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©Chinapex

The startup’s also creating a transparent and efficient industry environment for digital marketing in China

Before founding Chinapex in 2009, Jimmy Hu and Tiger Yang were contracted to help build an internal system for global marketing data analysis at Microsoft. While working for Microsoft, the two UC Berkeley graduates realized that even the biggest companies could still improve marketing performance and efficiency.

At the time, programmatic buying – during which software is used to automate the process of buying, placement, and optimization of advertisements – was still a young industry in China. Using technology to advertise more precisely to customers, a common practice in the US, was a novel idea to most Chinese companies. Chinapex realized early that this underdeveloped market presented a unique opportunity, which is why the Silicon Valley-based marketing technology company chose to move its headquarters to Shanghai in 2011.

The startup’s instinct to shift its business to China was a good one. Market research institute eMarketer predicted that China’s digital advertising market will be worth US$76 billion by 2019. A report published by Statista, an online statistics portal, predicts that US$250 billion will be spent on global digital marketing in 2018.

From APEX ONE to NEXUS

Chinapex employs big data, AI and blockchain technologies to help its enterprise customers use customer data for precision marketing, personalization and customer analytics. “Since the very beginning, we have had only one goal — creating innovative and data-driven solutions for clients to help them enjoy the benefits brought by data assets,” said founder and CEO Jimmy Hu.

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APEX ONE, a SaaS-based marketing cloud platform and the first independent trading desk solution in China, was Chinapex’s first product. Such trading desks optimize digital advertisers’ budgets mainly through real-time bidding and ad exchanges. Released in 2015, APEX ONE offered customized programmatic online-ad-buying solutions to agencies and brands.

Chinapex soon discovered that first-hand data, which were of great value to digital marketing, had not been put to good use in China because of technological barriers. Many Chinese companies lacked technical knowledge about data technology and wanted turnkey solutions., Chinapex adjusted its business focus to first-hand data-based marketing, personalization and consumer experience optimization. In 2017, Chinapex launched NEXUS, an AI-powered enterprise consumer data platform that collects and analyzes data and formulates a marketing strategy based on its findings. NEXUS was the turnkey solution these enterprises sought.

Advocates for decentralized data exchange

In May 2016, Chinapex published the White Paper of Developing Digital Marketing in an Open Business Ecosystem, which outlined plans to create a convenient and efficient environment for digital marketing. The startup wants to create a system for digital advertising companies that includes transparent and open data sources as well as free data circulation. “I hope to create products both disruptive and practical, which can tear down walls and build a better industry environment,” said Jimmy Hu.

In 2017, Chinapex launched a new product called APEX, a brand-to-consumer data exchange platform powered by blockchain technology. A disruptive infrastructure, the platform allows customers and brands to exchange data directly and eliminates the middleman.

Through APEX, customers receive rewards and cash prizes for brand engagement. Customers have control over who can access their data but are also encouraged to share it. In return, brands acquire loyal customers. Application partners can also use APEX as a module connected to a full enterprise technology suite – software that helps the partners handle data however they want, which adds value to their accumulated data and improves interactions with customers.

Chinapex has made partnerships with Alibaba, Microsoft Azure, Oracle, Baidu and Tencent to encourage data circulation. In addition, a number of brands have pooled together to pilot the APEX platform. As a result of these efforts, the envisioned transparent, convenient and efficient environment for digital marketing could be a reality in the foreseeable future.

Edited by Wendy Lovinger , Wang Xiao'e

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