Y Combinator-Backed LeanMarket Aims To Bring Real-Time Bidding To The Masses

“Real-time bidding” (where advertisers automatically bid on each ad impression) is a phrase that you hear more and more in the online ad world, but LeanMarket founder Cyrus Lohrasbpour says it’s still out-of-reach for smaller companies. Most RTB products are really built for large advertisers — they come with long-term commitments and high minimum ad buys, and to use them you have to negotiate with enterprise salespeople.

Lohrasbpour is looking to change that with his new startup, which offers a self-serve platform for real-time bidding. There are other self-serve options out there (for example, Engage:BDR launched one in May), but Lohrasbpour claims to be the first that’s “really lightweight and easy-to-use” while also getting the technology right. LeanMarket advertisers don’t have to deal with any salespeople, there’s no long-term commitment, and they can just pay by credit card.

Plus, advertisers won’t have to worry about the intricacies of the bids and auctions, Lohrasbpour adds. Instead, they can optimize their campaigns around the goals that matter to them. For example, a dating site could decide that it wants to pay $5 for each new sign-up. LeanMarket will automate create a campaign (buying ads through exchanges like AdMeld, Pubmatic, and the Rubicon Project) around those parameters, then refine the campaign over time (increasing spending in areas that work, decreasing in the ones that don’t) to deliver the desired results.

Lohrasbpour argues that LeanMarket will also be opening up the world of banner ads to smaller advertisers. Until now, banners have been mostly been used by large brand advertisers, while small and medium businesses stuck to Google and Facebook, because that’s where they can target their ads to a specific audience or geography. With RTB, however, an advertiser can also deliver their banners with improved targeting.

LeanMarket is part of the current class of Y Combinator startups. Lohrasbpour is the company’s only founder, which is unusual for YC — he jokes that it makes him part of “a very exotic breed.” For now, the site is in a limited beta test. Instead of letting all interested advertisers sign up, they have to reach out to him through the site’s contact form, and he’ll let in the ones who seem like a good fit.