Keeping Score with Quantcast

It’s not easy to waltz into an established, crowded market and convince investors that you can lead it. Yet the San Francisco-based Web analytics and advertising firm Quantcast has managed that trick, already collecting $53.9 million over three rounds, including a $27.5 million round in January led by Cisco Systems — with more funding to come, possibly soon.

“We’re well capitalized but are always open-minded to ways we might accelerate our business and better serve the market,” said co-founder and CEO, Konrad Feldman, when we chatted briefly yesterday.

How Quantcast is accelerating its growth is a well-guarded secret from a technical perspective, although its large-scale analysis models seem to be working. The four-year-old company is reluctant to share details about how it creates its rich data sets about Web users and their online behavior. But it claims that millions of Web destinations use its service, including two-thirds of Online Publishers Association members, and that it is measuring millions more Websites, games, and widgets. Last week, Quantcast began a push for much stronger customer adoption abroad, too.

“We have lots of overseas publishers [as customers] like the BBC, which has a large American audience,” said Feldman, “but we haven’t provided localized audience insights for countries around the world.”

That growing data pile, assembled using Web analytics tags that allow Quantcast to collect basic information about sites’ visitors, is turning the company into a powerful ally to its customers. For example, Quantcast, which provides its measurement services for free (largely because it needs to measure as many sites as possible), might work with an automotive manufacturer to identify certain characteristics among 20,000 people who go online and configure one of its SUVs to their liking. Quantcast might then help the carmaker find five million people who look like that audience, then charge the company on a CPM basis when the ads it places elsewhere on the Web are clicked on.

Just don’t expect any specifics about how the whole thing works. Though Feldman told me Quantcast’s models can “deal with cookie deletion to account for people estimates,” asked what percentage of people tend to delete their cookies, Feldman says that it “varies widely,” depending on “all sorts of things,” including the type of browser someone is using. Asked for more detail, such as whether a Google Chrome user is more likely to delete his or her cookies than an Internet Explorer user, Feldman answers that “it’s certainly complex,” before moving on to another point.

Unfortunately, Quantcast is as reluctant to discuss its revenue growth as it is its processes. Feldman also declined to discuss whether Quantcast, which now employs 80 people — mostly engineers — has reached profitability yet or expects to soon.

Feldman — who formerly cofounded SearchSpace, whose software focused on identifying money laundering and other fraudulent activities for the financial industry and that was purchased by Warburg Pincus in 2005 — disclosed only that Quantcast will be rolling out some partnership announcements in the same vein as its partnership with TiVo, launched last summer.

Asked for more particulars, he said simply to “watch this space.”