63. Jason Fairchild – developing GoTo, OpenX and tvScientific

Jason was the co-founder with his fellow Yahoo veteran Tim Cadogan of OpenX, a pioneering ad server and then programmatic exchange that launched in 2008. Today he is co-founder and CEO of tvScientific, a CTV-oriented programmatic platform.

Jason began his journey in business development in Southern California at one of the original ISPs, Earthlink, which persists to this day. Then living in Pasadena, he was an avid follower of the Idealab incubator, led by the monumental Bill Gross, who became a mentor. One of Idealab’s startups that Jason noticed was GoTo.com – and he joined as one of the company’s first two dozen employees, powering business development and deal-making.

As Jason tells Marty in this penetrating episode, it “almost didn’t matter” what GoTo actually did, so eager was he to join the Idealab orbit.

As legend has it, GoTo started as an algorithmic search engine, until Bill Gross came back after a weekend’s thought and decided it should try something that had never been done before: rank results based on how much advertisers bid on the keyword(s). Paid search was born.

It was a tough sell, as Jason admits. Advertisers had to become comfortable with keywords, bidding, measurement, a whole new vocabulary and method of paying for attention and intent. Ironically, it took the dot-com crash to catalyze GoTo’s business, as cash-strapped marketers realized search was a (seemingly) highly-accountable channel. GoTo (then renamed Overture) was acquired by Yahoo in 2003 for a reported $1.8 billion.

Jason and Tim Cadogan founded OpenX in 2008 with the idea of building a “more real-time” version of Right Media. Originally offering an open source ad server, the founding pair assumed their thousands of ad-serving customers would happily join a proto-exchange and provide a willing source of inventory. They were wrong.

What followed was a “brick by brick” assembly of an exchange, in the midst of the financial crisis. It was slow going. The build required recruiting a publisher, putting them on the exchange, then finding a buyer; and so on. What tipped the scales was a deal with Fox Audience Network, which was flush with user-level data from its MySpace acquisition and looking for a way to use that extend its inventory elsewhere. OpenX joined with the MediaMath DSP to do an experiment with Fox that provided an “aha moment” — and OpenX shifted from slow-growth to hyperspace.

During his wind-down at OpenX, as Chief Revenue Officer and global expander, Jason started to become interested in Connected TV as a programmatic possibility, and by 2020 he has left OpenX to co-found tvScientific. Bill Gross was an early champion and investor, as was #PaleoAdTech friends’ Joe Zawadazki and Eric Franchi’s Aperiam Ventures.

tvScientific’s mission is to make CTV as easy to buy as search and social, activating a heretofore dormant long tail of smaller advertisers outside the top 500 who dominate 85% of TV ad spend.

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