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Houston startup has created a less intrusive video advertising experience

Houston-based LogoBar has created an advertising model that doesn't annoy the viewers. Getty Images

Steven Jones knows people dislike ads. Actually, he reasons, it's less that they dislike ads, but more that they don't like having those ads interrupt what they're doing.

"They want to be in control of their experience," he says. "And we've nearly always had things that allow consumers to skip ads – the remote control, where you could change the channel; now there are DVRs that let you skip them. That's all about control."

Jones knows, however, that consumers do want the information ads contain. And he thinks one of the best ways to give that to them in this splintered and ever-changing media environment is for advertisers to concede that concept of audience control. That's what LogoBar aims to do. Where a traditional commercial on television or before an online video might be 15 or 30 seconds, LogoBar features a company's logo or a product it's selling at the bottom of the video. The ad or logo will also appear when the viewer hits pause (or some other engagement) on the video. The viewer, if interested in the product can then choose to engage with it by clicking on the offer that's being advertised or on the product itself, which would then take that viewer to the advertiser's site.

The goal, says Jones, is two-fold: get the products and services in front of potential buyers, and allow those buyers to be the ones who determine if they want to engage.

"It's not intrusive at all," says Jones about the concept. "It allows a brand to be seen, which can spur interest. But keeping control in the hands of the intended audience is the key. This allows advertisers to think about their brands as a call to action. And this method of delivery aligns with the experience the viewer is already having."

Jones realizes that many people view ads as interruptions. He says that one of the reasons Google began making three-second ads right about 2015 was to capture on the shortening attention span of viewers who, he says studies show, were looking to skip ads the second they appeared.

LogoBar created digital technology that allows its clients to create its own ads. LogoBar installs the tech and then the client's team can build on it. But LogoBar can also create the advertising from end to end as well. The tech plugins work across multiple platforms including Brightcove, Kaltura, Flowplayer, and native iOS/Android players. By building that compatibility into its technology, Jones says that LogoBar can be easily and widely used.

"I think of us as still being an early startup," he says of the company. "But we have a strong team of five here, and I see us growing the business and the team across the next few years."

LogoBar has worked with ESPN+ and other local and national clients. And he believes LogoBar is poised to create what thinks of as a win-win for consumers and advertisers alike.

"Firms are still creating 30, 60-second 'stories' in their ads. Those aren't going to go away. And people will watch them – when they want to, on their own time. What we're offering is something that complements traditional advertising and gives consumers both an interactive experience and control over their viewing and time."

Bill.com's new Houston office is in West Houston and has space for 125 employees. Natalie Harms/InnovationMap

Only 18 months ago, a growing Palo Alto, Calif.-based fintech company was weighing its options for its first out-of-state expansion. And yesterday, Bill.com opened its second headquarters in Houston.

"When we set out to find a second headquarters in Houston, we had three criteria we were looking for," says René Lacerte, CEO of Bill.com.

Those three things were a good education foundation, vibrant business economy, and diversity, which "Houston has that in spades," Lacerte adds.

Lacerte, who is based in Palo Alto, celebrated the opening of the office on September 18 at a reception that included Mayor Sylvester Turner, Susan Davenport, president of the Greater Houston Partnership, and others who were involved in the process of bring Bill.com to Houston. Mayor Turner even celebrated the office opening by proclaiming September 18th as Bill.com Day in Houston.

"We've worked very hard the past few years to strengthen Houston's digital tech innovation ecosystem," says Davenport. "Today, I think solidifies the momentum we've been building."

The new office is located on the west side of town at the CityWest office development. Bill.com has 25,000 square feet and can have up to 125 employees. Lacerte says he wants to have every department represented in the Houston office, from sales to programming.

"There are two reasons I founded the company," Lacerte says to the crowd. "One was to make a difference in the lives of our customers, and the other was to make a difference in the lives of our employees. Having this second office is a huge opportunity in the lives of people in our communities."

Lacerte founded Bill.com in 2006, and the company has raised over $259 million in funding. The software-as-a-service company has over 3 million members, according to Bill.com, and processes $60 billion in payments annually.