Ben Kartzman is the CEO and Co-Founder of Spongecell, a company that enables advertisers to run rich media creative units in standard placements. Previously he worked in management consulting for Accenture and has held roles at software startups in New York. We recently spoke with Ben about his role and trends in display advertising.
The Makegood: You came to the online advertising business when you joined Spongecell in 2006, having worked in management consulting previously. What motivated you to make the leap into online advertising?
BK: I co-founded Spongecell in 2006 and assumed the CEO role in 2008 right before we pivoted the company into the interactive ad business we are today. For me, leaving consulting was more about the allure of jumping into a startup to build something from scratch. I had worked at startups prior to consulting, always loved the culture of a young business and knew it was where I wanted to focus my energy. I gained valuable experience from consulting, as the process between building a team, developing a strategy and building software is very similar to starting a company. They key difference is once the consulting project is over you move on to start another one; whereas in startup-land, once the software is built it’s time to execute! It was the sense of ownership – bringing a product into market – that’s what got me excited to start Spongecell. Of course you don’t just blindly enter a market place. In 2008, I saw the online advertising space as fragmented, and felt we had a product that could help cure that. So far the results are dictating that feeling was right.
The Makegood: Can you explain your role as CEO of Spongecell?
BK: As CEO of Spongecell I provide the strategic direction for the business and oversee our sales and marketing efforts. It’s as much about the people as it is the strategy that has helped us grow as a company. We have a tremendous management team, first and foremost and that really makes my job a lot easier. Likewise, we place a great deal of importance on making sure we hire the right people who fit into our work culture and mentality. Our core values as a company have been innovation and speed. That is how we differentiate ourselves and without the right talent, those values are lost.
The Makegood: How does Spongecell fit into the current online advertising ecosystem and where do you expect its place to be in the future?
BK: Spongecell is now, and has been, focused on improving online display ads. We’re a technology company at heart and we’ve made sure that our technology is used as an enhancement. Not just behind the scenes from a reporting aspect, but from a creative standpoint as well. While some campaigns we run are direct response, most are brand focused. That’s really where our technology, and ability to create and capture true brand metrics shines. But we think we are in a great position to use this technology to move into other areas, such as video, mobile and tablets, for example.
The Makegood: Please tell us about a couple of campaigns that were particularly successful this year.
BK: It’s been a record-breaking year for us in terms of revenue, but what may be most satisfying is the diverse success we’ve seen from different verticals. We try to stay away from mentioning specific clients or campaigns, but I will say we’ve had some particularly striking results from a luxury auto client of ours. A major CPG brand stands out in my mind, as well as a client in the financial industry in the U.S. But it’s not just success in the United States; we’ve shifted a lot of our focus overseas and have seen great results with a global technology company who are using our dynamic product to deliver unique geo-targeted messages into different countries.
The Makegood: Thanks, Ben.