Cortex

Early Stage

AI-powered visual analytics that helps marketers make better creative choices

Analytics

Raised to Date: Raised: $1,070,000

Aggregate Commitments $

Platform

Wefunder

Start Date

12/08/2020

Close Date

03/04/2021

Min. Goal

$250,000

Max. Goal

$1,069,999

Min. Investment

$250

Security Type

Equity - Preferred

Funding Type

RegCF

Series

Pre-Seed

Pre-Money Valuation

$8,420,000

Rolling Commitments $

Status
Funded
Reporting Date

03/31/2021

Days Remaining
Funded
% of Min. Goal

428%

% of Max. Goal

100%

Likelihood of Max
Funded
Avg. Daily Raise

$12,442

Momentum
Funded
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Location

Boston, Massachusetts

Industry

Marketing & Advertising

Tech Sector

AdTech

Distribution Model

B2B

Margin

High

Capital Intensity

Low

Business Type

High Growth

Cortex, with a pre-money valuation of $8.42 million, is raising funds on Wefunder. The company has developed a SaaS platform that helps marketers understand what images and videos to make, how to make them, and how to promote them within marketing budgets. The platform uses machine learning to predict the performance of these images and videos. Brennan White and Matt Peters founded Cortex in 2014 and have raised over $1.4 million in previous rounds of financing. The current crowdfunding round has a minimum goal of $250,000 and a maximum goal of $1,069,999, and the proceeds will be used towards product and engineering, sales and growth, marketing and advertising, and operations. Cortex has best in class customers, including Marriott, Toyota, Oreo, and L’Oreal.

Summary Profit and Loss Statement

Most Recent Year Prior Year

Revenue

$603,432

$432,330

COGS

$38,579

$15,159

Tax

$0

$0

 

 

Net Income

$18,248

$-327,780

Summary Balance Sheet

Most Recent Year Prior Year

Cash

$48,120

$89,708

Accounts Receivable

$127,212

$40,250

Total Assets

$293,106

$249,664

Short-Term Debt

$958,044

$333,638

Long-Term Debt

$100,832

$704,404

Total Liabilities

$1,058,876

$1,038,042

Financials as of: 12/08/2020
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Ratings

Analyst Report

Synopsis

Digital ad spend in the U.S. alone came in at over $92B for 2020. And within the world of advertising lies the massive challenge of predicting how the viewers of a promotion will react. Traditionally, conversion rates resulting from digital advertising are only available after an ad goes live and the metrics trickle in to reveal whether or not the campaign was successful.

Cortex wants to provide brands with insights into audience reactions to digital advertising. The company’s artificially-intelligent technology gives real-time feedback throughout ad production to optimize user engagement and conversion. Specifically, the technology predicts how audiences will react to visual content to save both time and money. 

Cortex’s current Wefunder raise has been rated a Top Deal by the KingsCrowd investment team.

Price

Cortex is raising capital via preferred stock at $1.1193 per share. The pre-money valuation for this round is $8.42M. Given that the company is profitable and brought in $603k in revenue in the most recent fiscal year, this valuation is more than reasonable as reflected in the price score. The preferred stock offering also provides additional benefits to potential investors. Preferred equity deals make up just nine percent of all deal flow at this time.

Market

The digital advertising market for the United States alone is quite large, coming in at over $92B in ad spend for 2020. Not to mention the fact that this technology could scale globally. According to Statista, digital ad spend worldwide “amounted to 325 billion U.S. dollars in 2019 and that after a drop in 2020 due to the coronavirus related market issues, it would grow to 389 billion dollars in 2021.” Though the market is not growing substantially, and likely will continue to remain stable, the segment has seen a positive CAGR over the past few years, with a small dip reported in some sources likely due to COVID-19. Overall, this is a stable market that will likely continue to see steady, though unimpressive growth.

Granted, only a fraction of this total spend is on software — specifically predictive analytics tools — but with a market this massive, capitalizing on even a sliver of the total market share could be a several billion-dollar opportunity. Additionally, Cortex falls in the high growth, B2B, and recurring revenue categories that are favorable for scalability, quick sales cycles, and large ticket sizes. This sizable market potential has yielded Cortex an impressive overall market score.

Team

Cortex is led by co-founders Brennan White and Matt Peters who serve as CEO and COO, respectively. When interviewed by the KingsCrowd team, Brennan broke down the duo’s past experience, “We founded our previous company in 2007, bootstrapped it, got on the INC5000 two years in a row, and worked with over 50 of the world’s best brands as our customers.” Collectively, the two have years of relevant industry experience, though no prior exits. White graduated from Vassar College in 2005. Peters holds a degree in English and Creative Writing from Emory University.

There were 11 total Cortex employees at the time of filing. Though neither of the founders has a technical background, this need is filled by others on the team including Dung Phan, who holds a Ph.D. in Machine Learning.

Due to the strong industry experience that White and Peters possess, Cortex scored quite highly in the team metric.

Differentiators

Though many marketing analytics dashboards exist, none appear to have all the capabilities of the Cortex solution. The company’s key differentiation lies in the timing of the insights. Cortex allows brands and companies to predict consumer behavior prior to an ad going live. This functionality is a huge advantage over other the products that competitors offer at this time.

Cortex’s B2B SaaS model also offers impressive margins that will likely continue to exist as the product and company scale. Finally, Cortex was one of 10 startups accepted into Techstars Boston’s class of 2020, a highly competitive accelerator program. All of these factors combined are the cause of the company’s near perfect differentiators score.

Performance

Cortex’s performance to date undoubtedly contributes to its Top Deal rating. Not only is the company profitable — more than $18k in net income from the most recent fiscal year — but it is also poised for continued success thanks in part to the big-name customers that the team suggests are renewing, including L’Oreal, Marriott, and Kraft-Heinz.

In addition, the team claims to have “14 major international brands…already in the late-stage pipeline for onboarding in 2021.” Finally, the team has already raised $1.2M to date from angel investors, Revup Fund, and Techstars. With both strong early tractions and profitability to show for it, Cortex’s performance score is its highest across all five metrics.

Bearish Outlook

As always, investing in startups poses certain risks. COVID-19 has slightly dented global digital ad spend (as mentioned in the “market” section). However, the market appears to be recovering to the steady growth rate seen in years past. Cortex’s growth will be somewhat dependent on how quickly companies are willing to ramp up their advertising costs as the pandemic continues and eventually ends.

Additionally, the Cortex team will have to make sure that the product remains defensible, as no patent currently exists. The company will also have to see through the renewal of these major customers in addition to scaling to meet the demands of future clients.

Bullish Outlook

As evident in the ratings, the Cortex team and offering excelled across the board. The massive digital advertising market is ripe for disruption when it comes to predictive analytics. Very few established competitors exist in the space.

The team of competent founders is also encouraging. Not only do Peters and White have substantial industry experience, this experience is both successful and shared, suggesting they can work together to scale a product. 

Finally, Cortex’s rolodex of impressive early clients is promising for return on investment. Not to mention the Techstars connections and funding. This team doesn’t have to build a pipeline from scratch — a major hurdle faced by most startups in the early stages. The product-market fit and proof-of-concept is clear.

Executive Summary

Cortex has been rated a Top Deal. The experienced team has pinpointed a problem in a massive market and tailored a solution to fit. By offering paid pilot programs, the team has secured massive clients that will likely renew the software subscription. The B2B SaaS model is primed for scalability, and the product proves to be incredibly differentiated in the market.

At an $8.42M pre-money valuation on preferred equity, price and investor protection are ideal. And outsiders trust the team and product, as $1.2M has already been invested into the company. 

When asked about exit plans, White explains:

“The technology we’ve built unlocks massive value wherever seeing something impacts the likelihood of purchase — in packaging, product design, advertising, and more. If we play our cards correctly, this gives Cortex multiple avenues for an exit: from IPO to an acquisition from the big tech companies that make revenue via ads, to major media companies who make money via visual content, to major tech companies who provide technology for creative workers.”

For questions regarding the KingsCrowd staff pick or ratings for this company, please reach out to support@kingscrowd.com.

Analysis written by Olivia Strobl.

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