Founders Discuss Their $405M Acquisition And The Company’s ‘Secret Ingredients’

A week after AOL (which owns TechCrunch) announced that it’s acquiring video ad company for $405 million, we drove down to the company’s office in San Mateo to speak to co-founders Amir Ashkenazi (the CEO) and Teg Grenager (the chief product officer).

Ashkenazi told me that there were “secret ingredients” leading to the company’s success — namely, its engineers. That’s because the company’s goal was to create an ad platform that directly connected buyers and sellers:

Take every engineering team of that size, they’ll tell you it’s impossible. ‘Really, you should decide whether you want to be a DSP or an exchange an SSP’ — but that model is broken, you cannot have five people between a buyer and a seller and have an effective and efficient advertising ecosystem. So we gave them this task and they didn’t know it’s impossible, so they just did it.

Grenager, meanwhile, offered more details about the technology and the need that it’s filling. Just as the move from network to cable TV led to fragmentation, the move to online video is making things even more complicated, he said:

Now as it goes from cable television to Internet-delivered video, we get to thousands or millions of different potential programs delivered on thousands of different sites and so on. When you think about it from a brand advertiser’s perspective, they have a need to plan and deliver and measure a campaign to a particular audience with particular performance goals across that fragmented landscape. And this creates not just a problem of the technology stack that’s required but actually a problem of data — of actually knowing where that audience is and making that data actionable.

By the way, these interviews were recorded before Adweek published a story quoting a number of anonymous ad buyers who complained about’s inventory, particularly “straight-up bogus ad impressions generated by bots.” Ashkenazi told Adweek, “We believe we are the leader in quality.”

When I asked about about this, Ashkenazi emailed to say that “voluntary cleanup efforts” in the past 12 months have reduced the number of ad opportunities that has access to from 8 billion to 4.8 billion: “It’s an ongoing battle for everyone in the industry, and we’ll keep leading the charge.”