As one of the company’s first hires, Brian Stempeck’s tenure with The Trade Desk parallels much of the company’s own growth journey. From its beginnings as a burgeoning startup with seven employees — to a global company with more than 1,000 staff members today — Brian’s career has also grown: He’s been promoted twice, moved from The Trade Desk's NYC office to their new office in LA, and now serves as The Trade Desk’s first chief strategy officer, as well as a member of the company’s board of directors.
As Brian continues to guide The Trade Desk forward, he’s excited for what the future holds for the digital advertising platform. We spoke with Brian about how The Trade Desk has grown, what he’s learned as a leader, and where he thinks the advertising industry is headed.
EMPLOYEES: 994; 233 locally
WHAT THEY DO: The Trade Desk is a robust technology platform that empowers brands and media buyers to create, manage and optimize data-driven digital advertising campaigns across all formats and devices at scale.
WHERE THEY DO IT: Los Angeles, Irvine and Ventura, with offices in Bellevue, Boulder, Chicago, Denver, Hamburg, Hong Kong, Jakarta, London, Madrid, New York, Paris, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, Seoul, Shanghai, Singapore, Sydney, Tokyo and Toronto.
STAY HEALTHY: The Trade Desk offers comprehensive healthcare with premiums paid in full for employees and dependents.
HAPPY ANNIVERSARY: Employees receive a premium gift for each work anniversary.
TIGHT-KNIT CULTURE: Opening offices across the globe and growing its sales and tech teams doesn’t mean The Trade Desk is giving up its tight-knit community. Read more about the culture that makes the company what it is today.
Brian Stempeck, Chief Strategy Officer
Brian works with advertisers and agencies to build new products and business lines for The Trade Desk. He spends the bulk of his time working on the Connected TV product and managing the sales, partnerships and technical account management teams.
BEYOND WORK: Like many others who work out of the LA and Ventura offices, Brian loves surfing.
What initially drew you to The Trade Desk?
When I first joined The Trade Desk, there were only seven people at the company. I was looking for a startup where I could try a bunch of different roles, and I had always been fascinated by advertising. I was introduced to the co-founders through a friend, and even though I didn’t know much about online advertising at the time, the way they described the company and the industry was super interesting to me. I hit it off immediately with everyone I met — I knew then it was going to be a special place to work.
How has your leadership style evolved over time?
We build some really sophisticated and complex technology. A big part of my job is to figure out how to simply explain what we do so that our clients and investors can understand it. It’s like when you’re watching “Shark Tank”: If it takes a CEO longer than a sentence or two to explain what the company does, they’re doing it wrong
Another thing that’s evolved for me is being able to delegate bigger deals or projects. I think for anyone with a business development background, it can be hard to go from owning a deal yourself versus trusting — and teaching — someone else to manage it.
We wanted to create a place where all of us wanted to work for a really long time — not just a few years.”
If you were to step back and look at your company and its achievements, what makes you proudest?
A lot of technology startups don’t really plan for the long-term. In many cases, they’re looking for a quick exit, hoping a bigger company will acquire them. And when you build a company that way, you develop bad habits. You aren’t smart about expenses or hiring because you’re probably not planning to be there in two years.
For most of us who started The Trade Desk, a quick exit wasn’t our goal. A lot of us had worked at big companies, and we didn’t want to go back to that. We wanted to create a place where all of us wanted to work for a really long time — not just a few years. We wanted to surround ourselves with smart, hardworking people who were also down to earth, humble and self-aware. I think we’ve done that — the culture here is pretty great.
What’s a major challenge facing the digital advertising industry? How are you addressing it?
I don’t think the advertising industry has done a great job explaining how the value exchange of the internet works. Consumers get amazing content for free: music on Spotify, journalism on The New York Times, TV shows on Hulu, and more. All of these people creating content are supported by advertising, but the industry has been too slow to explain that and too slow to change.
Consumers are saying quite clearly that they don’t like the way ads work today. They’re trying to block ads or find ad-free options. Our industry has the opportunity to make things better, and that’s something we focus on. It’s entirely possible for someone watching TV to see fewer, shorter, better ads.
What’s next for The Trade Desk?
If you look at the nearly $700 billion that is spent on advertising every year, about half of it is spent on TV. And of course, the TV industry is in the middle of a massive upheaval. People are switching from cable TV to streaming, and the pace of that change keeps accelerating. One of the biggest growth areas for our company is in TV advertising. We’ve built technology to target ads on smart TVs and over-the-top devices like Roku or Amazon Fire.
The other big growth area for us is outside the United States. We have offices all over the world, including Indonesia, China, Germany and Singapore. Big global advertisers want to run big global campaigns, and that’s what we help them do. We’ve had a lot of employees transfer from one office to another, and we encourage people to grow their global perspective here.
What will you expect of your employees as The Trade Desk grows?
We expect everyone who works here to be really collaborative and work cross-functionally. That’s a huge part of what we do. If I think about our Los Angeles office, we have employees from pretty much every part of the company.
Let’s say we’re running ads on Connected TV. That could mean someone on our partnerships team is working with a TV network, and then an engineer is coding our software platform. The salesperson and the account manager are explaining how it works to the client, and our marketing team is writing case studies and doing events to showcase that work. Pretty much every single person in the office can be working on part of a project.
What are you most excited about for the future of The Trade Desk?
In most industries, you only see one huge digital transformation period. For example, on Wall Street in the 1980s and 1990s, there was this massive shift from stockbrokers waving pieces of paper on the market floor to electronic trading happening in a fraction of a second. That same change is happening in advertising right now. Advertising is one of the biggest industries in the world — it affects all of us every day. And high-speed digital technology will completely turn the industry upside down over the next few years, just like what happened on Wall Street. It’s an incredible experience to be part of this kind of change.