Steal This Idea: 7 Ad Tech Founders Share What Business They’d Start Today If They Could

Ad tech founders know how to spot a trend when they see one, but there are always the ideas that got away, or the startup inspiration that sparks from a current event or a chance encounter.

Today, some founding industry vets have moved on and are applying their expertise chops to brand-new industries.

Post-AppNexus, Brian O’Kelley launched a startup to bring real-time data to supply chain and logistics management. Tapad co-founders Are Traasdahl and Dag Liodden started a venture that uses big data to reduce food waste. And serial ad tech C-suiter Jason Kelly is trying his hand at building a revenue management system for the airline industry.

What other new ideas are percolating? AdExchanger asked seven proven ad tech founders: What business would you start today if you could – ad tech or otherwise?

Here’s what they had to say.

Jennifer Lum
Co-founder, Adelphic
Currently: Entrepreneur in residence, Harvard Business School

In the growing intersection between tech and the life sciences, synthetic biology is of particular interest to me. Synthetic biology is the engineering of organisms to produce specific biological outcomes. It’s creating opportunities to transform manufacturing and supply chains across multiple sectors. It has inherent benefits, including improved costs, supply chain and product reliability and sustainability. There are some very interesting near-term commercial opportunities for synthetic biology in the pharmaceuticals, food and beverage and agriculture industries.

Frost Prioleau
Currently: CEO and co-founder,

Tela-dog: A telemedicine startup to conduct Zoom counseling sessions with dogs who have become accustomed to having their owners around and suffer withdrawals when their owners go back to work.

Kamakshi Sivaramakrishnan
Founder, Drawbridge
Currently: Senior director of product management, LinkedIn

If I could start a company today, it would be in the field of higher education. A classroom from 40 years ago doesn’t look dramatically different than today. What about a technology platform that is immersive and brings the experience of being in a classroom to life, but with a full set of features for interaction, collaboration, archives and productivity enhancement? This would make it possible to take courses and classes online in a fashion that doesn’t distance the physicality, is truly educational and affordable for students and also profitable for universities.

Ana Milicevic
Currently: Principal and co-founder, Sparrow Advisers

I think about two major shifts a lot: abundance and asynchronicity. We’re in an era of abundance now. There’s no shortage of easily accessible and good content, products, experiences and expertise. Yet we still largely operate as if those are scarce. We can enjoy most of these asynchronously: on demand, on our own time and away from each other, even though our friends and peers might be watching the same movies we are and find the same products appealing. We’re just discovering and consuming them separately.

For this asynchronous world of abundance, we need environments that value curation and create an opportunity to experience things together even when apart. That’s the type of company and audience monetization methods I’d be building.

Eric Franchi
Co-founder, Undertone
Currently: Operating partner, MathCapital

The business: A “startup studio” that rapidly tests and launches DTC products of all types. Dozens or hundreds of ideas for products generated by a diverse team of consumer product experts. Ideas would be tested using best-of-breed marketing, ecommerce and ad technology platforms to understand consumer desires and preferences. “Winning” products would then be manufactured in US factories.

The same tech platforms used for testing would also be used to bring the products to market at scale, while machine learning makes the entire process better and better with every new product launched.

Ruben Schreurs
Currently: CEO and founder, Digital Decisions, part of the Ebiquity Group

Programmatic curation services, without a doubt. I would launch a services business that connects buyers to sellers by laying pipes and curating safe and premium access to publishers and networks. We would guarantee premium, compliant, safe and relevant delivery to buyers. Publishers would benefit from the high standards of the buyers we work with. We would charge a low percentage as an intermediary fee, transparent to all. For those that remember the good old days of Rubicon’s REVV Connect, this would basically be that on steroids and as a service.

Bonus non-ad tech idea from Ruben: Habbo Hotel for business. A virtual office in which your employees have common areas and office space they can decorate. You can host games and quizzes, visit co-workers, initiate audio and visual calls and work together on a virtual whiteboard. (P.S. h/t to Ruben for this story idea)

Ari Paparo
Currently: CEO and co-founder, Beeswax

An ad-free recipe site funded by tips and donations.

Like OnlyFans, but for home cooks.

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