Antler Australia

Antler Investor Memo Series: Adtech startup MADU monetises visual content in a post-cookies publishing

- March 30, 2023 3 MIN READ
MADU co-founders Hendricus (Rick) Willem and Ben Huang

Early stage investment company Antler Australia recently backed a new cohort of startups as part of its ongoing program to build great local tech companies.

Startup Daily is sharing the details of each venture in the “Antler Investor Memos” series, which is designed to give you a quick,  sharp understanding of the startups and people involved, with many seeking follow up capital following Antler’s initial pre-seed investment.

Company name: MADU 

Formation date: 2022

Stage of business: Pre-Seed

Founders: Hendricus (Rick) Willem and Ben Huang

Current investors: Antler

Currently raising: No

Description of business

Coined the “death of third-party cookies”, digital advertisers and publishers will no longer be able to rely on 

cookies to track online user data by the end of next year. In response to increasing consumer privacy concerns, global technology behemoths, including Google, Apple and Mozilla Firefox, are phasing out third-party cookies on their platforms.

As ad spending in the global digital advertising market is projected to reach over US$700 billion this year, the industry is readying for the aftermath.

Powered by AI, adtech startup MADU helps publishers monetise their visual content in a cookie-less world by turning every photo on their website into a revenue-generating opportunity.

The platform automatically scans publishers’ images through its Product Recognition Engine, identifying relevant products and creating affiliate links.

In doing so, it then displays intuitive digital ads for users to instantly “shop the look,” all while an affiliate commission is paid by retailers and shared between the publisher and MADU. 

As publishers focus on revenue diversification in response to sinking advertising budgets, heightened competition, and the evolving consumer privacy regulation landscape, MADU enables publishers to turn their existing content into additional revenue streams without collecting personal consumer data. 

With over 17 years of experience in the publishing industry, co-founders Hendricus Willem and Ben Huang are deeply familiar with the revenue challenges facing publishers, licensing fee hurdles facing photo agencies, and dwindling budgets facing advertisers.

MADU is founded on the belief that a publisher’s visual content holds an endless amount of value, yet this is often left untapped, until now.

Antler investment thesis

“MADU simultaneously solves two challenges: enabling publishers to monetise their visual content while abiding by consumer privacy regulations, all while enriching consumers’ online browsing experience with the ability to instantly buy products at the point of inspiration,” said Jake Booker, Associate Partner at Antler Australia.

“The ever-evolving digital publishing industry must constantly adapt to changing market conditions, consumer demands, advertiser budgets, and regulation, to remain profitable. Our conviction in MADU stems from Hendricus and Ben’s unwavering focus on unlocking new revenue streams with untapped opportunities from publishers’ own content.”

Traction/ milestones, to date

In less than 4 months since receiving Antler’s Pre-Seed investment, MADU has developed and released its automated ad tech platform to the market.

Several publisher clients have signed up to implement the system and there is a pipeline of industry-leading publisher clients interested in the solution.

Beyond product development and optimisation, MADU has secured numerous partnerships with affiliate networks including Skimlinks, Awin and CommissionFactory providing access to inventories with over 6,500 fashion merchants globally.

Latest funding

Pre-Seed from Antler

Use of funds

With Antler’s initial investment, MADU has accelerated the development of its automated solution and Product Recognition Engine.

As it continues to focus on product optimisation, MADU is preparing several integration features for affiliate and publishing partners to simplify the implementation of its product, provide customised offerings, and accelerate its adoption. 

The founders say:

“With the stricter privacy regulation and disappearance of third-party cookies, a new era of B2C online advertising is being created as we speak. Our solution is one of the frontrunners in this new market as we can help consumers with something they’ve always wanted: shop instantly at the point of inspiration,” said Hendricus “Rick” Willem, cofounder of MADU.

“While other advertisement solutions lean heavily on cookies and third-party data, MADU is establishing a new standard for online advertising in the cookie-less era. 

“We aim to transform the entire online visual landscape into a shoppable one, enabling consumers to purchase any product they see and love instantly, a capability that was once a distant dream but is now turned into a reality. 

“The coaching from Antler throughout our journey so far has been of massive value. Antler helped us find the pain points within our initial solution when we first joined their cohort. They coached us throughout our journey while making sure that we made all the right decisions independently.

“Antler points you in the right direction but doesn’t hold your hand, which as a start-up, is great and is a valuable way to work with your VC investor.”

What’s next?

Antler, a global early-stage VC, is revealing all its latest investments made in ambitious Australian founders and startups. With 100 investments in early-stage companies, MADU is one of its most recent portfolio companies. 

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