Digital OOH Start-Up That Puts Screens On Uber Cars Adds $30M Series A Raise

A San Francisco start-up called Firefly that puts digital OOH media screens on the tops of rideshare cars has announced a $30 million series A funding round, which is on top of a $21 million round late last year.

Firefly offers a supplemental revenue stream to rideshare drivers in return for affixing a hyper-local, geo-fenced digital sign on the cartop. Firefly absorbs the capital cost, and spins off an average of $300 a month to the driver.

Not big money, but it can be enough to significantly offset leasing, insurance or fuel costs and make driving Uber for a living worthwhile.

The new money comes from GV (formerly Google Ventures) with participation from NFX. The new investment, says a press release, “will fuel Firefly’s growth, supporting expansion to more communities, and driving continued innovation in digital display.”

The PR adds:

Since Firefly launched out of stealth in December 2018, notable brands like Brex, Segment, Caviar, and Zumper have quickly adopted the company’s proprietary vehicle-mounted media platform to drive campaign results. The company’s ‘situationally aware’ digital smart screens determine campaign direction and ad frequency based on driver routes, area demographics and traffic patterns. According to a recent Firefly measurement study, individuals who saw Firefly Brex creatives were twice as likely to visit Brex’s website than individuals who did not see the ads.

“Firefly is creating a significant new ad format at scale,” said Adam Ghobarah, General Partner at GV. “In addition to taxis, the scale of rideshare networks has created a large opportunity to provide digital out of home advertising with granular city-block and time targeting. Kaan, Onur and the Firefly team have executed very well so far, and are motivated by the long-term mission of enabling cities with data.”

In expanding to New York, Firefly extends its operating system to the city’s network of taxis, the market’s only form of mobile advertising at scale. Already operating on taxis in California, the move extends Firefly’s innovative software to New York’s existing taxi-tops.

The funding announcement also includes word that Firefly acquired the digital operations of STRONG Outdoor, marking its expansion to New York City. That buys Firefly ownership of the STRONG’s digital taxi top advertising deal with the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade (MTBOT).

Through STRONG’s digital assets, Firefly enters New York City with an established presence, while at the same time driving growth and evolution in the city’s media landscape.

“We are excited about the potential for growth in digital advertising and we believe that Firefly, led by CEO Kaan Gunay, is the right team and platform to combine with our digital platform in New York City. We look forward to being significant shareholders in Firefly and benefiting from the growth in digital at Firefly while maintaining our significant market presence in non-digital advertising at STRONG,” said Kyle Cerminara, CEO of Fundamental Global and Chairman of STRONG Outdoor.

Firefly founders Kaan Gunay and Onur Kardesler

This appears to mean Firefly, in NYC, would do Ubers, Lyfts AND taxis.

“We believe that all full-time drivers in New York, taxi and rideshare, should be able to make a living wage and support their families,” says Kaan Gunay, co-founder and CEO of Firefly. “By combining our Firefly operating system with STRONG’s existing digital network, we’re able to immediately scale upon market entry so we can support the New York community with no downtime.”

One interesting wrinkle with this start-up is the idea of doing good while (hopefully) making money.

Firefly participates in the AMBER alert system and supports the Ad Council, a non-profit organization that produces national public service campaigns, by running their PSAs pro bono in California, with plans to extend to New York.

At the same time, a minimum of 10 percent of inventory is devoted to other community-driven partners such as local businesses, non-profits, and local government entities.

The car-toppers have sensors – for things like air quality – that generate data that’s open for government planners, and others, to use.

I did a podcast interview about six months ago, after the first raise: