Almost four years ago, on a blistering hot Sunday afternoon in North Hills, Raleigh, North Carolina, I sat listening to a group of passionate technologists outline a vision for ad-serving aimed at digital publishers that would – before the world had got so hung up on big data – show that there’s much more business insight in the ad-server data than just clicks and impressions.
Just over 18 months later that bootstrapped startup, aiMatch, was acquired by the world’s leading analytics company, SAS: validation that the publisher advertising technology space needed more than just delivery technology and that, in order to compete, publishers need quick insights into how advertising is performing and impacting their business. There’s so much more to come in that area.
Today, however, marks my last day with SAS Intelligent Advertising for Publishers; I’ve accepted a job with another company in the ad tech space but I wanted to do two things before I return my pass to HQ. In the coming weeks, to serve as my own aide memoir, I’ll write the 10 things about the publisher ad space, and its evolution, that I have learned over the past four years. I am not yet sure if the challenge will be to get to 10 unique points or restrict it to 10. We’ll see …
Right now, however, I want this to serve as a very public thank you to the entire aiMatch team, past and present, in the US and the UK who made the past four years possible. I joined the company before the first customer had served an ad and now, as I leave, billions & billions of decisions are made for customers across the globe and growing at a rate that, back then, we could only have dreamed about.
It may be a cliche to say, but it is true, that everybody in that team played their part in growing the business. I can’t call them all out individually but thanks must go to Jeff, Guy and Ryan for having the vision and the will to get aiMatch going. A self-funded technology start-up isn’t easy but they delivered for customers around the world and I will remain very proud of the whole team because of that. Of course, I’ve worked with Steve here in the UK, in a number of companies, for more of the last 15 years than I haven’t and he probably deserves some kind of award for that. It was his idea that we hire that cinema in Soho – the outcome of which was the first UK customer – in spite of my fear we wouldn’t be able to fill the space.
When we came into the SAS family we met many great people who helped take the product to the next level. There’s a whole world of them but I would be remiss if I didn’t thank the Australian team who’ve been entirely responsible for my jet lag, resulting grumpiness and bad eating habits over the last 18 months. They’re one of the best teams in the business.
I learnt many things along the way. It’s clear setting up something from scratch in a competitive space isn’t easy but it’s worth trying, it can work out well but you will never know if you don’t jump in. Executing a plan that’s constantly moving is a fun challenge even if it doesn’t seem like it at the time. Working closely with your customers is the best way to succeed. But parking the CEO’s car in the tiny remaining parking space in a concrete parking lot in Wilmington in 40-degree heat is the most nerve-wracking challenge of them all.
If you’re a publisher and you want something better from your ad-technology stack then I recommend SAS Intelligent Advertising for Publishers as a very good place to start looking. And, when you see it, remember that the killer feature you’re going to love was all my idea, don’t let anybody convince you otherwise!