Digital Dealmakers: Tom Burgess

Jan 1, 2007  •  Post A Comment

The player: Tom Burgess, founder and CEO of Boston-based Third Screen Media

The play: Third Screen Media provides software that delivers ads to mobile phones and manages the entire ad cycle, from buying to reporting on the effectiveness of campaigns. The software lets ad agencies find inventory to buy, helps the content providers manage ad availability and also ensures the spots are targeted and delivered to the right person with the appropriate frequency.

The pitch: Mobile advertising is poised for growth this year, and Mr. Burgess said advertisers are building dedicated budgets for mobile. Third Screen Media’s software works for advertising on mobile Web, mobile video, text messaging and downloadable cellphone applications. Mobile video is growing too, and 2,000 mobile video titles are available to Cingular, Sprint and Verizon Wireless subscribers, according to mobile research firm Telephia. The content providers supplying those programs are eager to get a payback on their investments with advertising revenue.

In the mix: Mr. Burgess has already struck deals with content companies including Weather Channel, ESPN, CBS, TV Guide and Tribune, as well as advertisers such as Ford, Lexus, American Express and Visa. Third Screen Media works with all cellular carriers.

The money guys: The company was founded in 2004 with about $1 million in angel funding. Third Screen has since raised about $15 million in venture capital from firms such as TD Capital and Blue Chip Venture Co. Mr. Burgess said he expects the company to become profitable in 2008.

Pros: Nearly 229 million Americans have wireless phones, according to CTIA-The Wireless Association. Since Third Screen aims to reach mobile consumers through a variety of cellular marketing models, the potential may be huge.

Cons: Advertising on mobile phones is tricky because consumers view their cell phones as personal devices and may resent unwanted marketing intrusions. It’s also not clear whether Americans will embrace mobile entertainment as readily as have Japanese and Scandinavian consumers.

Numbers: In 2005, the average mobile advertising campaign cost $35,000. By the end of 2006, Third Screen managed campaigns that checked in at several hundred thousand dollars, Mr. Burgess said.

Competitors: Competition for Third Screen Media includes Millennial Media and Ad Mob.

Backstory: Mr. Burgess and the co-founders devised the idea for the company on the back of a napkin over dinner at a restaurant in Newport, R.I., in 2003. One of the founders still has that napkin.

Who knew?

Mr. Burgess, 42, was born in Boston and raised in New England. He earned a degree from Providence College and worked at startups such as Collegelink.com and 9th Square, as well as in the telecommunications industry. He is married with two kids and lives in Portsmouth, R.I. Proving his mettle as an avid sailor, in 2001, he and his wife sold everything they had-the car, the house and the furniture-and sailed around the world for more than a year, logging more 10,000 miles with two toddlers in a boat.