DriveAds brings analytics to truck advertisements through IoT technology

Most startups know that sometimes the great idea you start out with in the beginning of building a business isn’t quite the same one that you end with. Iteration is the name of the game, which often times results in smaller pivots until you can find the place where your idea can truly succeed. Few startups know this better than co-founders Ramon Mendez and Vikram Kurella of DriveAds.

Ramon Mendez of DriveAds poses with their logo. Photo: Kayla Kendall

DriveAds, founded in February of 2016, is an on-truck advertising network that has grown to reach 25 markets across the U.S. They started as a B2C model that worked with consumers to earn money from advertisers by wrapping their personal vehicles with ads. The idea was one that Vikram brought back with him from India after seeing rickshaws driving around with advertisements on them. He thought the concept would translate here in the U.S.; who wouldn’t want to monetize an asset they otherwise weren’t making any money on by driving around the metroplex?

Unfortunately, the challenges proved to be a bit greater than initially expected as a B2C model here in the U.S. After fleshing out and moving forward with their original plans, they hired a outside team to build an application they could use to onboard drivers. Once on the platform, drivers could begin earning money while tracking their drives and the reach of their ads.

It was at this point they began to, pardon the pun, hit a wall. Since neither co-founder was very technical, they had unintentionally designed an application and corresponding onboarding process with a lot of friction. As a result, it was more difficult than anticipated to reach drivers and get them successfully onboarded on to the platform.

Around this time, they had already been floating the idea of working with commercial trucks, so they decided to scrap the B2C model altogether and explore this idea further. They pivoted to a B2B model with trucks instead and haven’t looked back since.

According to their website, “DriveAds’ trucks produce 60,000 – 75,000 impressions per day” for their ads. One of their informational videos reminds us that the world of advertising is changing. Advertisers struggle to reach us on our computers due to ad blockers and premium services like Hulu without ads because we don’t enjoy the interruptions during our favorite shows. The ability to put ads out on the road where most of us are for hours every single day is a game-changer.

“We’re literally and figuratively driving ads,” says co-founder Ramon Mendez. “We’re here to help these advertisers reach their customers and make money, and help the truckers monetize an asset that otherwise wouldn’t make them any extra money.”

In the simplest terms, the trucks use an IoT device to track their location and mileage. This information, when combined with other data such as traffic flow and demographics for those locations and times, is then reported back to advertisers.

This pivot, however, wasn’t easy as they had to change their focus and rethink their approach. They re-launched in December 2017 with their new business model, and things have taken off for them. Now that they’ve solidified their focus, they’re working on getting more granular with the data they’re gathering in 2018.

Without providing too much detail, Ramon hinted that they’re working on collecting information that will help close the loop for advertisers and track the full life cycle of an ad. This technology would be able to track if a person saw their advertisement and then actually went into a store to purchase that item or brand.

But even bigger than that, Ramon admitted that they had stumbled into an area within the trucking industry right now where every contract could be worth anywhere from $500,000 – $20 million, potentially even more, in annual revenue per client. They’re currently working this week on finalizing a partnership with the largest telematics player in the US, whose channel partners will be offering and selling the DriveAds service to their clients around the country.

With these developments, they project their 2018 revenue to be within the range of $7.5 million – $15 million, moving towards a range of $20 million – $40 million for 2019–a big deal for a company that’s self-funded and hasn’t received any outside investments.

Looking into 2018, DriveAds hopes to expand to even more markets across the country. In order to do that, they’re working on establishing these national and global partnerships which they hope to announce within the coming months.

In the short term, they’re focused on perfecting what they’re doing so they can scale successfully. “I’m going to perfect the pitch, perfect the presentation,” Ramon stated, “we want to be a thought leader in this space.”

Caitlin Studley