Firsthand emerges from stealth to build the AI agent platform for brands and publishers

  • Firsthand’s applied generative AI technology allows brands and publishers to easily create and distribute their own AI agents to engage directly with consumers everywhere online – while retaining full control of their data and content.
  • Seed round led by AI fund Radical Ventures

NEW YORK, Feb. 21, 2024 — Firsthand, a company enabling brands and publishers to build and distribute AI agents anywhere their consumers are, emerged from stealth today announcing a Seed round led by AI-focused Radical Ventures. The company’s innovative platform empowers brands and publishers to create their own AI agents that are embedded with their own protected knowledge and tasked with and measured by their own goals. These agents can conduct 1:1 personalized conversations and content presentation with consumers in their moment of need, anywhere they’re seeking information online. This represents a seismic shift in how companies can control how, when, and where their content appears in front of consumers, onsite and beyond their own digital properties – all powered by intelligent, AI-directed interactions. Firsthand was founded in 2023 by Jonathan Heller, Michael Rubenstein, and Wei Wei, pioneers of digital advertising who built industry-leading platform companies including DoubleClick, AppNexus, and FreeWheel – companies that were built to support an open digital ecosystem. 

The Rise of AI Agents 

Until recently, there has been no feasible way for brands and publishers to engage in real-time, one-to-one exchanges with consumers on and off their digital properties — where they can fully control how, when, and where their data and content assets are surfaced to consumers. The introduction of AI agents presents an unparalleled opportunity for companies to connect and interact with their audiences directly at scale through AI exchanges and consumer-directed actions. 

For decades, powerful algorithms have dictated traffic, monetization, and representation, diverting value away from both  brands and publishers. As consumers rush to navigate this new AI landscape, tech giants are seeking to aggressively exploit this unprecedented AI wave by ingesting data and serving AI applications fronting the data and content assets created by publishers and brands, directly to consumers. In this scenario, companies continue to see their most prized assets get summarized, diluted, and even misrepresented by tech giants. This dependency not only erodes vital brand-consumer relationships but also prevents them from fully realizing their potential in the new AI era. 

Firsthand: AI-Powered Conversational Campaigns

Firsthand's AI platform allows brands and publishers to harness the full potential of generative AI to engage in direct conversations with consumers, using their own proprietary data and content to drive more engaging and accurate interactions. Its platform is the only solution that allows companies to engage with their consumers wherever they are by distributing  their agents, in context, across any partner’s site in a mutually-beneficial, rights-controlled process.

Firsthand’s platform consists of dual solutions: First, Lakebed, the company’s AI rights and data management layer, gives content owners full ownership of their knowledge assets and control over where, when, and by whom their content is used by AI. Second, the company’s generative marketing agents use approved content to enable 1:1 conversations personalized to consumers’ in-moment needs. 

Through Firsthand’s platform:

  • Brands benefit from explicit questions and feedback coming directly from their consumers that drive campaign outcomes, richer first-party audience data to strengthen marketing and product strategy, and confidence to safely navigate the new AI landscape;
  • Publishers see greater audience engagement with their knowledge, unlocking new, premium monetization opportunities whilst retaining full ownership and control of their greatest assets; and
  • Consumers get direct access to the information they’re seeking from the most trusted sources.

AI specialists Radical Ventures led the Seed round, with David Katz leading the investment and serving on the Board. Additional participation included Brian O’Kelley (Scope3, AppNexus), David Rosenblatt (, DoubleClick), and other leading technology entrepreneurs. 

“The current digital ecosystem leaves publishers vulnerable: their data is exploited, their access controlled, and their voice diluted,” said David Katz, Partner at Radical Ventures. He continued: “In a landscape poised for AI-driven disruption, Firsthand's infrastructure empowers them to take back control, unlock data value, and thrive in the future as new and exciting AI innovation changes the way we interact through devices.”

Firsthand is currently conducting a pilot program with a select group of brands and publishers. 

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