Raleigh-Based Reveal Mobile Earns Spot on Startup to Watch List (Again)

By Chris Clancy

It isn’t often that a tech startup wins a “one to watch” award two out of three years, but that’s exactly what Raleigh, North Carolina-based Reveal Mobile achieved. Earlier this month, the North Carolina Technology Association awarded Reveal Mobile with its “Top Ten Startups to Watch” award for the second time. Reveal Mobile CEO Brian Handly, has a theory.

Reveal Mobile CEO Brian Handly

“The first year [2015], we were literally just starting,” Handly says. “We were more of an idea than a reality, and we got the award I think more for the promise that we showed. Then we spent a year building, and it wasn’t until this year that we’ve experienced really rapid growth.”

Indeed, Reveal Mobile certainly has been watch-worthy over the past year, with 45 percent month-to-month growth since January. The company is up to 12 full-time employees and counting.

What’s interesting about this rate of growth is that it’s happened via helping other companies grow: Reveal’s highly refined mobile location analytics platform enables brands, media companies, advertising agencies and mobile app publishers to reach target audience segments.

For instance, Reveal Mobile’s data can enable, say, a pizza restaurant to find more pizza lovers by seeking out which mobile devices have in the past month visited one of their restaurants — or, for that matter, a competitor. Advertisers can then target these mobile device users on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

Not only does Reveal root out these targeted audience segments, it helps clients understand and leverage the data for its own advertising purposes, thanks to a user interface that it provides.

“We can infer a lot about demographics from location data,” Handly says. “We can look at things and say, ‘Hey, this mobile device likely lives in this zip [code]’ and then we can infer certain attributes from the Census Bureau. It’s not a perfect match, but it’s pretty close.”

Counting how many mobile devices have been inside a certain pizza joint is all on the up-and-up, but questions about consumer privacy often surround Reveal Mobile’s business model. Last summer, the company suffered a PR black eye when some high-profile players in tech media — Fast Company and engagdget.com among them — reported that media company and mobile app publisher AccuWeather may have been sharing its users’ location information with Reveal, even after those AccuWeather users opted out of sharing location data.

Since then, Reveal has been working to clear its name, updating its software so that zero data is transmitted when a user opts out of location sharing. Also, Reveal Mobile recently joined the Future of Privacy Forum, a consumer privacy trade group dedicated to advancing principled data practices among emerging technologies.

“I think privacy is a never-ending issue you have to keep on top of,” Handly says. “I don’t think we’ll ever be done addressing privacy. It’s an ongoing initiative for us, to make sure we’re on the right side.

“Winning the Startup to Watch award certainly builds our credibility,” the Reveal Mobile CEO adds. “Nationally, it’s not a huge deal, but every bit of recognition we can get is valuable.”