36. Ben Barokas – real-timing the supply side at AdMeld and Google

Ben Barokas is the Co-Founder and CEO at Sourcepoint Technologies, which provides data privacy tools for digital marketers. He launched the company in 2015 after three years as GM of the Global Marketplace Development team at Google, which acquired his previous company, the pioneering supply-side platform (SSP) AdMeld, for a reported $400 million in 2011.

Ben started his analytical journey as an agricultural economist, studying for a time in Hawaii before traveling to Germany and Israel, among other ports, along the way starting an internet cafe in Tel Aviv and a short-lived record label. Through a friend, he landed back near his and his wife’s hometown, in Dulles, Virginia at the post-merger AOL doing QA for ad campaigns and rotating through various roles, ending up heavily involved with video ad products. His AOL ad trafficking bootcamp lasted from 2000 to 2006, when he was Sr. Manager of Ad Products and left to join a couple startups.

One was JumpTV, an early streaming service based in Canada that retransmitted a lot of international sports content, in an era before the infrastructure existed to support an edifying streaming experience. But at JumpTV — as Ben tells Marty and Jill in this fast-moving episode — he was reunited with his technical twin from AOL, Brian Adams (not the singer). The two “sat around brainstorming” how to solve the “truly awful” publisher ad experience they felt first-hand at JumpTV.

The result was AdMeld, perhaps the first supply-side platform, launched in 2007 with a strong venture endorsement from Santo Politi at Spark Capital, and others. Loyal listeners of #PaleoAdTech will recognize 2007 as a major year for ad tech and the dawn of RTB, as Google acquired DoubleClick, Microsoft acquired aQuantive (and AdECN), Yahoo acquired Right Media (the first exchange) … and at least three SSP’s launched: AdMeld, Pubmatic and Rubicon Project.

At first, SSPs primarily helped publishers to manage relationships with ad networks and were not focused on real-time bidding (RTB). Fairly rapidly, as exchanges and DSPs also developed and agency trading desks appeared, they took on more programmatic decisioning responsibilities. And at first, RTB was non-guaranteed and remnant, but AdMeld was more interested in moving to premium, guaranteed and ultimately private marketplace (PMP) deals enabled with Deal ID, which it championed.

Admeld team at the time of the Google acquisition (2011).
Ben is the intelligent-looking fellow in the dark jacket, front row.

Google acquired AdMeld in 2011; the two companies had a relationship already and Google wanted to build out its publisher offering beyond its ad server (then called DFP or DART for Publishers). At the time, Ben says, he and Brian Adams had to decide whether to raise $100 million and build their own ad server or go with the acquisition — and ultimately “we made the right choice,” he says.

The deal was scrutinized and ultimately passed by the Justice Department. General sentiment in the industry at the time was that Rubicon and Pubmatic were bigger businesses, but AdMeld had stronger technology.

Happy former AdMelders at a reunion not long ago. CEO Michael Barrett is the tall guy fourth from the right; Ben is in the front row 7th from the right, next to the woman with the soda.

Ben left Google to found Sourcepoint in 2015, sensing opportunity around ensuring customer data privacy for publishers but “frustrated” by Google’s development pace around consent management. He continues to lead the company.

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