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Meet a Founder: OneScreen.ai's Greg Wise



Some of the most successful companies are the ones that inject technology into longstanding and staid industries, resulting in game-changing innovations, efficiencies and returns. That’s exactly what OneScreen.ai does. The Boston-based company offers a digital marketplace for brands to advertise on physical spaces like billboards and buses. It leverages data to help its customers find the right place to advertise in the physical world, and offers analytics to measure the impact. 


But OneScreen.ai Co-Founder and Chief Customer Officer Greg Wise didn’t grow up in the world of out-of-home (OOH) advertising. He got an early start on HubSpot’s e-commerce team, before spreading out into real estate lending as well as mall leasing. These two very different experiences came together to reveal to Greg the opportunity to revolutionize the traditional industry of OOH.  


In this interview, Startup Boston talks to Greg about the ways his diverse career path led him to co-found OneScreen.ai, his outlook for the company and the broader opportunity for the growing OOH industry.


SB:  I wanted to start with your days at HubSpot. Can you discuss what you did there and how you helped the company grow?

 

GW: Because I had a sales and marketing background, I understood the pain that HubSpot was solving for marketers. I joined the e-commerce team, which at the time was a “one-man show” of John Marcus, an MIT guy. It was a startup within a startup, where we eventually pulled in some marketers and customer success folks. And for the next seven years, we were successfully selling HubSpot to e-commerce businesses. The team grew, and it was a super exciting time that introduced me not only to the startup world, but to the fast-paced, agile sort of small teams that have to figure things out. And HubSpot afforded me the ability to meet some brilliant people.

 

SB: So you were there about seven years, and then you transitioned to founding Green Knight Funding. Is that right?

 

GW: During my nights and weekends toward the end of my time at HubSpot, I was becoming very interested in real estate. For seven years I was selling SaaS [software as a service], which isn’t something you can touch and feel. So the juxtaposition between that and real estate was really interesting to me; plus, I have a lot of family in real estate.

 

SB: Commercial or residential?

 

GW: Commercial for the most part. It’s a long story that has to do with a 96-year-old woman in Miami who introduced me to the world of hard money lending. I consider myself an entrepreneur, and am always thinking about better ways to do something that already exists. I returned to Boston and started to understand the hard money lending landscape, and had a lot of help in my network to get this thing off the ground. I started literally cold calling and emailing, and building a network from mortgage brokers to real estate lawyers. I made a lot of connections and did a good amount of deals. It's still something that's there – an investment asset that I no longer really run.

 

SB: What did you do next?

 

GW: I left HubSpot completely, and went to work for Simon Property Group, where I was doing leasing for one of the country’s largest landlords in the mall space. That was my introduction to hands-on physical real estate, understanding how things move, how assets grow, how to add value, and how to lease. That's where I was introduced to out of home advertising.

 

SB: And that led to the creation of OneScreen.ai, is that right?

 

GW: Almost directly. Being in the mall space around 2017 to 2020 was tough. Large stores like Sears, Macy's and JC Penney's – as well as retailers like Forever 21 – were downsizing or going bankrupt. I was looking for alternative ways to monetize the assets that I was responsible for and started to learn about the screens inside of malls. I learned about OOH advertising, where the realization that it's more than just billboards blew my mind. 


My co-founder, Sam Mallikajurian and I, realized that OOH is the only offline marketing medium that's still growing. But the industry doesn't have a lot of people innovating; it’s primed for growth and it doesn't have a lot of new technology. For two people  who came from tech like HubSpot, that was pretty  mind blowing. We looked at it as massive  opportunity and that's what catapulted us in early 2020.

 

SB: How did you leverage technology?

 

GW: We realized, number one, how many different formats there are in out-of-home. There’s billboards, airport ads, bus shelters, as well as cars wrapped in a brand. And if you're a marketer, how do you find out who owns this inventory, and actually get an ad up there? So the first place we started was aggregating all of the inventory across the United States into one platform. We decided to build a one stop shop so that people can access any inventory from any provider.


The next thing we realized was there's a lack of data in the industry. You may buy a billboard on the Mass Pike, but you're doing it without much data. OneScreen.ai has data overlay, which essentially means actually finding the right billboard that's going to reach your audience. We have 35 different sources that we ingest into our platform that help us, including psychographic, demographic and socioeconomic, as well as data with specific audience attributes like consumer behavior. If you’re looking to reach someone with a certain household income who drives a Volvo and shops at Whole Foods, we can point to the billboards in Boston that you should buy. So in order to take those people into this new world of advertising, we have to modernize it. 


Then on the back end, we actually help measure the efficacy of out of home, by capturing mobile IDs that go by the billboard and pixel attribution on a website and marry the two. We can essentially help people understand how many people saw your billboard and actually went to your website and converted.

 

SB: And I noticed you mentioned in a LinkedIn post that digital marketing channels aren’t working as well as they used to, and it’s time to rethink that playbook. Why is that?

 

GW: It's a great question. In 2020 we were starting to hear rumors of iOS updates that were going to limit the way you can target people. At the same time, we realized that digital marketing was becoming over optimized, and the basic unit economics were shifting. We realized marketers were going to have to test new channels. And our hypothesis was that in the next couple decades, we're going to see a shift back to those tried and true mediums right out of home.


People have digital fatigue – their phones, TVs, laptops, iPads. It's a lot. And now we’re seeing this shift, where people want physical experiences. And seeing your ad on a billboard never gets old. Out of home is the ultimate broadcast medium. 


But it can't be how it used to be. We've got to modernize these spaces, or it's not going to work and marketers are going to go elsewhere. The traditional tactics that we've all done in the past decade aren't working. 

 

SB: And what are your plans for 2024 and beyond? 

 

GW: In startups, the number one thing that can kill you is lack of focus. So we are focusing on what we do very, very well - working with marketers to help them do smarter, performance oriented, out-of-home campaigns. We work with folks who have never really done this before or haven't done it in a consistent way. We help them understand how this can be profitable for them.


We’re also focused on our technology. Our mission is to craft solutions that not only meet but exceed the needs of our customers. This philosophy has guided us to prioritize building a nimble, agile, and world-class product organization. This isn't just about being able to pivot or adapt quickly; it's about ensuring that every product we develop, every feature we introduce, is aligned with our customer's needs, solving real problems in innovative and effective ways.


And we are expanding internationally, already doing international campaigns from Monaco to Hong Kong to Sydney. 


To learn more about OneScreen.ai and the new technology that is changing out-of-home advertising, you can reach Greg at Greg@onescreen.ai.

About the author: Randall Woods is a former editor at Bloomberg News and currently

is a Senior Vice President at SBS Comms, a communications agency for technology companies and startups.

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