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Boston College-spawned Jebbit grows by linking marketing with learning

Posted by Scott Kirsner  February 10, 2014 12:15 PM

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Leave it to a bunch of college students to craft a startup around the concept of a pop quiz...

Jebbit tackles the problem of what happens to Internet users after they click on an ad and land on a website. What do they actually absorb about the product or service? The Boston-based startup, founded by a group of undergrad students from Boston College, springs a quiz or challenge on site visitors. Visitors earn discounts or credit based on learning about products, or successfully signing up for new services. And the site owner pays Jebbit only when visitors are acing the tests.

“We saw a lot of people trying to solve the problem of getting the right ads in front of the right person, whether on the web or places like Twitter, but there just wasn’t any focus on that post-click engagement — what happens once you get to their site,” says Jebbit COO Jonathan Lacoste. “So our focus is on the engagement once people get to your content, and offering a reward for more actively engaging with the brand.”

It’s a clever idea for turning curious web surfers into actual customers, and companies that have tried Jebbit so for include Adobe, Bose, Microsoft, Spotify, and the transportation services Uber and Lyft. “A company like Uber might offer $20 of credit, but only if you get the app and learn how to use it,” Lacoste says. “We talk about ‘cost per correct answer.’ Brands pay us only when consumers are learning.” Consumers can be rewarded with coupons, cash, or other prizes.

Lacoste says the company has 15 employees, and that revenues — still presumably nascent — leapt 400 percent in 2013 over the previous year. Jebbit has raised $1.8 million in funding so far. The company plans to double employment this year, and Lacoste says Jebbit is considering adding a New York office.

Jebbit originally launched at Boston College in the fall of 2011. Since then, the company has participated in Highland Capital Partners’ Summer@Highland entrepreneurship program, and the TechStars Boston accelerator. I wrote about Jebbit in 2012, when they successfully got some investors to pony up at a “Shark Tank”-style event held in Cambridge, and also mentioned them in this 2013 piece on the Boston adtech scene, "Madmen Meet Mr. Spock."

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About Scott Kirsner

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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