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Unilever Foundry Selects 50 Social Impact, Retail Innovation, Marketing Tech Startups

Image credit: Unilever Foundry

Following a competitive search for the world’s top 50 marketing technology startups, Unilever announced its 2016 Foundry 50 on June 8th. Selected from 4,500 startups Unilever has reviewed over the past two years, the finalists are distributed across five innovation areas: Brand and Content Innovation; Data, Insights and Personalization; Engaging Millennials; Social Impact; and the Future of Retail.

Technology developed by the startups will be available to demo at the Foundry 50 Innovation Hub at Lions Innovation in Cannes from June 21 to 23. Delegates will have the opportunity to experience the startup technology in the same context as consumers would in the ‘interactive zone.’ Startups such as Pavegen, a company creating footfall powered energy, Proximus, the team behind new in-store customer tracking technology, and LISNR, an app that responds to smart tones to unlock additional audio content, will be showcased at the event.

“We are delighted to be selected as part of this year’s Foundry 50,” said Laurence Kemball-Cook, Founder of Pavegen. “The access and networking opportunities that we will have as part of the Foundry 50 are beyond what we could achieve on our own. We’re excited to get out to Lions Innovation showcase our Pavegen technology and accelerate our business.”

Sessions on each of the five innovation areas will “take the form of a reverse pitch,” according to Ad Age, and will involve participation from Unilever brands.

The finalists were chosen by a panel of experts, including Brent Hoberman, co-founder of travel site Lastminute.com; Rob Dembitz, the head of Lions Innovation; Jo Jenkins, the Creative Director at marketing firm Karmarama; Olivier Garel, the head of Unilever Ventures; and Aline Santos, Senior VP of Global Marketing at Unilever.

“What we tried to do this year was the same but better,” Santos told Ad Age. “Now we have a very clear brief in terms of the territories we want the startups to play with.”

She added that so far, the Foundry program has allowed some 100 tech startups to connect with Unilever’s brands through pilot programs, about half of which have led to further work. Brand campaigns with Foundry startups have seen above-average engagement with consumers, and about two-thirds of the brands that have engaged with Foundry startups have seen increased revenues as a result.

Of the 49 finalists (one company needed to drop out), about half are headquartered in the UK, 16 in the US, and 5 in other developed markets, while 8 are based in developing markets: 2 each in India, Singapore and Brazil; and 1 each in Thailand and Turkey. The full list of includes:

Brand and Content Innovation

  • Goopi (UK) – cloud-based video ad creation;
  • People.io (UK) – people earn prizes by sharing data and viewing content;
  • Styla (Germany) – technology enabling e-commerce from content;
  • Landmrk (UK) – enables placement of content into physical locations;
  • Duel (UK) – runs fully-automated photo contests;
  • Mirriad (UK, US, India, Brazil) – makes brand integrations into scalable ad units;
  • Rattle Technology Ltd (UK) – augmented reality for brands;
  • Those (UK) – Woodpecker drawing system to bring surfaces to life;
  • Kino-mo (UK) – futuristic ad display such as bikes that play video; and
  • Klip (US) – branded content, video and experiential design.

Data, Insights and Personalization

  • The Big Sofa (UK) – makes video content easier to search, analyze and use;
  • Mesh 01 (US) – global network of designers and product testers;
  • Unacast (Norway) – world’s largest proximity sensor network for ad targeting;
  • Mavrck (US) – word-of-mouth marketing through micro-influencers;
  • Sampler (US) – distributes consumer packaged goods (CPG) samples through social and digital media;
  • WeSeeThrough (UK) – uses wearables to help brands see through eyes of consumers;
  • Blismedia (UK) – location data and behavioral insights;
  • Codec (UK) – artificial intelligence for content marketing;
  • Pineapple Lounge (UK) – research on kids, teens and families; and
  • Poshly (US) – get products from brands by answering questions.

Engaging Millennials

  • Visionteractive (Turkey) - Digital experiences using custom robotics;
  • 8 TV (US) - Makes it easy to create shoppable TV-style shows;
  • SoPost (UK) - Helps brands drive product sampling online;
  • ViralGains (US) - Video distribution and analytics based on consumer choice;
  • SailPlay (US) - Marketing automation platform for B2C programs;
  • Zeotap (Germany) - Helps telecoms unlock data with privacy-by-design technology;
  • Naritiv (US) - Creates vertical content for Snapchat;
  • Playbasis (Thailand) - Engagement and gamification to motivate Gen-Yers;
  • Jebbit (US) - Optimizes brand content through personalization; and
  • Crowdly (US) – brand advocate marketing platform.

Social Impact

  • The Girls Lounge (US) – girl-focused, men-inclusive lounges at trade shows;
  • Gander (UK) – live feed app for local savings;
  • Next Billion (Singapore) – reaches emerging market consumers through mobile;
  • Neighbourly (UK) – connects community projects with donors;
  • We Farm (UK) – helps farmers globally to share information, even without internet;
  • Inkpact (UK) – send personalized, handwritten notes electronically;
  • Pavegen (UK) – smart flooring that turns steps into electric power;
  • Do Nation (UK) – make pledges or start drives to change behavior; and
  • Bliive (Brazil) – network that lets users exchange time and skills.

Future of Retail

  • Streetlike Ltd (UK) – app-less reward program through in-store digital signage;
  • Proximus (UK, Spain) – data analytics company that tracks in-store behavior;
  • LISNR (US) – activates experiences on mobile devices via smart tones;
  • Trax Image Recognition (Singapore) – uses image recognition to track in-store performance;
  • Loyyal (US) – universal loyalty and rewards platform;
  • Constant Commerce (UK) – makes print, digital and broadcast content shoppable;
  • Elevaate (UK) – platform for trade-funded e-commerce programs;
  • Streetbees (UK) – pays consumer “Smartbees” for collecting in-store information;
  • Skip (US) – uses RFID to scan tags as you shop, for instant checkout; and
  • Shortlyst/Shopalyst (India) – universal shopping cart across retailers and apps.

Last year at Cannes, Unilever Foundry also launched its IDEAS platform, which acts as a hub for consumers and entrepreneurs to work together to tackle sustainability challenges — in September, winning ideas were chosen for the first three challenges: improving access to sanitation, improving global nutrition, and imagining the shower of the future.


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