AdRoll Hires Google Sales Director Suresh Khanna

Aiming to become one of the giants of online advertising, ad retargeting startup AdRoll has hired Googler Suresh Khanna as its vice president of sales.

In nearly six years at Google, Khanna held a number of roles. Most recently, he was director of new advertiser sales, where he says he led the North American team for acquiring mid-market and larger advertisers. Until now, Khanna says AdRoll hasn’t had anyone focused on building out the sales team, so one of his big goals is to “attract rock stars.” He also says that he wants to help AdRoll build relationships with larger advertisers and ad agencies.

“I think it’s very early days on retargeting,” Khanna says. “We’ve got 3,500 customers but, again, I think the opportunity is in the millions of advertisers.”

Retargeting, where ads are delivered based on your past online behavior, sometimes get a bad rap. Khanna himself admits that he had a similar “knee jerk” reaction when he heard about AdRoll, thinking of it as a system where, say, someone abandons an e-commerce shopping cart with kitchen knives, then suddenly finds that they’re bombarded with kitchen knife ads wherever they go online. The key, he says, is to expand the definition of retargeting from that narrow use case to thinking “more strategically” about taking advantage of “all the data you have on all your customers.”

“I think that’s classic early days,” he says. “When you’re on the bleeding edge, that’s what the first round of people in the space might have done, but we need to push beyond that.”

AdRoll recently announced that it quadrupled revenue last year and was profitable for the first time.

(I also see, via LinkedIn, that Khanna is the co-founder and co-owner of Kasa Indian Eatery, one of my favorite restaurants in San Francisco.)