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Ad-tech and mar-tech acquisitions could slow down in 2019

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From AT&T’s blockbuster deal to acquire Time Warner and AppNexus to Adobe’s $4.75 billion bet on Marketo, 2018 was a big year for advertising and marketing-tech deals.

For years, venture capital firms and acquirers have chased “mad-tech” companies with the goal of loosening Facebook and Google’s chokehold on digital advertising. Meanwhile, Amazon has emerged as a new threat to both the duopoly and smaller ad-tech companies.

This year produced some big deals. For example:

Facebook, Google and Amazon loomed over such deals. According to eMarketer, Facebook and Google controlled 56.8% of US digital ad dollars this year while Amazon will take 2.7%. Google has its tentacles deep into ad tech, powering and managing the data from ads served on millions of websites.

Read more: ‘The industry is looking for alternatives to the duopoly’: Here are the winners and losers of AT&T’s acquisition of AppNexus

Ad-tech firms need to prove that they can make money

Increasing pressure from the tech giants means that there could be less M&A activity in 2019, Jay MacDonald, CEO of the investment bank Digital Capital Advisors, told Business Insider.

Meanwhile, investors are concerned with ad-tech companies’ profitability.

“Companies out of necessity and survival are going to need to get profitable. They’ve known that, but now they’re really starting to work on it,” he said. “The ad markets tend to be fickle — they like the shiny, new object. If you’re not profitable, you’re no longer the new, shiny object.”

There’s a glut of companies who do the same thing

MacDonald said a growing number of ad-tech and mar-tech firms are vying to solve the same problem, making it hard for ad-tech firms to build bigger businesses. Take mobile marketing. A group of location-based companies like Verve, GroundTruth and PlaceIQ have long pitched their data to marketers as a way to better target ads, but these companies struggle to build big-enough audiences to attract advertisers.

Competition is stiff in programmatic advertising, too, where a growing number of vendors are vying for the same commoditized display ad impression. Companies like MediaMath and The Trade Desk have started to pitch technology like artificial intelligence and roots in connected TV advertising to set themselves apart.

Both OpenX and MediaMath went through leadership restructuring and layoffs this year.

“There’s too many lookalike companies that are not the dominant player in their vertical,” MacDonald said.

The growth in lookalike companies has led ad-tech firms to be more transparent in how they package ad deals, said Nate Woodman, U.S. chief data officer at Havas Media. As more marketers scrutinize so-called ad-tech taxes, companies like MediaMath are starting to break down the costs involved in media for buyers, then bundle the ad deals with data costs.

“The last couple of years have shed a lot of light on the ad-tech tax, and I’m putting out next year as something dramatically being done about it,” he said. “The conversations with the data and media owners are turning more into bundling across technology, hardware, data and media and finding a combined price for all of that.”

Marketers are looking for less “off the shelf” tech

One advantage that independent ad-tech and mar-tech firms have over giants like Google and Adobe is the ability to customize tech stacks for brands.

Instead of pitching marketers on the same generic set of tools, ad-tech companies can build tech pipes that are specific to them, which can be a big selling point with brands.

That’s why Mac Delaney, SVP of media investment and innovation at Merkle, believes that marketers will lean harder on smaller ad-tech firms in 2019.

“Marketers will centralize on one platform for a much longer period of time, maybe forever, and that may not be [Google’s] DoubleClick Bid Manager all the time,” he said.

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More groups join in support of women in STEM program at Carleton

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OTTAWA — Major companies and government partners are lending their support to Carleton University’s newly established Women in Engineering and Information Technology Program.

The list of supporters includes Mississauga-based construction company EllisDon.

The latest to announce their support for the program also include BlackBerry QNX, CIRA (Canadian Internet Registration Authority), Ericsson, Nokia, Solace, Trend Micro, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, CGI, Gastops, Leonardo DRS, Lockheed Martin Canada, Amdocs and Ross.

The program is officially set to launch this September.

It is being led by Carleton’s Faculty of Engineering and Design with the goal of establishing meaningful partnerships in support of women in STEM.  

The program will host events for women students to build relationships with industry and government partners, create mentorship opportunities, as well as establish a special fund to support allies at Carleton in meeting equity, diversity and inclusion goals.

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VR tech to revolutionize commercial driver training

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Serious Labs seems to have found a way from tragedy to triumph? The Edmonton-based firm designs and manufactures virtual reality simulators to standardize training programs for operators of heavy equipment such as aerial lifts, cranes, forklifts, and commercial trucks. These simulators enable operators to acquire and practice operational skills for the job safety and efficiency in a risk-free virtual environment so they can work more safely and efficiently.

The 2018 Humboldt bus catastrophe sent shock waves across the industry. The tragedy highlighted the need for standardized commercial driver training and testing. It also contributed to the acceleration of the federal government implementing a Mandatory Entry-Level Training (MELT) program for Class 1 & 2 drivers currently being adopted across Canada. MELT is a much more rigorous standard that promotes safety and in-depth practice for new drivers.

Enter Serious Labs. By proposing to harness the power of virtual reality (VR), Serious Labs has earned considerable funding to develop a VR commercial truck driving simulator.

The Government of Alberta has awarded $1 million, and Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA) is contributing an additional $2 million for the simulator development. Commercial deployment is estimated to begin in 2024, with the simulator to be made available across Canada and the United States, and with the Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) helping to provide simulator tests to certify that driver trainees have attained the appropriate standard. West Tech Report recently took the opportunity to chat with Serious Labs CEO, Jim Colvin, about the environmental and labour benefits of VR Driver Training, as well as the unique way that Colvin went from angel investor to CEO of the company.

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Next-Gen Tech Company Pops on New Cover Detection Test

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While the world comes out of the initial stages of the pandemic, COVID-19 will be continue to be a threat for some time to come. Companies, such as Zen Graphene, are working on ways to detect the virus and its variants and are on the forefronts of technology.

Nanotechnology firm ZEN Graphene Solutions Ltd. (TSX-Venture:ZEN) (OTCPK:ZENYF), is working to develop technology to help detect the COVID-19 virus and its variants. The firm signed an exclusive agreement with McMaster University to be the global commercializing partner for a newly developed aptamer-based, SARS-CoV-2 rapid detection technology.

This patent-pending technology uses clinical samples from patients and was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The test is considered extremely accurate, scalable, saliva-based, affordable, and provides results in under 10 minutes.

Shares were trading up over 5% to $3.07 in early afternoon trade.

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