When Kevin O’Connor started DoubleClick in the mid-1990s, it was half an online media sales company for early Web companies like Netscape and Excite and half a technology company. “We were their profits,” O’Connor tells Chris Dixon about Netscape in this second installment of his Founder Stories interview. (Watch the first one here).
O’Connor relates how he got DoubleClick going in the early days, why he picked New York over Silicon Valley, and the challenges of introducing measurable advertising just when the Web was starting to take off. “People didn’t want accountability,” he says. Even the technology companies who were customers only wanted to use DoubleClick as their media reps, and not for their technology. When their contract with Netscape came up for renewal, DoubleClick was going to be fired as Netscape’s rep firm because Netscape did not believe in their technology or that that they could sell advertising to CIOs (bundled with servers, which is what Netscape wanted to do). “Have you ever met a CIO that buys advertising? It was so nonsensical.”
The tension between being an advertising network and a technology company continued, but the bet on technology proved to be the correct one. In a previous Founder Stories, former DoubelClick CEO Kevin Ryan relates how during the bust, DoubleClick would lose 70 percent of its clients before coming out on the other side.
In the video below, O’Connor recalls how DoubleClick got through the crash. Fortunately, DoubleClick had just raised $700 million. “So that money saved you,” notes Dixon. He then asks O-Connor what made DoubleClick successful. There is “always that element of luck,” concedes O’Connor, but the two keys to success in his mind for any tech company are to “provide the best technological solution to a big problem and hire smart athletes” (by which he means smart people who are hyper-competitive).