San Diego Business Journal

Ever sought to read an article, only to be bogged down by obstructive ads? A Carlsbad-based startup is working to change that.

Ezoic is developing a platform to help digital publishers strike a balance between driving ad revenue and building an attractive website layout. So far, the startup has garnered more than 4,000 customers, which can range from grassroots blogs to large news organizations. Its users collectively draw more than 800 million visitors per month to their sites.

In early August, the company closed a $33 million funding round led by Sageview Capital, a Connecticut-based firm that focuses on growing middle-market tech companies. Ezoic plans to use the additional funds to grow its workforce in the next year, from 100 to roughly 200 employees. In February, the company moved into a new headquarters in Carlsbad to support its growth plans.

Even with its aggressive trajectory, the company has been turning a profit for the past few years.

Complexities of Digital Publishing

“The digital publishing space is becoming more and more complex. Before you published a website, that was basically it,” Ezoic CEO Dwayne LaFleur said. “Now you have to deal with security, different screen sizes, mobile versus desktop… The number of things the average publisher has to manage is growing.”

LaFleur was motivated to start the company after seeing a growing disparity in technology between advertisers and publishers.

“There were lots of investments and development in advertising, but not a lot to support publishers,” he said.

Ezoic uses machine learning to tailor publishers’ sites to each individual visitor’s preferences. It’s not so much targeting articles or ads to fit a reader’s interests, but rather adjusting a website’s layout to make it more visually appealing. For example, it might tweak the website’s font, how the menu works, or how the content is broken up.

“Most people have had that experience where they’re looking for information, had a bunch of ads slapped in their face, said no and clicked back,” LaFleur said. “If you can reduce those negative experiences and increase the likelihood of positive experiences, over time, that helps publishers grow.”

New Tools

In addition to growing Ezoic’s headcount, LaFleur said the company is also rolling out new tools for publishers. They include features to help publishers speed up their websites, improve the SEO of their content and get more information on their users.

“The biggest aspect of what we’re doing right now is scaling the platform,” LaFleur said. “There’s a lot of interesting data we can pull out for publishers that they can’t get anywhere else. ... We think we provide a really unique opportunity for publishers to do something with that data.”