Okanjo names new CEO

Digital advertising startup raising $750,000

Charity Huff

Okanjo Partners Inc., a Milwaukee startup that creates digital engagement and revenue tools for online publishers, has named Charity Huff chief executive officer.

Huff succeeds Michael Drescher, who remains active with the company as founder and chairman. Huff is a founder and managing partner at Golden, Colorado-based Maroon Ventures, a digital media strategies and capital solutions firm. She previously co-founded Tru Measure, an advertising ROI solution for the local media industry that was acquired by national publishing company McClatchy Co. in 2013. Huff holds an MBA in operations management from Regis University and a bachelor’s in communications and public relations from Washington State University.

She is now leading Okanjo in raising a $750,000 equity round to fund its operations.

The round was launched on Feb. 6, and so far has raised $135,600 from two investors. Huff expects the round will close in late March.

“We are using (the funding) to continue our technology buildout, most specifically around our machine learning and artificial intelligence,” Huff said. “Secondarily, around building brand and affiliate relationships.”

Okanjo previously raised $1.5 million in equity from 13 investors in November 2011, and also received a 2015 investment of $150,000 from Milwaukee-based venture philanthropy firm BrightStar Wisconsin Foundation Inc.

The company was founded in 2011 and the website was launched in 2013, originally as a commerce website that allowed its users to buy, sell and give products to each other. The company, which has 12 employees, now focuses on providing “native commerce” opportunities for online publishers, advertisers and brands. Its technology displays products to readers based on their interests and the articles they click on, and allows for in-ad transactions when a customer wants to buy the advertised product.

“As the retail industry has shifted and e-commerce has shifted, so has Okanjo,” Huff said. “We have pivoted with the mission to make sure that we’re putting the right product with the right content in front of the right intended audience with the intention of enabling that transaction.

“As they were pivoting into this native commerce space, they needed someone with domain expertise and I have 20 years in publisher and marketing and retail experience.”

In May 2016, Okanjo launched a strategic partnership with national newspaper company Lee Enterprises, through which it integrated its native commerce technology on Lee’s digital news sites.

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Molly Dill, former BizTimes Milwaukee managing editor.

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