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Entrepreneurship

 

Accelerator pitch: Rael Cline of MediaGamma

Can you pitch your genius business idea in the time it takes to get from the ground floor to the C-suite? MediaGamma’s Rael Cline (an alumnus of the Cambridge MFin), on Cambridge Judge Business School’s Accelerate programme, gives it a shot.

Rael Cline

Rael Cline

The background
The online premium banner advertising market is vast and growing – by 2017 it will have grown 23 per cent to be worth $23bn (£14bn). Yet the process of buying and selling these ads is expensive and time-consuming, a problem that we aim to solve with MediaGamma, the world’s first online futures ad exchange.

The brains
My background is in finance and mobile communications and I hold a Master of Finance degree from Cambridge Judge Business School (2011), and my partner is Dr Jun Wang, Senior Lecturer and Founding Director of MSc Web Science and Big Data Analytics, Computer Science, University College London (UCL).

The product
MediaGamma is an advertising technology company that runs an automated exchange. It enables participants to pre-buy and sell online banner ads across mobile, desktop, social and video platforms – the equivalent of a commodities exchange but for the digital media world.

The business case
It’s surprising, but the way these premium banner ads are bought and sold is still very manual. In fact, it can actually consume up to about 20 per cent of the entire campaign costs, with phone calls, emails and Excel spreadsheets going backwards and forwards. These contracts are also negotiated individually. It’s very difficult to bundle them and specialise across different types of web space. There’s also no central place where you can look at market prices and compare them. MediaGamma solves all of these issues: it automates the business process and takes away the need to do it over the phone and email, aggregating the ad slots so you don’t have to negotiate individual contracts, and adding pricing transparency.

The timing
Last year, new technology that allows for real-time algorithmically traded buying of ads went mainstream, which makes MediaGamma a far more viable business – it means that there’s now a functioning “spot” market. I came across some papers by Dr Jun Wang whose research area is the intersection of finance and online advertising and realised that there was a tremendous opportunity in that world. I gave Jun a call and we formed MediaGamma in January 2014.

The strategy for growth
We’re focusing on the big players. We have a pilot with a very large advertising network in the UK (who act as a brokers for both buyers and sellers) and have access to some premium publishers and buyers as well. We also have a couple of other pilots running with 14 web publishers across Europe.

The future
It’s a volume-based business. If we don’t have the volume, we don’t have a business. America and China are the largest and fastest growing markets respectively and at the earliest possible point we will be looking to expand there. We’re also working to integrate our technology with the existing online advertising ecosystem to minimise switching costs and accelerate adoption.

The Accelerator
It’s been fantastic on a number of levels. We got a £10,000 grant that enabled us to develop a prototype. Having a working prototype is key – there’s no substitute for pitching in front of people with something tangible to show as opposed to just trying to describe it in the abstract. The mentoring, networking and support is great, whether it’s on major business decisions, helping me decide what I should be focusing on, how long it should take me to do a certain task or introducing me to individuals who are in the finance and advertising industry.