Meet Iman Nahvi, Co-Founder and CEO of Advertima Vision

What inspired you to become an entrepreneur and what was the reason for you to found Advertima?

My father was self-employed in the taxi industry and has been a great role model. While I was studying banking and finance and working part-time in a Swiss bank, I realized quite quickly that I wanted to be on the other side of the table. After I finished uni, I badgered my father for 6 months to invest in an idea I had for a business; he finally agreed on the understanding that if it wasn’t working after a year, I’d go back to university.

I ended up running that company with my father for a couple of years, which helped me realize how much I loved entrepreneurship. I decided to return to uni, this time for a Master’s Degree in Entrepreneurship at St Gallen.

That’s where I learned what “start-up” and entrepreneurship mean, and I knew that I wanted to create a real start-up with global potential that would disrupt and change an industry. We were testing 5-6 different ideas, including Advertima. It was gaining good interest, and I realized that Advertima had a true place in the market with sound revenue potential.

Can you provide some background on how Advertima was founded and what motivated its establishment? How has the company evolved from back then till today?

 In 2016, we initiated a collaboration with Migros, Switzerland’s leading retailer, to develop scanless autonomous stores akin to AmazonGo. Over the next five years, as we delved into this complex technology, some of our clients began to adapt aspects of this technology for a simpler application: enhancing Digital Signage and Digital-Out-Of-Home (DOOH) advertising. They leveraged real-time shopper insights to introduce dynamic targeting and measurement capabilities to digital signage, making it smarter and more responsive.

By 2021, it became apparent that the widespread adoption of scanless autonomous stores would face significant hurdles for several years. Consequently, we pivoted our focus towards the Retail Media domain. This shift allowed us to scale our technology rapidly across thousands of stores, capitalizing on timely market opportunities.

We’re now a team of 35 people based in several European countries, proudly offering the most sophisticated In-store Retail Media technology available on the global market.

Advertima converts physical grocery stores into a revenue-generating Retail Media channel. Could you share insights into Advertima’s product, technology and how it enhances the in-store shopping experience for customers?

In recent years, retailers have successfully transformed into media owners by selling advertising on their digital and online platforms. Leveraging advanced advertising technology and exclusive, highly valuable data – such as insights from loyalty programs and checkout transactions – means that retailers can offer media products that other categories simply can’t match. However, this disruptive shift in the media landscape has predominantly focused on online channels, which cater to less than 20% of shoppers.

With over 80% of shoppers still preferring to shop in-store, there’s a significant opportunity in physical retail spaces.

Advertima Audience AI supports retailers and their Retail Media departments to replicate the success of online Retail Media in their physical retail environments and significantly increase their high-margin Retail Media revenue streams.

Our In-store Retail Media solution uses 3D computer vision and AI technology installed into existing digital screens within retail locations such as grocery stores and shopping malls. We capture, segment and combine anonymized in-store shopper attributes with existing retailer data, and deliver real-time shopper addressability plus audience and sales performance measurement to the in-store media channel.

By leveraging real-time data and insights, advertisers can deliver extremely relevant content to their target audiences. Campaigns tailored to specific audiences are more likely to resonate with those shoppers, leading to a better in-store experience and increased engagement.

Can you please tell us about the role of data analytics and artificial intelligence in Advertima’s solutions? How do these technologies contribute to the company’s or customer’s success?

At Advertima, data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) are pivotal in driving innovation and success for both our company and our customers. These technologies underpin every facet of our solutions – from product development to offering bespoke solutions in physical retail environments – where real-time shopper or audience data isn’t inherently available like it is online.

Audience Capturing with Computer Vision: Our journey begins with “Audience Capturing,” a critical process that leverages computer vision, an AI technology, to bridge the gap in physical retail spaces. Unlike online channels, where user data is readily accessible, physical retail environments require us to actively generate this data. Through real-time, edge-based analysis of visual data, we anonymously detect and track shoppers. We then enrich that data with attributes such as age, gender, and group composition – imagine identifying a young family with two children. This process is foundational and 100% GDPR compliant, enabling scalable in-store audience segmentation and activation.

Audience Activation through Shopper Movement Predictions: The next pivotal step is “Audience Activation,” where AI plays a crucial role in predicting shopper movements. The core challenge we address is predicting where shoppers will be in the next few seconds, key for deciding the most effective placement for digital screen ads. Since digital out-of-home (DOOH) ads typically last 10 seconds, it’s essential to predict who will be in front of the screen during this window. This involves complex walking path predictions and sophisticated models to accurately forecast screen engagement, ensuring that content is seen by the intended audience segment.

AI-driven Campaign Reach Estimation and Forecasting: Our use of AI extends to long-term campaign reach estimates and forecasts. Leveraging historical data, we predict the potential reach of a campaign within specific audience segments across various screens and stores. This forecasting is vital for media sales, allowing for precise planning and optimization of advertising efforts.

In short, data analytics and AI are not merely tools in our arsenal; they are the backbone of our solution suite, enabling us to offer unmatched value in the physical retail space.

Are there any partnerships or alliances that have contributed to Advertima’s growth?

Partnerships are fundamental to Advertima’s growth, enabling us to seamlessly integrate our smart data layer into the retail media tech ecosystem. A key partnership that catalyzed our market entry was with Grassfish, Europe’s leading Digital Signage CMS. This collaboration began with an entrepreneurial decision by Grassfish’s founder and led to our first significant deployment with SPAR Switzerland.

Since then, our network of alliances has expanded to include various digital signage CMS providers, programmatic platforms, Retail Media platforms, and CDPs. A highlight of our current endeavors is a comprehensive integration with Microsoft, showcasing our commitment to leveraging collaborative technologies to enhance our offerings.

These strategic partnerships have not only facilitated our market penetration but also enriched our product capabilities, allowing us to offer more value to our clients and reshape the retail media landscape with our innovative, data-driven solutions.

What has been the biggest success that you and Advertima have achieved?

A landmark achievement for our team was the global debut of real-time, audience-based programmatic activation for the Digital Out-of-Home (DOOH) market and digital signage.

While programmatic DOOH exists, it traditionally lacks the use of real-time audience data, a stark contrast to online digital advertising. DOOH programmatic bidding and decision-making typically take several seconds – sometimes even 30-40 seconds – before an ad is displayed. Advertisers end up paying for potential audience exposure without real-time verification, compounded by the absence of post-campaign analytics to confirm audience presence.

Our innovation in audience-based programmatic activation addresses this gap, offering a groundbreaking feature across our networks that enhances advertising effectiveness and accountability.

We also reached a major milestone in mid-2023, when we successfully implemented our technology into the 1,000th store, marking a significant expansion of our global presence and impact.

Can you tell us about the fundraising journey of Advertima? What were some of the key milestones, challenges, and successes along the way?

Advertima’s fundraising journey was a rollercoaster. We’re not just about software; we’re diving deep into R&D, working with hardware, and managing complex areas like networking, sensor tech, and edge computing. Our mission is not only very complex, it’s also hard for ordinary investors to understand.

A key challenge? Convincing European investors to back us was like pulling teeth. Most want to play it safe, betting on businesses that are already proven rather than groundbreaking ideas like ours. They’d rather invest in cloud-based SaaS businesses. This cautious and risk-averse mindset was frustrating and frankly, pretty shortsighted.

Despite the odds, we somehow scraped together the funds we needed. It was no walk in the park, with plenty of nail-biting moments. Luckily, a few forward-thinking investors saw the potential in our vision and backed us.

Now, we’re at the top of our game in transforming retail spaces, proving all our early bets right. This journey was a tough one, but it goes to show that with persistence and finding the right risk-takers to join your corner, you can make it big, even when the majority aren’t ready to jump on board.

What is your short-term and long-term vision for Advertima?

Our immediate goal is to position Advertima as the global frontrunner in our niche, harnessing our cutting-edge technology to redefine Retail Media. We aim to spearhead a worldwide movement, illustrating that the dynamics of online Retail Media can only be directly transferred to in-store environments with our innovation.

Our mission is to champion a cohesive omnichannel Retail Media strategy, essential for integrating customer experiences across digital and physical realms. We envision breaking down the barriers within brand marketing budgets, positioning our technology as the cornerstone for comprehensive omnichannel Retail Media solutions.

In the long run, we plan to broaden our impact by deploying our technology across additional applications within the retail sector and beyond, extending our reach to various retail verticals and industries. This strategy will transform Advertima from a leader in In-Store Retail Media Technology to a pioneer in the wider In-Store Retail Technology landscape, shaping the future of retail.

Looking ahead, what emerging trends or developments do you anticipate shaping the future of Advertima and the retail media landscape?

The future of Advertima and retail media lies in leveraging Generative AI (GenAI). With tools like Microsoft Advertising’s new ad creative generator, advertisers can create diverse ads for various channels quickly. This innovation is leading us towards a future where ads are tailored and delivered in real-time, across multiple channels.

The missing link for In-store Retail Media is real-time data. Advertima fills this gap, enabling GenAI to thrive in physical retail by providing instant data on shopper demographics and behaviour. This allows for dynamic, personalized ads in physical stores, revolutionizing the shopping experience and making marketing more effective.

By integrating real-time data with GenAI, Advertima is not just adapting to trends but driving the future of retail media.

Do you have any advice or learnings to share for someone who is aiming to scale their startup and business?

The most crucial lesson I’ve learned as a founder is that timing is everything. The success of a product depends heavily on whether the market is ready for it and it’s vital to know what stage your company is in.

Knowing your company’s stage helps you make smart decisions. If you misjudge the timing or your company’s stage, you’re likely to fail. But if you get it right, you’re setting yourself up for success. If you’re too early or too late, even the best product might fail. As a founder, you need to deeply understand the market’s current state and predict where it’s going.

And I say this a lot: read ‘Crossing the Chasm’. It’s essentially the holy bible for us tech entrepreneurs and has deeply influenced every aspect of how I make decisions. Truly a cornerstone for anyone in this field.

Advertima has decided to join the Swiss Startup Association. What was the reason behind this decision? How can the Swiss Startup Association support startups better?

Associations like Swiss Startup are important communities and entities. It’s where start-ups like ours can draw on shared experiences, discover new opportunities and seek support with some of the challenges and hurdles of building and running our companies.

Is there anything that we haven’t asked you that you would like to share with us/the community?

Read books and talk to experienced entrepreneurs as often as you can. Learning by failing is the most effective way to learn but also the least efficient and most expensive one. Some failures can be avoided by reading and talking.


Connect with Iman on LinkedIn


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