Rideshare advertising startup Firefly launches with $21.5M in funding

Technology

Firefly, a startup that allows rideshare drivers to make money through digital advertising, is officially launching today. It’s also announced that it has raised $21.5 million in seed funding.

“Being the first at building out the IP is going to be the main differentiator,” said co-founder and CEO Kaan Gunay. “Over half our team are engineers, and we have been extremely focused on developing core IP to make sure it’s scalable.”

In addition, Gunay said that thanks to the combination of Firefly’s targeting capabilities with its “strict” advertising policies (it won’t accept ads for strip clubs, tobacco and cannabis companies, among others), “We’re working with a lot of advertisers who might not even have advertised outdoors before. We believe we are expanding the market.”

One of the main goals is to allow drivers for Uber, Lyft and other ride-hailing services to make more money. In fact, Firefly says the average driver in its network makes an additional $300 per month.

Gunay explained that if the driver meets a certain threshold for hours on the road, the company will pay them a flat fee to carry its advertising — but he also said the company is exploring different ways to “maximize the revenue that we share with the drivers and give the maximum benefit to the drivers.”

Gunay also said these displays will become the foundation for a “smart city data network.” In other words, they will collect data that Firefly plans to share with local governments and nonprofit groups. For example, he said the company has already been sharing air quality data with the Coalition for Clean Air, and it’s also looking to include temperature sensors and accelerometers.

Apparently Gunay doesn’t plan to make money from this side of the business. He told me, “We want to be able to add value to how cities operate … We’re not planning to monetize that.”