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Ara Labs prepares to raise new funding

Kerry Flynn
Jan 26, 2023
Photo illustration of Jeff Cripe, CEO of Ara Labs, with a car-top display and circles in the background.

Jeff Cripe. Photo Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios. Photo: Courtesy of Ara Labs

Ara Labs, a Los Angeles-based digital out-of-home company best known for its car-top displays, is preparing to raise new funding, CEO Jeff Cripe tells Axios.

Why it matters: The Series B round that Ara Labs is pursuing comes as the profitable business seeks to grow its network of digital displays.

Flashback: The company, previously known as Cargo, was founded in 2016 and sold snack boxes and other amenities to ride-hail passengers. In January 2020, it pivoted to car-top advertising.

  • "When the pandemic hit, we were in the process of raising capital," Cripe told Axios on Wednesday, speaking from Solomon Partners' New York office. (He had presented at the firm's Media and Entertainment Summit on Tuesday.)
  • "It just quickly became apparent that the legacy product was not going to survive," he continued. "Nobody was getting into Uber, ride-share vehicles, and if they were, they were not going to be transacting with us."

Details: Ara Labs ended up not raising capital in 2020 and used what it "had on hand to make the pivot," Cripe says, growing the car-top business including scaling its partnership with Uber.

  • Ara Labs has since been expanding beyond car-top displays. It's creating an ad network for EV charging operator ChargePoint, in partnership with GSTV (Gas Station TV), the companies announced in August.
  • It's also planning to work with more retailers on in-store displays, as the industry invests more in retail media.

Of note: The original company raised $22 million in a Series A round, led by Founders Fund with participation from Coatue Management and Aquiline Technology Growth, in 2018.

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