We are excited to share that Upload Ventures led a financing round in Topsort and that our Managing Partner Carlos Simonsen has become a member of the board. We are also joined by investors Quiet Capital and Pear VC.
Topsort is a company built by a world-class founding and technology team seeking to disrupt retail media advertising by providing advertising infrastructure for marketplaces and a new product based ad-network made by marketplaces to advertisers.
As with many Upload Ventures investments, TopSort has a global footprint impacting their customers from the United States to Brazil to Thailand. Operating in over 35 different countries, we have been impressed on how they are empowering marketplaces around the world to build their own advertising businesses. By providing retail media infrastructure, TopSort integrates Marketplaces to bleeding edge technology, enabling them to offer competitive advertising inventory, through an automatic, auction based algorithm, to advertisers through their digital real estate. As the process becomes automated and digitized with Topsort, advertisers also benefit from algorithmic pricing, precise return on ad spend (ROAS), and product-based inventory. This transforms what has traditionally been a manual workflow into a digital, measurable channel that provides a similar experience to what advertisers have become accustomed to in off-site ad networks such as google and meta.
Topsort’s origin story begins with Francisco, a Chilean native, Stanford MBA graduate and serial entrepreneur, maintaining professional relations with his Marketplace Design professor Michael Ostrovsky, an Harvard Economics PhD turned Stanford GSB Professor in Auction and Marketplace Theory. During that period, Regina Ye, was building a DTC brand and faced hard puzzles to successfully sell products through retail and online advertising.
Through random life events, Francisco, Michael, and Regina met. Regina’s experiential insights as a small vendor craving advanced advertising solutions, Francisco’s adept engineering skills in developing scalable systems, and Michael’s economic acumen and preference for simplistic product designs, collectively fueled the conceptualization of a novel enterprise. They decided to start a company together.
The business was conceived to establish a unified global solution for product-based advertising, developed upon a unique approach centered around auctions, AI, and data science. The solution aimed to reimagine advertising; instead of focusing solely on audience data, it employed auto-bid auctions and automation driven by product data. This innovative approach is designed to outperform traditional, audience-centric markets.
Aiming to empower Marketplaces and Retailers globally to develop their advertising businesses, the trio meticulously designed a product to enhance their profitability, efficiency, and readiness for the future. They have democratized “Amazon-level advertising” through auction-based marketplace monetization technology, making it accessible to all. This technology offers automated, scalable solutions that increase revenue and improve the overall marketplace experience.
Like Topsort, we believe that advertising budgets will move closer to the moment where a purchase decision is made, and therefore believe there is an opportunity for retailers and marketplaces to build their own advertising businesses with retail media. Supported by the success stories of Amazon, Doordash, and Instacart, it is evident that we are in the midst of a structural change in the business model as marketplaces increase their revenues with a high margin advertising business.
We also believe the time is now and we are in a crucible moment to build and scale Topsort , as favorable tailwinds have emerged. Privacy regulations like ATT, GDPR, and CPA are creating new opportunities for first-party data advertising. With increasing restrictions being imposed on user tracking and data privacy, the value of private advertising infrastructures with proprietary data has surged. This shift significantly impacts businesses that have their own user and usage data such as marketplaces that have retail media offerings. These entities are at liberty to collect and leverage this data for selling ads since all data collection, ad targeting, and conversion occur on the same platform, thereby not subject to the restrictions applicable to Meta and Google.
To enable this, TopSort has created a platform that has become the best-in-class solution globally for marketplaces to build their ad businesses and for advertisers to invest their retail media budget. As one customer expressed, “Advertising has always been a significant opportunity in our marketplace, but having come from Amazon, where we developed an in-house solution, we realized that building such a system was beyond our expertise. Having known what ‘good’ looked like at Amazon, I can say that TopSort has brought us a comparable experience. Just as you need to know good wine to appreciate it, my experience with Amazon has helped me recognize the excellence of TopSort.”
Since meeting Francisco and Regina three years ago, we’ve watched them continually improve as leaders, transforming an idea into a robust platform. We are excited to be investors and a part of their journey as they transform retail media and build the first product based ad network.