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Irish marketing firm Brandtone backed with €18.5m to engage one in ten households

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The funding round came courtesy of €12 million from American firm Ares Capital, while the other $6.5 million in equity came from existing shareholders Unilever, Sygenta, Verlinvest and Vision Private Equity.

Unilever, of course, has a keen focus on innovation through its Foundry arm of the business, which invested in a parenting startup in February and also launched a crowdsourced ideas initiative to generate ideas from creatives and designers.

In addition to furthering its mark on regions beyond its native Ireland, Brandtone had a goal of engaging with ten per cent of homes in the 20 fastest-growing developing and emerging markets by 2017.

Part of the company’s USP is that consumers are accessed in what Brandtone calls a “sustainable engagement” method that requires the user to start an interaction, then receiving a reward for doing so. Clients include PepsiCo, Carling and Dove.

The entire media engagement sector was disrupted in May when Shazam announced a plan to look beyond sound recognition to focus on image recognition, spelling trouble for existing players like Blippar.

Donald Fitzmaurice, founder and CEO at Brandtone, said: “We see this funding as a strong vote of confidence in the company. Ares’ decision to provide financing, along with further backing from existing investors, is an endorsement of the company’s vision and strategy for growth. The move from equity to debt financing is also evidence of Brandtone’s on-going transition from startup to grow-up.”

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The capital will enable Brandtone to “meet the needs of a rapidly evolving marketplace”, as the company plans to extend its mobile services to support clients working in healthcare and agriculturally produced foods.

The new round comes after Sygenta Ventures led a €14 million investment in 2014, which allowed Brandtone to open offices in New York and Jakarta.

At the time, Robert Berendes, Syngenta’s global head of business development, said: “Brandtone’s unique mobile solutions will help Syngenta meet the ambitious commitments outlined in our Good Growth Plan. This includes reaching 20 million smallholder farmers to help them increase their farming productivity by 50 per cent without further depleting scarce land, water and energy resources.”

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