Travel-ad startup Sojern raises $9M

Faith Merino · August 31, 2010 · Short URL:

Focus, Trident, and Norwest back provider of advertisements to travelers


Sojern is flying high today.  The Omaha, Nebraska-based, travel-advertising company announced Tuesday that it has raised $9 million in its second round of funding, led by Focus Ventures, Trident Capital, and Norwest Venture Partners.  Trident Capital and Norwest Ventures previously backed Sojern during its first round of funding in 2008, when it raised $16 million.

The company, founded in 2007, works with major airlines and travel organizations to deliver destination-based advertising content to travelers.  Building on the popularity of at-home flight check-in, the company delivers customized ads directly to travelers via their itineraries and boarding passes.  Sojern’s platform also allows advertisers to continue to reach travelers throughout the travel process in the form of weather reports, local restaurant listings, discount offers, and local events. 

Thus, everybody wins.  The airlines get some much-needed coinage, which will hopefully persuade them to bring back complimentary snacks and blankets (JetBlue, I’m looking at you). Advertisers reach premium audiences, and travelers get destination-specific information on their travel plans.  According to comScore, the travel-based advertising company has the potential to reach 17 million unique users each month.

Using anonymous data gathered from travel organizations, the company uses traveler behavior to create audience segments, including first class, business, and vacation travelers. 

“We strive to provide quality content to travelers while creating a deeper penetration into the advertising industry through our audience segmentation,” Sojern President and CEO Gordon Whitten said to me.  “The travel industry provides a very affluent and influential demographic that is key to advertisers in various verticals.”

Since the company’s launch, it has served over 1.5 billion ad display impressions on boarding passes and itineraries, with the help of its partnerships with major U.S. airlines, including Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Continental Airlines, Delta Airlines, United Airlines, and US Airways. 

With its new financing, Sojern is looking into overseas expansion.  “Sojern intends to complement its current partners domestically and expand its operations and partnerships internationally,” said Whitten.

In September 2009, Sojern partnered with Travelport, a leading global distribution system that operates the Galileo and Worldspan platforms.  The partnership gave Sojern access to Travelport’s 3.5 million users through its ViewTrip personalized itinterary, while enabling TravelPort to help its clients improve the travel experiences of their customers by providing them with customized travel information.

Earlier in 2009, Sojern was named one of the winners of the AlwaysOn 2009 OnMedia 100 Award, which is given to private emerging technology companies in the fields of public relations, advertising, publishing, and marketing.  Other 2009 winners included Zynga in the field of digital publishing, myYearbook in community platforms, Apptera in mobile marketing and advertising, and in next-generation search, among others.

The AlwaysOn 2009 award is a nice addition to the company’s 2008 OMMA award for Online Advertising Creativity in Content Integration.

So what is on the horizon for Sojern?  Answer: mobility. 

“We recognize the unique opportunity to message to specific audience types while travelling and we look to the power of mobile communication platforms as a significant part of our future,” said Whitten.  “Clearly, in today’s world, everyone that travels is on a mobile device and we see the expansion of our mobile platform continue.” 

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