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What's the most efficient way to learn all-things AdExchanges, AdNetworks, DSP, SSP?

We are launching a new company and it's revenue model is partially based on leveraging the reach of existing Ad Exchanges and Ad Networks. However, we have no connections with anyone in that industry. What is the best way to connect with professionals in the Ad Exchange/Ad Network business? Is approaching LinkedIn group members a good approach?

I suppose the suggestions could apply to finding inroads in any industry in which we are currently outsiders.


9 Replies

Jessica Alter
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Jessica Alter Entrepreneur • Advisor
Entrepreneur & Advisor
My personal theory is that if you don't know an industry that you're starting a company in, you need to have an advisor or 2 that are awesome. You also need to immerse yourself. Largest curated network of startup advisors is HERE
Charles Brewer
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Charles Brewer Entrepreneur • Advisor
Visible Innovation: Product & UX
Kevin,

I'll be direct: You need to go work in Ad Tech first before you start your own Ad Tech business. I really don't see any way around this.

Ad Tech is extraordinarily complicated, fast changing, and also a hyper-fractured market. There is no substitute for direct experience and a solid insider network of people you have worked with.

Also, consider the structural risk that your customers--the publishers/broadcasters/owners of the real estate where ads appear--want the Ad Tech business to go away. They are tired of getting ripped off, and they are overwheimed with too many "me too" ad servers, ad networks, RTB marketplaces, resellers, analytics platforms, etc.
Rob Gropper
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Rob Gropper Entrepreneur
Director at PetHero, SPC - Member at Eastside Incubator - Principal at Tuxedo Technologies Group
i didn't get from Kevin's request that his business IS an Ad Tech business, but his revenue will be "partially based on
Daniel Owen McGuire
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Daniel Owen McGuire Entrepreneur
Fundamentally reinventing online pricing
This might help understand the players:http://www.lumapartners.com/resource-center/lumascapes-2/

I knew nothing about ad-tech when I started my startup and Charles is right that it is a confusing industry. I have been at it over two years and I am still trying to wrap my head around it. Get ready for a ton of acronyms, confusing jargon, and multiply words for the same thing.

Go tohttp://openx.com/ and then click resources and it will help you start to learn.

As for getting signed up with exchanges... The tricky thing here is they want you to have volume before they will bother signing you up. (as in number of unique visitors per month) It is a chicken and the egg thing. If you have volume then signing up is easy but if you were making ad revenue then you could grow your volume.

Exchanges didn't give us the time of day until we signed our first partnership with a company that had 1.6 million unique visitors per month. Which meant we would be doing about a 10 million video ad impression a month. Then it was as simple as going to the contact page of each exchange's website and asking to to speak with.

Example: "We have 1.6 million unique visitors and are looking to do about 10 million impressions a month. Who do speak to about using your exchange, ad server, fill in the blank."

So that is how we have stumbled are way through the industry so far. Hope this helps.


Rob Gropper
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Rob Gropper Entrepreneur
Director at PetHero, SPC - Member at Eastside Incubator - Principal at Tuxedo Technologies Group
i agree with jessica that you need a really good advisor or better yet, a partner/team member who has lived in the Ad Tech business. If that person is not here on FD then i would suggest LinkedIn. I believe in being VERY focused when it comes to enterprise sales and business development. Hunt with a rifle not a shotgun. In a previous startup of mine we segmented our market down to the point where we knew the #1 single prospective customer and the #1 business partner we wanted to go after. The criteria was 'if we can make only 1 sales call on 1 company who would that be?'. We narrowed it down to 1 very large telecom (the largest on the planet at the time). They could be both a customer and a business partner. the company was so big we further narrowed it down to 1 division and 1 individual (the Sr. VP of marketing). We wanted to pitch to that individual. None of us had worked in Telecom. We knew this company needed a strong competitive differentiator and we knew we could help them and they certainly could help us. So we used LinkedIn and in a couple of weeks we had hired Steve. We were looking for a sales person who had worked for this company and knew the market. We spoke to one person who introduced us to his former boss's boss's boss who introduced us to Steve. Steve used to run the division we were after. He not only knew the Sr.VP of marketing for the corp parent (she had been in his wedding earlier that year) but he knew her boss, the president of the division. We spent a couple of weeks educating Steve and him educating us. We knew that their business was changing and they were loosing market share, but growing in others. We knew how to pitch them, how they make decisions, who had budget and authority to spend it, etc. Steve then picked up the phone and called the president of the division. The first call lasted 45 minutes and ended with the president sending an email to the Sr. VP of marketing and asking her to meet with us and 1 other of his direct reports. couldn't have gone better if we scripted it - we had. We spent 4 weeks or so doing our homework and hit a home run rather than shooting in the dark with a shotgun for months/years. do your homework, get educated, get focused, get results.
Chris O'Hara
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Chris O'Hara Advisor
Solutions for Data Driven Marketing at Krux
Being in the industry for some time, I would agree with most everyone who has posted. I have been trying to address this by writing whitepaper-length "explainers" for some popular a tech themes (display, data management, programmatic, mobile, etc). I am happy to share them with you if you are interested. Link here to the summaries.
Lokesh Kumar
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Lokesh Kumar Entrepreneur
Cofounder & VP of Tech at Urgent.ly
Depends on how much percentage of your revenue depends on the Ad Tech companies. If it is significant, then finding a good team member, that has been in the business, IS the way to go. If it is not that significant, and will not break your company, then may be an advisor that has been in that industry.
Ajay Gallewale
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Ajay Gallewale Advisor
Innovative leader, Technical Manager,Entrepreneur and Pioneering Engineer
Jessica and Charles are absolutely right. You either need to work in the industry or have a partner/advisor who has worked in the industry.
I have been in the advt industry for several years and here are a few things you are need to be aware of
1. To make real money , you need scale and that means lot of traffic.
2. There is a significant fraud if you try to buy the traffic. The industry is getting better but don't underestimate its impact specially if you are new.
3. For any real scale, you need data analysis/machine learning resources.
4. What you think is a scalable traffic , may not be easy to monetize. This is the biggest misconception people new in the online ad industry have. more eyeballs is NOT equal to more money. More eyeballs who are likely to buy/convert/do something is equal to money.
5. Even if you have more convertible eyeballs does not allways make money. You need to have advertisers who are willing to pay for it.
Kevin Lentz
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Kevin Lentz Entrepreneur • Advisor
Let's ship great products
Thank you everyone who responded. Fabulous (as always on this forum) responses.

Rob, your level of focus inspired me to think very directly about a strategy, and has helped tremendously.

Ajay, based on your comment, I have started early testing to get data around this so my conversations with partners have some meat in terms of value.

For all others, heard loud and clear: MUST FIND CO-FOUNDERS/ADVISORS IN THE SPACE.

Thanks all.
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