By Elissa Gilbert
Information wants to be free, the saying goes, and sharing online happens automatically many times. Sometimes that sharing is unintentional or undesirable. For businesses, customer information is usually tightly held—but on websites, that control is lost.
Every website has third party “tags” embedded in pages to present advertising, to produce analytics, and for other reasons. Because they are part of the page, the third parties have access to the audience info. Once they have that access, they can do what they want with it. Sometimes they even sell it to competitors.
Mezzobit helps companies regain control of the data shared with their website partners. Joe Galarneau, CEO of Mezzobit, described it as a “firewall for audience data.”
Like many Internet companies, they started with a freebie. The company came out two years ago with a product they gave away, helping companies manage their tags. There are nearly a thousand companies using their tag management system now, plus several hundred working on deploying the paid firewall product.
Having the firewall in place changes the way publishers can interact with the third party partners on their sites. As Galarneau puts it, the presumption ’til now has been that when third parties put code on a website, there’s no accountability. Using Mezzobit lets companies see what the third parties are doing. “We’re really helping enterprises to manage their data relationships with an eye towards optimizing retaining the value around that,” he said.
The analogy he uses is that companies invest tremendous effort putting financial controls in place to protect their cash, and audience data is nearly as valuable as cash. When companies have the knowledge and controls Mezzobit provides, it changes the power dynamic in negotiations with partners, providing companies with additional information and leverage.
The company’s based in New York City, with business operations here, but most of the engineering team is in Krakow, Poland. The reasons are pragmatic. “In startup land, there’s a lot of competition for a very small, very in-demand labor pool, and we want to get as far as we can with the capital entrusted to us.”
The company’s using cutting edge technology and in Krakow, the company is able to get access to the best talent, but “it’s a lot harder to cut through the clutter in New York.”
The work in Krakow isn’t outsourced; they’re employees, and Mezzobit also sees the European presence as giving them a leg up in gaining overseas customers. They’ll be adding some tech staff in New York as some specific skills are harder to find in Poland.
The tech skills needed mostly have to do with Big Data. They see up to 15 trillion data events per month per customer, so “the challenge for us has been to architect a system that would be able to scale at that level,” Galarneau said. They make heavy use of technologies from Amazon and Rackspace, among others, and Galarneau was previously on Amazon’s global customer advisory board for cloud computing.
“We’re really trying to use a confluence of the latest open source technologies, big data technologies, cloud technologies, and trying to push some of those past some limits,” he said. “It attracts a certain kind of engineer to us.”
He thinks New York’s tech industry has grown tremendously since 2008 or 2009, and the infrastructure and engineering talent here has really developed now, with a critical mass established recently. When comparing Silicon Alley to Silicon Valley, Galarneau said, “In the east coast, most of the companies here tend to be fairly pragmatic on solving problems; out west they tend to be a bit more tilted towards cool technology.” With New York having fashion, finance, and media here, those are force multipliers for applying technology to solving cool problems.