If you made it to AppNexus' New York Summit on Wednesday, you might have come away feeling that the programmatic frontier has been largely colonized -- at least as pertains to traditional display -- and the remaining work to be done is along the lines of tree clearing and swamp draining.
VC investment has slowed and the number of new startups has declined in each of the last two years, noted Jerry Neumann of Neu Venture Capital, citing CrunchBase. Meanwhile many big publishers already have programmatic sales channels in place, and some companies are backing away from building display ad tech to focus on partnerships.
This can be viewed as healthy or perhaps discouraging, depending on where you sit. For AppNexus, a scaled company with 550 employees, it's probably a good thing. But there's still work to be done, especially around mobile and "programmatic direct." (TV is still a remote opportunity.)
The company was late to mobile, but claims rapid advances. Most recently it signed a supply deal to become the trading platform for Millennial Media. On the negotiated buying front, it announced general availability of a trading/chat interface called Tango. (As in, "It takes two to…")
"We are harvesting the benefits of seeds we've planted for years," President Michael Rubenstein told the audience. "The next inevitability is mobile and that's where our investment has gone."
After the event, AdExchanger sat down with CEO Brian O'Kelley for a deeper dive on the company and marketplace issues.
AdExchanger: You seem to be talking less about product, more about partnership. Is the industry nearing maturity in programmatic technology for mobile and display?
BRIAN O'KELLEY: What we've done in mobile is nothing short of amazing. When we showed Microsoft our progress, they were stunned. They said they'd never seen a company build so much product, so fast and so well. From an outside perspective, being in a position a year later to do a deal like Millennial, where they would choose us to be their mobile exchange platform, when we had no mobile technology a year ago? It's just amazing.
It's not that we're not doing stuff. Mobile is the stuff.