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Facebook advertising startup Nanigans finds room to grow on State Street

Posted by Scott Kirsner  November 9, 2012 07:45 AM

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All those ads you see in the right-hand column on Facebook are contributing to the growth of a Boston company: Nanigans, which offers a web-based service that helps advertisers get the most value from the money they spend on the social network. And next week, the startup is moving into new space at 60 State Street that will enable it to grow from 75 employees at present to almost 200.

"We got a great deal on a two-year sublease, and while we looked at other areas, it seems like you can get the best deals in the Financial District right now," says CEO Ric Calvillo. The new space is 12,500 square feet, with an option to add another 7,000. The company is currently located just a few blocks away, on Temple Street overlooking the Boston Common.

Nanigans was originally founded to be a publisher of games on Facebook — the name is a fragment of the word "shenanigans" — but by mid-2010, the company had shifted its focus to advertising. Calvillo touts the company as the biggest Facebook-oriented ad optimization platform, meaning that it helps advertisers get their message in front of the right audience, and dedicate more of their ad budget to ads that are delivering results. "On Facebook, you can deliver an ad to users based on their location, age, gender, interest, or behavior," Calvillo says. (Advertisers can even target individual users, for instance someone who once purchased from an e-commerce site but hasn't been back in a while.) "In some cases, when you measure the return-on-investment of an ad, you might find that it can be better even if you are paying for a more expensive audience."

Advertisers spend hundreds of millions of dollars through Nanigans' software, Calvillo says, and the company pockets a small percentage of that spend.

Calvillo says that Nanigans was profitable prior to raising $3 million last year, in its first round of venture capital. "We haven't used much of the money," he says.

In addition to the roomier digs in Boston, Calvillo says that Nanigans has small outposts in New York and San Francisco, and plans to establish a presence in London next year.

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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