David Brussin is CEO of Monetate, a provider of testing, targeting, and personalization services for websites.
Earlier this month, the company announced a $15 million Series B funding round led by OpenView Venture Partners. Read more on TechCrunch.
AdExchanger.com: Is the focus of the company eCommerce?
DB: We’re actually not focused on eCommerce. Our mission is really about anyone with a website, who has a commercial goal around the site, because all websites have the same thing in common.
Whether they’re transactional B to C, eCommerce, online retail, direct response or subscription, they all have the same characteristics around needing to provide relevant, compelling experiences for visitors, in order to drive an outcome.
For online retail, that action is purchasing a product that’s probably going to be shipped to them. For direct response, it might be transactional or it might not. But there is a pretty direct connection to some kind of exchange of value transaction.
For media, it’s different. That action might be transactional in nature and subscription oriented, but it might also be engagement and consumption of content, ad views.
We chose eCommerce as our initial vertical, because we actually have some features that we’ve built that are specifically for eCommerce that help that vertical. But we’re now playing in a number of other spaces.
Looking at a HubSpot or Adobe which has its enterprise platform solution – how does Monetate differentiate?
The challenge is that everything a marketer needs to do with those legacy platforms requires IT. That’s really why we have this whole micro‑site challenge in the first place: IT has to be involved and means that you’re looking at six to 18 months to launch campaigns.
If you look at the pace of activity, the agility of marketers working in display and search, those legacy platforms just can’t keep up. What’s needed is a platform that actually allows marketers to work at the same pace they’re working in every other channel.
What do you think about the potential impact of a downturn in the economy for a product offering like Monetate’s?
Well, we’ve seen this before, so my answer is maybe less prognostication and more thinking about the way things happened in the last downturn or maybe the first part of this one, if it goes that way.
Monetate was founded in January of 2008. We launched our product into the market in the summer of 2008. Thereafter, the retail and consumer economy and the rest of the market fell apart.
Monetate actually grew and even got to cash flow positive during that time.
We see two things that drive Monetate in the long term. One is a kind of an effect, where folks actually have to focus on doing better, rather than just doing more. The other piece is we’re just reaching a natural inflection point in the growth of eCommerce. As we get closer to that inflection point, then the growth in this industry will be driven through sophistication. Just as it was 20, 30 years ago with companies like Walmart and Target doing the same things with their large bricks‑and‑mortar empires and starting to pay attention in deep ways to data from their customers and from their supply chains.
Are you starting to bring in the marketer’s offline data to help with online campaigns?
Yes. There are a lot of crossovers. Sometimes the things we’re doing are online campaigns that turn into digital and in‑store coupons to track in that direction. Often we’re paying attention to data that comes from the offline channel, but that we can also use when folks have an online interaction.
You were an outside board member at Invite Media before it was acquired by Google in 2010. Obviously, you have lots of experience in display. In your opinion, is the display space as complex as everybody says it is?
Yes, I think it is very complex. In some ways I think it’s useful to contrast display with search, where there are definitely powerful ecosystems that have built around both. There’s no question that display is more complex, because in search there are really only a couple of controllers of all inventory. In display that’s not true.
What surprises me about display today is that some of the innovations in display have taken longer to take hold than I would have expected given how powerful they are. But when I think of it from the other perspective, in contrast with search, I guess it’s not that surprising because given that the ecosystem is so much more complex, those innovations will naturally take longer to take hold.
I think that the transformation that the exchange has brought to display is an incredibly powerful one. I look at it through this lens because of Invite Media, but I see that transformation as being a key driver for future innovation in this space. It brings a model that allows for all of the value, the richness of targeting, segmentation and intelligence around data. Whereas before the exchange, a lot of it was used, but in much less direct ways.
That meant the ROI was lower and more complex. I think that’s one of the reasons that those otherwise really powerful technologies have been a bit slower to take hold.
Regarding your latest funding round, can you expand on what you plan on doing with the additional funds?
Sure. I talked a little bit about the early path of the company, and growing rapidly to cash flow positive in the bad economy. We did that without raising much money. The nice thing about the way we got started was that we really got the product right, and we made sure that what we were offering is exactly what the market needed.
So our path since then has really been driven by that early work. This expansion is all about being able to serve more customers, and across all areas. Certainly, a lot of it is about sales and marketing, but we’re adding dramatically to our strategic team and our engineering team because we want to stay out in front. We get a tremendous amount of data on what works for customers and what doesn’t. We’ve always been able to use that to keep the product out ahead of our customers.
So a big part of [the new funds] is about continuing to innovate and drive forward for marketers.
Do you think about international at all?
We do. We have a number of international customers, both U.S.-based companies that do significant business in 100 or so international markets, as well as internationally‑based customers who are focused on both U.S. and other markets.
All of our employees are based in the U.S. today. At some point we certainly will expand our footprint and have folks overseas. I can’t tell you exactly when that will be, but it’s something we’re thinking about.