There has been a lot of activity at 42 Chestnut St. in Downtown Ventura. From vacant warehouse to high-tech firm featuring the highest quality technology, with $1,800 electronic standing desks, several interactive virtual conference areas and a stylish appearance akin to Google headquarters, The Trade Desk is the next big thing in Ventura County, and it’s quickly becoming a global company. Many have speculated about the newcomer to Downtown, wondering what exactly The Trade Desk is. In the words of cofounder and CEO Jeff Green, “We are a technology platform that media buyers use to purchase advertising space worldwide.”
The Trade Desk just moved in and Green spoke with the VCReporter this week about the changing world of advertising, company culture and entrepreneurship.
VCReporter: You started this company at the Ventura Ventures Technology Center, a technology incubator at City Hall. Share with us your background.
Green: When I was 17, my dad signed a permission slip allowing me to trade stocks. I’ve always been entrepreneurial and I’ve always been fascinated by the stock market. When I ended up in media-buying after college, my immediate reaction was, “Why isn’t this more like the stock market? Why isn’t there greater pricing transparency at play?” And I followed those instincts as far as I could.
The tech incubator at City Hall was my third go-round for developing an idea into a successful company. I sold my first company in the early 2000s and then sold my second, an online ad exchange, to Microsoft in August 2007. I left Microsoft in 2009 and started The Trade Desk soon after. A new venture always feels like a risk, but if you believe you are going to make change, you believe the journey is worthwhile.
Every entrepreneur has to start somewhere. For The Trade Desk, having access to that infrastructure early on was crucial. We spent six years at 505 Poli and we’ll always think of it as the place where The Trade Desk was born.
What is the difference between what your company does and what we are already seeing with advertising on the Internet?
As a B2B (business-to-business) technology platform, we stand out among other platforms in the space because of how we’ve structured our technology. Media agencies across the globe are able to log into our platform to buy advertising across desktop, mobile, social media and, now, streaming media and linear television.
How do you allocate data? From what I have heard, it has to do with a person’s private Internet usage, such as using information connected to the user’s IP address.
While a user’s IP is part of an initial data set, we only activate targeted advertising based on cookies. So someone browsing online can always opt out of being targeted with ads by visiting www.aboutads.info/choices/.
While the user experience online is very personal — you’re persistently logged into Facebook, you’ve got Buzzfeed bookmarked — the data ecosystem behind is not. It’s anonymized. So when you have a “targeted ads experience” — whether you’re being reminded of an item you browsed on Best Buy, or seeing ads for your local NBA team’s season ticket program — those are based on anonymized data the advertiser can elect to buy. They’re matching up with your interests, not with you personally.
Photo by: Patrick W. Price
Tell us about the working environment at The Trade Desk.
From here in Ventura, we support our global offices as well as clients across Southern California, particularly Los Angeles. On any given day, our staff could be troubleshooting tech questions, meeting in person with advertising inventory partners, or closing a major billing cycle.
Because we have such a diversity of functions here, each team recruits based on their own required educational and technical needs, but we evaluate candidates for cultural fit by having them interview with employees across different disciplines.
We’ve been recognized by Fortune, Crain’s, and Outside Magazine as one of the 100 Best Places to Work; it’s an honor, but also a challenge to keep the culture intact. We have fun, but we’re here to work hard and get the job done.
Our core early staff have worked together here in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties for more than 10 years. We’re proud to grow as an employer here and we love that we’re able to build awareness for what a special community Ventura is. We’re actively recruiting: http://thetradedesk.com/join-us.
It seems as though your company is one of the fastest-growing in Ventura County. What do you attribute to this sort of growth?
Our growth has been tremendous. This year, we were named No. 9 on Forbes Magazine’s list of America’s Most Promising Companies, and we made the top 35 of the Inc. 500. Both of those lists focus on growth, which is a good yardstick but not the only one. As the NASDAQ did with stock trading, we plan to be the technology platform for advertisers for the next 100 years. Our success in the first six years has been crucial to seeing that through, but our timeline is long.
Part of sustaining success is sustaining culture. We’ve worked hard to grow quickly, but we’ve limited ourselves — intentionally — by holding out to hire only the right people for our culture. We spend more waking time together than we do with our friends and family. You’d better like the people you’re spending that time with. So we have hired carefully, often turning down people who might have looked good on paper but weren’t going to be good stewards of our culture.
We’re committed to Ventura. It’s where we started, and it’s still our global headquarters. We have nearly 60 people here in Ventura, and another 220 staff worldwide in our other offices in London, Hamburg, New York, Detroit, Chicago, Boulder, San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles, Seoul, Tokyo, Singapore and Sydney.
For aspiring tech-related entrepreneurs, what can you relay to them about pursuing their goals?
I often recommend that aspiring entrepreneurs read a book called The E-Myth. It does a good job of talking people out of being entrepreneurs. It asks, “Are you sure you want this to be your life?” For some small segment of the population, it has the effect it did on me of saying, “Yes, this is what I’m meant to do.” For other people, they might read it and say, “I love baking pies but I don’t want to run a bakery.”
Here at The Trade Desk, we talk about “having grit.” Having an entrepreneurial spirit often means you have passion and curiosity — but you’ve got to stick out the tough times, too. I recommend that you decide, with all possible facts on the table, whether the entrepreneurial life is for you — and then see it through.