13. Dave Morgan – keeping it Real(Media), TACODA and Simulmedia

Dave Morgan is the CEO and founder of Simulmedia, which provides a scaled ad targeting platform for TV and video games. He’s from the great state of Pennsylvania and is the first former lawyer we’ve had on the show. In the mid-1990s, he founded Real Media — one of the first ad-serving and -networking companies. It merged with the legendary 24/7 agency in 2001 to form 24/7 Real Media (later acquired by WPP and morphed into Xaxis).

Dave also founded TACODA, an early behavioral-targeting platform for digital ads acquired by AOL in 2007. Simulmedia was founded in 2009.

In his charming style, Dave chats with Jill and Marty about his early days in a semi-rural town that had more deer than people; his short career as a big-city Philadelphia lawyer; and his gig as General Counsel at the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association in the early 1990’s, a move that exposed him to media and the theme of his career: aggregating local media to support scaled national ad buys. (That’s kind of what Simulmedia does for TV, now that we think about it.)

He tells the story of a legendary elevator pitch to Brad Burnham, later of Union Square Ventures, and how that pitch got him to New York City. Real Media’s first real offices were in a rug merchant’s building two blocks from his current space at 28th Street and Park Avenue South.

Real Media was an ad server that competed with NetGravity (acquired by the mighty DoubleClick), and it was an intrepid survivor of the crash of 2001, picked up by 24/7 (after a rejected bid by DoubleClick) for a reported $2 million. TACODA started as a behavioral targeting platform but took off after becoming a tech-powered ad network.

In a delightful aside, Dave talks about his brief and wonderous tenure at AOL, where he re-read Machiavelli’s The Prince on a tip to understand his internal political situation, recommended strongly against acquiring the Bebo social network, and left when his advice was ignored. He was vindicated when the network, which cost AOL $850 million, was sold a few years later for around $20 million.

And he reveals the little-known fact that Elon Musk actually started in ad tech, founding a classified ad-serving company called Zip2 with his brother Kimbal, long before he launched himself into space. A future guest? We’ll see.


  1. Great stories… Elon’s company after Zip2 was X.com (which merged with PayPal, both companies were on University in Palo Alto.

Leave a Reply