Rubicon Hires Ex-Maxifier Katsur To Meet Wider Ad Industry’s Move To Automation

Tony Katsur, Rubicon ProjectThe Rubicon Project has hired Maxifier CEO Tony Katsur as SVP of business operations, a new position for the company. Katsur, a veteran of DoubleClick and MediaMath, will be charged with extending Rubicon’s automation technology processes both internally and externally with clients and partners.

Katsur, who officially started at Rubicon on Monday, declined to discuss his mid-October departure from Maxifier, the sell-side pricing and inventory manager he joined two years ago as COO and was named CEO a year later. Maxifier CRO Denise Colella replaced Katsur.

The decision to create an executive position to manage automation and workflow processes began shortly after Rubicon hired former Dragon Media chief Greg Raifman as president. Conversations with Katsur happened over the last few weeks and the deal was done.

“There were a lot of great people with great reputation that we looked at over the past few months, but with Tony, he made the most sense as a strategic fit for the job,” Raifman said. “Both Frank and I have known Tony for quite some time and his engineering background and his roles as a COO, CTO and CEO were exactly what we needed to make sure that we are not only offering the right forms of automation to clients, but that we’re practicing it ourselves.”

By bringing in Katsur to deepen the automated functions inside and out at Rubicon, the company has picked a well-known digital veteran who is known for his engineering acumen. Given that he also recently came from a sell-side styled ad tech company is also expected to help him relate well to Rubicon’s core publisher clients.

Katsur’s move to Rubicon comes as the years-long rumor of an impending IPO have again heated up (Katsur and Rubicon executives again declined to comment). Instead, Rubicon CEO Frank Addante, president Greg Raifman and Katsur said that the SVP of business operations position was intended to reflect the advertising world’s wider adoption of automating workflow processes.

“When we started Rubicon six-and-a-half years ago, the central mission was to automate the process of advertising, and digital was simply the most obvious channel to begin with,” Addante said. “We assumed that the analog media world would eventually catch up to that concept, but we’ve been surprised at how quickly the adoption of automated processes has happened. Tony’s hire is intended to help match that need for greater automation in our own workflow, as well as for those entities outside Rubicon.”

Rubicon has evolved since its initial days when it was known as a “yield-optimizer.” Since then, the Los Angeles-based company has been lumped in with the sell-side platforms (SSPs) for publishers that emerged to challenge the ad agency-facing demand-side platforms (DSPs). While Addante often insists that Rubicon never identified itself that way, the company has gone from publisher services to operating a broader range of programmatic trading tools for both sides of the advertising sales divide.

Katsur, when asked if it’s still viable for advertising automation providers to be strictly sell-side instead of serving both publishers and advertiser, said that “it depends on the entity.” He acknowledged that the wider offering does make a great deal of sense.

“I could point at a sell-side provider or a DSP or an ad network and find some incredible underlying businesses,” Katsur said. “And I could point to ones that appear to have everything all together, but are actually pretty thin when it comes to the tech. For me, you don’t have to be a platform. Being a technologist, I happen to lean toward platforms. And no matter where you’re coming from, everyone is in the business that is increasingly automated. Platforms are the future.”

When asked whether Rubicon’s future would include a product rollout designed to reach into traditional media channels like TV (NBC Universal led Rubicon’s $9 million third funding round back in 2009), Addante said the company doesn’t discuss future strategic plans. Nevertheless, he did add that having specific products in the pipeline to tap into other media is beside the point.

“We’ve always focused on the top sellers and buyers around the world, including Fox, WSJ, Viacom and others,” Addante said. “And they’re advertising exists across display, mobile, print, TV, radio. Theoretically, our platform doesn’t care about those separate channels, just as it doesn’t care [whether] ad placements are coming out of the US, Germany or France.”

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