On January 4, Centro announced that it had raised $22.5 million from FTV Capital. In a release, the Company said, "This financing will fuel increased investment in Centro's automated digital media buying software, Transis, as well as accelerate a significant expansion of Centro's sales force targeting mid-tier advertisers and ad agencies." Read the release.
Shawn Riegsecker, CEO and founder of Centro (original March 2010 Q&A here), discussed the raise, Transis strategy and momentum.
AdExchanger.com: What will be the key initiatives that the $22.5 million in this Series A round will fund? And.. Series A.. how is that possible after being founded in 2002?
The primary use of funds will be two-fold: invest in Transis, our automated media buying platform, and increasing the size of our media and software sales team. As for this being our Series A round, we don’t buy into the prevailing belief that you have to close investment capital to experience significant growth in a short period of time. Too many entrepreneurs make the mistake of bringing in capital too early in the process. We believe it’s smarter to bootstrap, work hard and self-fund your growth by reinvesting profit, which is what we did. We’ve been profitable since the year we started and reached more than 180 employees in 18 offices before finding an investment partner.
What sort of traction is Transis getting? Any stats you can share?
It’s been a little over nine months since we announced the launch of Transis and we’re incredibly pleased with the progress so far. Today, we have more than 60 agencies using Transis in a beta relationship. They are great partners and are helping us prioritize the most important features and functionality they want to see in Transis. The early response and feedback demonstrates the overwhelming need to fix the way all media is currently being bought, sold and accounted for.
Could you see Transis providing attribution capabilities?
Absolutely. Step one was to automate the transactional work taking place inside our industry between buyers and sellers so they can focus their time on high-value and strategic activities. However, we have been automating the process, keeping “intelligence” at the forefront of our development efforts. Automation alone, although valuable, isn’t good enough. Intelligent automation is the focus of Transis.
With Transis, any similarity to plans like those of companies like MediaBank and Donovan Data System?
Although we don’t have information as to their plans, we expect there is greater opportunity to work together versus competing. We serve the same clients - the advertising agencies. So, collectively, we need to keep that front and center to our business plans and work together to do what’s right for clients. If that means integrating our respective systems to help advertising agencies be more successful, I would like to think we’ll find common ground and work together for the benefit of our shared client relationships.
What does Transis mean for the ad server?
Transis is a workflow automation layer that sits on top of ad serving systems. Information flows seamlessly from Transis into the ad server and then from the ad server back into Transis. Transis stores the data from all of the ad servers in an aggregated data warehouse and month-end reconciliation takes place inside Transis before sending it to the agency’s bill payment system.
Could a larger player like Google get in the space and overwhelm Centro? What's the barrier to entry for competitors?
With the size, scale, talent and resources at Google, it’s safe to assume they can get into any space and be a disruptive and dominant force. However, automating workflow to the degree Transis does is not a project that can happen in a few quarters. It’s a multi-year project and, if you haven’t begun building the system already, it will be very difficult to catch up. Hence, we consider the barriers to entry into this software market to be steep.
It’s also good to keep in mind that Transis has been fully deployed and used as the software backbone of Centro for more than four years. Without Transis, Centro wouldn’t exist at its current size and scale. Using Centro’s media business as a proving ground for Transis gives us a sizable and strategic advantage in the market.
By John Ebbert
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