How do you make yourself stand out in a constantly expanding industry?
That was the question that SteelHouse faced in 2009 during an ad tech surge. While most companies scrambled to find their niche, SteelHouse took a more general approach, tailoring themselves to what they knew advertisers needed — efficiency.
The Culver City-based company began as a retargeting platform, but quickly evolved into an all-encompassing toolbox for advertisers to control the full spectrum of their campaign, including audience segmentation, creative development, and optimization reports. The distinctive approach was a product of the co-founders’ marketing past, highlighted by current President and CEO Mark Douglas, the former Head of Engineering for both Rubicon Project and eHarmony.
In 2013, Douglas made the conscious decision to grow the company profitably as opposed to quickly; a decision that has resulted in 75 percent revenue growth in 2014 and 153 percent in 2015. But Steelhouse’s all-encompassing approach and complete campaign transparency is somewhat of a rarity in a fragmented ad tech industry.
“Lately ad tech has not been the darling of technology,” CMO Patrizio Spagnoletto explained. ”It’s a space that’s been overcrowded with a lot of smaller vendors trying to find their place. So from both an industry and a VC perspective, there's been growing skepticism on the future of ad tech.”
According to Spagnoletto, the “niche focused” industry has forced agencies to work with anywhere between three to seven vendors on a single campaign, sacrificing efficiency in the process. When data gets transferred from one vendor to the other, there is inherently some intelligence lost, but Steelhouse boasts a one-stop shop ecosystem that has allowed the 130 person company to grow in the crowded market.
“The general sense in the industry is that consolidation is bound to happen — the current state is not sustainable. It’s just a matter of when and, in my opinion, it's going to happen sooner rather than later.”
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