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Chirantan Bhatt of TapCLIQ

Working for SAP in the global technology giant’s strategy group, Chirantan Bhatt served as one of the company’s many eyes toward the future. Bhatt spent some of his time analyzing the user experience related to smartphones and associated advertising and messaging.
But Bhatt’s a-ha moment didn’t come until his 4 year-old daughter was playing a game on a smartphone and she kept encountering pop-up ads coaxing her to buy something. Bhatt did not want her making purchases or allowing potential rogues learning about his daughter’s location. That’s when Bhatt thought there had to be a better way.

Bhatt went about teaming up with friends in Greater Philadelphia and his native India to develop a customer engagement platform that did not annoy the user, and that quickly got the attention of the Project Liberty Digital Incubator in Philadelphia.  Thus TapCLIQ was born, and now employs nine in Philadelphia and another 5 in India.

The company has taken funding from Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania as well as various angels, and has seen its platform help develop apps for philly.com and a major American university. The best part is the platform only uses five lines of code, so most any app can utilize TapCLIQ.

Why is TapCLIQ important?
There are millions of apps, and on average we have 100 apps on our phone, but barely use 10 every day. Usage of apps go down as time goes by. So how do you keep a customer engaged and keep them coming back? Do you know enough about them to come back to your app? That’s the problem, and that’s where we start with businesses.

How do you work with other companies?
This typically happens with a Chief Marketing Officer or a company’s marketing arena. Then we typically talk to their tech folks, where people are managing the app. Then finally comes the integration. No matter what, you can do it in a couple hours. We work with the business on the marketing and app operation and find out what info they want to learn about their users. You can have an ad posted permanently in a newspaper article or you can ask the user something in that article in an effort to learn more about the mobile user.  Then, because we are asking questions and have a combination of messaging, we can do a regular advertisement or a push message, for example. We have a lot of touch points based on how we can create a layer of data about users. We believe we have a few more data points than normal ad delivery groups, and it’s an opt-in system. We look for the right moment where we can think we can drive engagement. We call it the “ad moment.”
What are your thoughts about Project Liberty having successfully graduated from the program? 
It was an opportunity to get into a large publisher and that is very powerful. That was the starting point. I didn’t know a whole lot about Project Liberty then. We were part of the second and third classes. We wanted to prove everything we installed for them is making money so we wanted to continue with the third class. For me, Project Liberty has turned out to be successful. We’re not profitable yet,  but it was a very fruitful exercise. 

Project Liberty has matured quite a bit. They brought on an incubator manager in Cory Donovan and the profile of classes have changed. What probably frustrates some startups is that corporations prove everything before they do anything. It takes time. It is an exercise, not  just an a-ha moment. It doesn’t happen that quickly.

What’s your competition like?
Every space where someone puts money in that’s supposed to be hot, there will be competition. Advertising is a very broad term. There are very many narrow slivers in there. Mobile advertising is even narrower, but it’s one of the fastest growing. You can think of Google and Apple selling mobile ads. However, in my particular space, which is interactive advertising at certain moments, there are only a couple credible companies taking the right sets of data and targeting users in a nicer way. This is a new field we’re trying to evolve. That problem is why we’re in business. In North America, the average user of a mobile phone is on it 124 minutes, about 22 percent of your eyeball time every single day. Compared to TV, print, etc., mobile ad spending is 1 percent of total ad spending.  Therein lies the targeting of the right moment. You have to dish out a nicer user experience. It shouldn’t just be ads in the name of ads.

So how do you differentiate TapCLIQ?
Most competitors are more focused on gamification and giving points and things like that. They do target some moments but they’re mostly into gamers. We have targeted all moments across all apps. We have ephemeral ads that come up and go away. We’re trying to do more with less and come up with ads at the right moment and personalize them. We have a high focus on user experience, from the simple convenience of look and feel and when it goes away to having more contextual messages and more personalized messaging that’s more relevant to the user.
What’s next for TapCLIQ?
We are a software company and will keep building software. We’re excited to do a proper launch of our AdMoment solution as a project, and get out of beta by the end of summer, where people can buy individual ad moments. We are building  a business around ourselves so we’re getting more funding. Ben Franklin was a start. We’re still very much looking to raise north of $1 million. We’re looking for developers who have ad backgrounds and data scientists with ad experience in Philadelphia. On the business side we’re looking for qualified sales folks who can sell to large corporations. We aren’t taking small app developers. We’re focused on enterprise. We’re excited for AdMoments to come out. It will really help decipher the message in a small form that will be consumed, rather than an amorphous platform.

-- by Joe Petrucci

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