Venture Voice – interviews with entrepreneurs

Entertaining Entrepreneurship

VV Show #48 – Frank Addante of The Rubicon Project

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Whether working with market trends or against them, Frank Addante has found entrepreneurial success. Before he was 29 years old, one of Frank’s companies went public and two were acquired. At his worse, he returned capital to investors. Suffering from serial entrepreneurship, Frank left the Illinois Institute of Technology just four classes shy of his degree. His companies range from an early search engine to a Sequoia Capital-backed enterprise email solution. Now Frank aspires to be a web publisher’s best friend with his new ad network optimization service that he says is boosting their clients’ revenues by 30-300%. Listen in as Frank details his ongoing entrepreneurial journey.


1:05 Company #1: Start off with Starting Point – a “card catalog for the internet”
2:20 Decision to leave college and the early days at Starting Point
3:30 Early days of online advertising.
5:11 Life after Starting Point
5:50 Entrepreneurship in Chicago
7:20 Company #2: L90 and Ad Monitor, a focus on advertising technology
8:30 “CEO without the title”
9:15 Comparisons to DoubleClick (Listen to DoubleClick’s former CEO on Venture Voice)
10:30 The myth of competing cultures in early advertising
13:25 Surviving a bursting bubble through acquisition
14:34 Thoughts on net-worth volatility
16:03 Leaving L90

  • Solving the “what if Frank gets hit by a bus” dilemma

19:25 Company #3: Zondigo

  • “The absolute worst time to be starting a company, particularly a wireless company”
  • Rare maneuver: returning funding to shareholders
  • Avoiding emotional hang-ups of entrepreneurship

23:45 Company #4: Addante & Associates, an incubator, turns into StrongMail Systems
27:00 Moving StrongMail to the Valley and “the Sequoia connection”
32:05 On taking advice and the “not right now” list
34:38 Company #5: The Rubicon Project

  • “A combination of great people, funding and [a] market that brought the whole thing together”

38:01 The Rubicon Project in a nutshell

  • 80% of advertising is unsold and filled through ad networks.
  • Currently 300 ad networks and growing.
  • “That’s a lot of chaos.”
  • Great for advertisers, a “nightmare for web sites.”
  • “Someone has to sit in the middle of all this chaos and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

40:20 The importance of “the team”
41:38 On moving quickly: “Go fast but don’t hurry.”
42:25 Smooth sailing, so far.

  • “Customers have seen anywhere from a 30-300% lift in their revenue.”

44:00 On concern from ad networks: “Change will be beneficial for everyone.”

  • “33% of consumer time is spent online, but only 7% of advertising budgets.”
  • “It’s still too damn hard to advertise on the internet.”
  • “We’re just trying to automate this.”
  • No channel conflict: “Will not sell direct to advertisers.”

47:00 Stats: 60 top ad network, over 4,000 publishers, 40 employees, $21 million raised
47:20 Thoughts on the future of The Rubicon Project
48:35 Advice for entrepreneurs

  • “Mistakes are OK”
  • “Try not to be a feature”
  • “Build a great team”
  • “Figure out your business model early”
  • “Just go for it”

Frank’s Blog: FounderBlog

Frank’s pitch for LA:

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