10 to Watch 2015: Pretio Interactive

“You know those ads that constantly pop up in games and apps? The ones that take over your screen every time you hit a new high score or lose a life ... That’s not us.”

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Photograph by Joshua Lawrence.

Brands have long complained about internet advertising. Consumers ignore it. It yields dubious results. Two years ago some Victoria entrepreneurs decided to do more than complain. They launched a mobile advertising company that reaches customers when they are most receptive. Maybe you just logged an extra 5km on your fitness app. How about a coupon for a free sports drink? That’s Pretio.

Pretio’s technology aggregates engagement programs and reward networks so customers like LiveNation or Beyond the Rack can reach consumers in optimal moments. “It’s about removing all that noise from advertising and focusing on the right moment to be engaged with the consumer,” says Ty Sinclair, the entrepreneurial prodigy who launched Pretio.

Four major events occurred to accelerate Pretio’s growth. First, Pretio raised an angel round from local investors and brought startup veteran Jim Hayhurst on board as president and CEO. The company then raised additional funding from Wesley Clover International and Vancouver-Yaletown Venture Partners. Next, they bought Tap for Tap, a mobile ad network for apps, and gained access to its 12,000 app developers — a perfect pairing.

Operating out of a Vancouver St. office, with a Boler camper and VW van parked in their workspace, Pretio runs by three core values: 1) start with why; 2) no shenanigans; and 3) draw the owl.

“Draw two circles,” laughs Hayhurst. “That’s most of it. Now just draw the bleeping owl. We saw that and thought, ‘That’s who we are.’ We’re trying to do things that haven’t been done — or others have done them, but it’s taken millions. We don’t have a huge team or a lot of time. So just do it. The world’s not going to stop if you show something that’s not ready for primetime. Do it.”


Q&A With Jim Hayhurst & Ty Sinclair of Pretio Interactive

What scared you most about the startup process?

Jim: Early, we discovered our competitors had way more money than us. We knew we couldn’t compete on that basis. We decided we could either compete or collaborate, so Ty … began discussions with them. It ended up that they had a problem getting the number of rewards they needed to fill all of the ‘moments’ they were creating. They said, “If you guys could help us by backfilling some of our rewards, we think that’s a great business.” Most of our major competitors turned into our customers.

The mobile world moves so fast. How do you keep up?

Ty: I just really try and stay focused on where we want to get to. I mean, there’s so much noise with the industry as a whole and various sectors, but I have a pretty clear picture on where I want to get to.


Pretio Interactive Business Profile

Type of business: Mobile advertising company

Year founded: 2013

Owners/principals: Jim Hayhurst, CEO; Tyrone Sinclair, COO; Rob O’Dwyer, CTO; Vivienne Damatan, VP Sales

Employees: 7

What sets you apart? We started Pretio because we think those internet ads suck and we know they don’t work. Pretio’s technology lets [brands] reward you with real-world offers relevant to your interests.

This article is from the April/May 2015 issue of Douglas.