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Media, Entertainment and Communications: The Trade Desk

 

Jeff Green
CEO and Cofounder
Dave Pickles
CTO and Cofounder
Ventura, CA
Founded: 2009

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Right on target

Combining vision with persistence, Jeff Green and Dave Pickles are helping businesses narrow their defined audiences.

In their company’s early days, after an initial round of funding, Jeff Green and Dave Pickles were scrambling to develop and shape the technology behind The Trade Desk and position themselves to raise money again. Facing delays and a tight timeline, with the pressure at its most intense, “our conflict was at an all-time high,” Green recalls.

The tension was so great, he adds, that “between our investors putting pressure on us and the pressure we were putting on each other, it was possible for us to just blow the whole thing up and … go away.”

But The Trade Desk didn’t go away. After hard work and tough conversations, Green and Pickles have found themselves atop a company whose revenue has surged more than 260% just in the past year, after an IPO that ranked among the most successful of 2016.

Their cloud-based platform helps users to better harness data to drive their digital ad campaigns across different formats and devices. It also integrates with publisher partners and others, and its enterprise application program interfaces allow for customization. But Pickles says the technology isn’t only about what ad appears where.

“We’re just eliminating a lot of the waste and a lot of the noise that existed in traditional advertising,” he explains. The Trade Desk enables its clients to explore how they conduct campaigns: “Did you not only create the right product, but is this the right message, and is this the right extension to your product?”

What The Trade Desk is doing, asserts Pickles, “is bigger than the human genome” in that it brings advanced analytics and scale together to create a more sophisticated form of advertising.

The pair pride themselves on their complementary skills: while Green likes to explore broad possibilities, Pickles focuses on fine-tuning great ideas, which is how they transformed a PowerPoint and an idea into a new-media juggernaut with more than 500 people employed in 16 offices worldwide.

Similar to how traditional search engines deliver personalized results by factoring in a user’s location, previous searches and more, The Trade Desk aims to do the same for advertisements, offering information tailored to the user and not just the “average” consumer. Digital ads narrowly targeted to specific groups are then bought and sold in the moment, through real time bidding, with the platform’s data driven insights allowing for optimization.

“Our product has a humongous impact on our clients’ businesses, but it also has a huge impact on the way the internet works,” says Green. “What we’re doing is about a better media ecosystem [and] attaining its potential in terms of influence.”

Green compares the company’s leadership to rock stars — but the kind who are in it for the music instead of adoration from the crowds. They believe they’ve tapped into just 2% of their industry’s potential, and they’re hiring workers who want to do something bigger than themselves — to change the world.

Green and Pickles have allowed employees to capitalize on the power of the company’s platform by supporting nonprofits nationwide. Newly hired workers learn how to use The Trade Desk’s proprietary ad-buying technology and put it to work globally for groups of their choice, using premade collateral from the Ad Council’s PSA Central.

The Trade Desk also funds, manages and drives pro bono advertising efforts for Water.org, which promotes safe water and sanitation. Ads soliciting donations are targeted to globally conscious people.

For those reasons and others, the company was recognized as one of Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work in 2017, an award that relies solely on the input of employees. It also has spent three consecutive years on the Best Places to Work in New York City list by Crain’s New York Business.

So what does the future hold? In short: changes to every form of advertising in the world, says Pickles.

“Television is the biggest opportunity,” he says. “Because we think we can make every ad on TV customized to the people that are watching it. … It’ll be like the Super Bowl all the time, in the sense that you actually look forward to the commercials because you’re going to learn something.”


Finalists (Media, Entertainment and Communications)

Greg Brown
President and CEO
Learfield
Plano, TX
Founded: 1972

Scopely
CEO & Co-Founder
Scopely
Culver City, CA
Founded: 2011

Walter Knapp
CEO
Sovrn
Boulder, CO
Founded: 2014