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Imitation Game: Example of Retargeted Ads

I wanted to watch Imitation Game this week. I used Google to search (on desktop) for movie timings and reviews. I might have visited couple of sites to check out reviews and I checked out movie timings using Google's movie widget/carousel in search results. However, I didn't complete my ticket purchase. Later in the afternoon I was checking my Facebook on my phone and I got Imitation Game's trailer as "sponsored story".

Facebook Re-Targeting
Facebook Re-Targeting

I think digital advertising as a medium is finally maturing and we are seeing relevant ads that make sense. This example also highlights the power of cross-channel and multi-device targeting. This brings up the point -

How come Facebook knew that I was interested in Imitation Game?

1. I visited bunch of sites to check out reviews of Imitation Game on my desktop browser. One of these websites might have partnered with retargeting tools. These retargeting tools "cookied" me. Being cookied in this context means retargeting tools placed an anonymous cookie, which is nothing but small snippet of information that just makes note that I visited said website/product page.

2.  The aforementioned tools have partnered with Facebook Exchange (FBX) and they alerted FBX that I was interested in Imitation Game.

3. I opened Facebook app on my phone and Facebook remembered that I was interested in Imitation Game. At the same time, marketing teams responsible for Imitation Game were running campaigns to promote movie using Facebook's newsfeed ads. Hence I received an ad about the movie.

I'm sure your first thought must be "yikes this feels like stalking". Let me tell you, there is absolutely zero human intervention in this process. All the exchange was anonymous. Privacy concerns are taken seriously by all the retargeting companies and lot of lawmakers across the world are figuring out laws/regulations that will allay privacy fears. However, if you prefer not to be "cookied" then you can disable cookies that track your preferences in your browser (e.g. in Firefox).

It also feels like playing the "imitation game" since marketers are  trying to figure out what what ads are most relevant to you. I personally prefer relevant ads when compared to random junk ads.

Image Credit: Official Imitation Game Website

Should you move to San Francisco to build your startup?

Recently, TechCrunch published an article about moving to Silicon Valley. Author Sten Tamkivi's  advice essentially boils down to:

Startups with global ambitions need to accept that there is no single best place in the world to win, not even the almighty Silicon Valley. If you learn this early on you have the advantage of building your culture, your processes and systems to be able to handle the fluid, distributed and mobile work to come.

I do not agree completely. As an outsider who came Bay Area during last decade, I should say this - Bay Area remains the best place to build technology startup at the moment. High cost of living, competition for talent etc. are secondary issues. In return, you get unparalleled access to capital, talent, and other resources related to entrepreneurship.

However, I generally advise NOT moving to SF if you aren't part of any established networks in the valley. Silicon Valley is giant network of several networks. To be successful in the Silicon Valley you need to be part of at least one of those networks. I often see lot of people making mistakes of moving to Bay Area thinking it will magically transform their business into successful one. What do I mean by being part of the networks?

1. Alumni Networks - You graduated from elite schools/universities like Stanford, UC Berkeley, MIT, and Harvard. Lot of alumni of aforementioned schools have created lots of successful startups. And number of VCs have graduated from these schools. So it's relatively easy to get started, receive funding, and eventually scaling.

2. Mafia Networks - Mafia not in a literal sense. Mafia in valley parlance means being part of PayPal Mafia, Facebook Mafia, Google Mafia or pre-IPO employee of any successful unicorn of last 2 decades.

3. Accelerator Networks - Accelerators like Y Combinator, Techstars, AngelPad etc. not only provide funding but also place you in the network of investors, founders and startups.

If you have already started your startup and thinking about moving to valley and aren't part of any of these networks then traction is your best friend. Hockey stick graph is the social currency in the valley.

P.S. It goes without saying but if you are building - a. non-tech company or b. addressing specific geo-location market (like Asia) via your offering then don't even think of moving to SF.

Note: I cross-posted this as an comment on Quibb.