These 3 local companies are raking in the dough

Posted at 6:01 AM, Feb 08, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-08 09:14:11-05

CINCINNATI -- Last year was a good one to seek venture-capital funding for at least three Cincinnati companies.

They made it on a list of the top 20 venture-capital investments in the Midwest outside of Illinois complied by ChicagoInno, a Chicago-based website for urban innovators and a division of Streetwise Media.

The local companies, in order of their ranking on the list, were:

  • No. 9: Everything but the House, which puts estate sales online, raised $30 million from Greenspring Associates, Greycroft Partners and Spark Capital.
  • No. 19: LISNR, which sends data using sounds that humans can’t hear but smartphones can, raised $10 million from Intel Capital, with participation from Mercury Fund, Jump Capital and R/GA Ventures.
  • No. 20: Ahalogy, which helps advertisers get a bigger bang for their buck on Pinterest, raised $8 million from Silicon Valley Bank and JobsOhio, the state of Ohio’s economic development agency.

Founded in 2006, Everything but the House normally goes to work when a customer’s loved one dies and leaves a lot of worldly goods to dispose of. The company sends a team to meet with the customer, sort the goods, photograph them, put them online and run a seven-day online auction, said Andy Nielsen, president and chief executive.

Andy Nielsen is chief executive of Everything But The House. (Provided photo)

The customer gets a check 30 days after the sale, he said, and the company takes a commission, typically 35 percent. “We maximize the proceeds by reaching bidders across the world,” he said.

The company has about 500 employees, about 100 of them in Cincinnati. The others are in 19 cities scattered across the country. Nielsen declined to disclose 2015 revenue or to say if the company was profitable.

Management plans to use the new funding to hire new employees, Nielsen said, especially in other cities. Since January, the company has established teams in Austin and Houston, and it plans to create them in 10 more cities by the end of the year.

Rodney Williams is co-founder and chief executive of LISNR. (Provided photo)

Founded in 2012, LISNR created SmartTones, a new way to connect devices using sound, said CEO and co-founder Rodney Williams. It can send a signal as far as six miles, he said, which is more than enough for use in places such as football stadiums, where Wi-Fi can be problematic.

Anywhere there is a speaker or the ability to broadcast audio, LISNR can make that speaker or audio broadcaster a data-transmitting medium, he said.

He, too, declined to disclose his company’s 2015 revenue but said the company has customers all over the United States and Europe. “We are growing exponentially each quarter,” he said. The company also tracks how many devices are being powered by its technology, and he said that number, which he declined to disclose, grows every month.

“Think of us as a network,” he said.

The company used its new funding to increase its staff from 15 employees to 35, Williams said. That enabled the company to continue to widen the use of its product in key markets. Its focus has been on sports venues, he said, but this year it plans also to focus on retail and authentication-payments markets.

Bob Gilbreath is CEO of Ahalogy. (Provided photo)

Founded in 2013, Ahalogy (pronounced a-HA-lo-gee) provides software that customers use to optimize marketing on Pinterest. Ahalogy is also one of Pinterest’s official partners, said Ahalogy co-founder and CEO Bob Gilbreath.

The company has 43 employees at its office in Mount Lookout. Gilbreath declined to disclose 2015 revenue, but he said it had more than doubled over 2014.

Management plans to use its new funding to expand its sales team so it can extend its reach in the United States and in Europe, where it has already begun to make sales. The potential market is huge, he said, with more than one-third of adult U.S. women being active on Pinterest and women making the majority of decisions for the household.

Many of those women use Pinterest from their mobile phones when they are in a grocery store planning dinner, which is a great time for a food provider to reach them with an ad, Gilbreath said.