Here's a stealth startup to keep an eye on: Spot Runner. The 17-month-old, Beverly Hills, Calif.-based company is operating secretly while it perfects its technology. Therefore, we don't know much about it, except that it's building a platform for managing online and off-line advertising campaigns. The founders and investors have track records that make Spot Runner a company worth watching.
Spot Runner's founder and CEO is Nick Grouf. In 1995, he and some researchers from the MIT Media Lab started Firefly Network, an Internet personalization company that was ahead of its time. Microsoft bought Firefly in 1998 for $30 million. The following year, Grouf founded PeoplePC, which gave consumers free PCs if they signed up for a paid Internet access service that flashed ads across their screens. The company went public in 2000 at a valuation of $274 million. Two years later, at the trough of the Internet bust, Earthlink bought PeoplePC for $13 million.
Grouf founded Spot Runner in March, 2004. In May, 2005, the company raised $7 million from VC firms Battery Ventures and Index Ventures. Battery general partner Roger Lee and Index general partner Danny Rimer serve on the board. Previously, the VCs worked together on the board of Neoteris, a security appliance maker that was acquired by NetScreen Technologies for $262 million in 2003. With Spot Runner, perhaps lightning will strike twice for the duo.