SXSW Startups: Instreamatic

The Forrest Four-Cast: January 29, 2018

Hugh Forrest
Jan 29, 2018 · 5 min read

The 2018 SXSW Accelerator Pitch Event has selected 50 startups in 10 categories to show off their skills on March 10 and 11. Winners in each category will be honored at the Accelerator Award Ceremony at 7 pm Sunday, March 11 at the Hilton Austin. The SXSW Accelerator Pitch Event takes place within the Startup & Tech Sectors track of programming.

A finalist in the Entertainment and Content Technology category, is an AI-powered platform for voice-activated advertising. Started as a digital audio ad network in 2014, the San Francisco company grew to become the leading monetization platform for the voice era. provides audio publishers with tools to monetize their ad inventory with highly engaging voice-activated ads. They will pitch at 11:30 am on March 11 in Salon AB at the Hilton Austin.

CEO and Co-Founder Stas Tushinskiy (pictured above) provided answers for our questions about

Would you give me a use case of your technology?
Imagine you are listening to radio or a podcast and if there is an audio ad for a product, you can say, “I’m interested, tell me more,” and our technology will provide you with additional offer details. Or you can ask to buy it, be reminded about it later, request a test drive, connect to customer service, etc.
These ads provide better UX as users can engage with them and even skip them using their voice and content publishers get 4X higher CPM comparing to traditional audio ads. Voice-activated ads allow advertisers to serve performance-focused ads in audio for the first time.

What inspired your team to apply for SXSW Accelerator?
SXSW is the largest and best-attended convention around entertainment, technology, music, video and marketing — and our product builds bridges across these industries. So, for us, it’s the ideal event to present ourselves.

What are’s goals for 2018?
To make audio ads more fun and more intelligent. We live in a world of short tweets, multi-tasking and we are always on the go. There is no place for the old, long communication formats. We are working hard to introduce short and engaging voice-activated ads on major markets globally in 2018.

What is your competitive advantage?
We are the only company on the market providing a full technology stack to serve voice-activated ads right now. Our clients can boost their ad revenue at least 4X with just a couple of hours of integration — that’s it. And the space is so hot now that we have a long line of advertisers and ad agencies ready to buy voice-activated ads. Our main challenge is to source supply to meet overwhelmingly high demand. is based in San Francisco. What would outsiders be surprised to learn about the San Francisco startup ecosystem?
There is so much information about Silicon Valley out there that it makes it so hard to surprise people with anything new. However, there is one thing that keeps me surprised every day. The Silicon Valley also has a real countryside feel. Fifteen minutes and you can get lost wandering in the hills surrounded by deer, snakes and hawks. Or you can enjoy a glass of great wine at one of the historical wineries. It’s really an amazing experience to be able to create the future at your place of work and yet enjoy the simpler times on the weekends.

How long has the team been together?
Instreamatic’s founder team been together for over four years. has its roots in one of Europe’s music streaming services. We understood first-hand that audio advertising was the niche with the biggest growth potential among all ad segments. The big five adtech players do not have a dominant presence in the audio space like they have in the video. The challenge for us, however, was to make audio content suitable for performance marketing. We believe we found the right solution.

What technology does your team think is most overrated at present?
VR. It’s still too early for mass adoption. There are two major reasons that nobody’s talking about. The first one is the need of a personal assistant. Every time they offer you to try out a VR headset you’re provided with an assistant to watch so you don’t fall and break your neck. There is no assistant to hold your arm at home. The second thing is the time needed to start VR. It is too long to fit VR into small breaks during the day. Compare one second of unlocking your phone to several minutes of going VR. So when your friend sends you a video with kittens there is no way you are going to watch it on a VR device. And kittens are the mainstream.

What trend does your team think is most underrated at present?
Even though voice is the third big wave of the internet evolution (following browser and mobile), not so many people are talking about it and developing products around it. In the meantime, consumers are adopting this technology at an incredible pace.

What has the startup experience taught you about life?
Three things: keep going no matter what, learn to separate signal from the noise, and be a reliable person people can trust.

Person, company, thing or goal. What inspires your team to work harder?
We are all excited about the idea of making users’ ad-related experience much better and at the same time solving major pain points for content publishers, while providing ad buyers with great opportunities outside of the two major outlets monopoly.

You can invite any three living people from anywhere in the world to dinner. Who do you invite and why?
The first would be Artemy Lebedev, who is founder of the biggest design studio in the world. He’s one of the few people who visited all the countries in the world, and he is an author of one the most interesting and inspiring blogs. I’d also invite Dr. Dre. For me, he is a symbol of a person coming from the bottom to becoming a man breaking one record after another over and over again. My third guest would be Lewis Hamilton, the four-time Formula 1 champion. Lewis is about to become the next Michael Schumacher. And he is so much different from all the other drivers. Lewis lives his life to the fullest, participating in all kind of events, making music, popping up at fashion shows, etc. At the same time he’s one of the greatest on the track — and he does that in a way that it makes it seem very easy.

Look for interviews with other SXSW Accelerator finalists in this space between now and March. Startups already profiled as part of this series include 70MillionJobs, Bluefield, Cambridge Cancer Genomics, HealthTensor, PolyPort, and UPGRADED.

Hugh Forrest serves as Chief Programming Officer at SXSW, the world’s most unique gathering of creative professionals. He also tries to write at least four paragraphs per day on Medium. These posts often cover tech-related trends; other times they focus on books, pop culture, sports and other current events.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store