of the biggest cloud service vendors including Amazon, Microsoft and Google, as well as social networks like Facebook and Snap.
Tracer works by pulling in and making sense of all types of data — everything from customer IDs to revenue figures — visualizing a company's media spend across campaigns and platforms.
The software integrates with data visualization services like Salesforce-owned Tableau.
Co-founder Jeff Nicholson developed the technology in 2015 while managing budgets for VaynerMedia. Low on bandwidth and resources to crunch client data, he and Vaynerchuk, founder and CEO of VaynerMedia, built their own platform to help scale the company into the global advertising giant it's become over the last decade amid the rise of dominant digital ad platforms like Facebook and Google.
The company says its early funding will be used to expand and improve the technology and grow their engineering team. In addition to VaynerMedia, Tracer's current roster of clients includes Sanofi and Condé Nast.
"We created Tracer to solve a problem that we faced time and time again," said Tracer CEO Nicholson in a release announcing the deal. He also serves on advisory boards for Roku, Pinterest and Nextdoor. "We're excited that others have found such value in our platform and are eager to continue our growth with the help of Gary, Marc, Kevin and others."
NBA star Kevin Durant also is an investor in the deal.
Vaynerchuk has worked with Nicholson and co-founder Leighton Welch over the last six years while developing the product inside VaynerMedia's media department. "I invest in talented entrepreneurs and Jeff and Leighton are the epitome of this," said Vaynerchuk in the funding announcement. "I've also had the huge advantage of working so closely with them for so long."
Lore left his Walmart role in January and will serve as a strategic advisor through September. At the time, he told CNBC in an interview that he planned to return to his start-up roots, investing in new companies, and starting others.