Shawn Riegsecker is the CEO of Centro, a technology and media services company. Before forming Centro in 2001, Shawn worked at Real Media and has also led sales and strategic initiatives for start-up Internet companies including Everstream, Cleveland.com and Ohio.com. We recently spoke with Shawn about his career in online media and current Centro initiatives.
The Makegood: Shawn, you founded Centro in 2001, immediately following the internet bubble. What was it like to start an “internet” company at that time?
SR: In retrospect, the timing couldn’t have been better. The internet crash had wiped out, or nearly bankrupted, every competitor in the space. Most went out of business and those that were surviving were severely crippled. Then—right before I launched Centro—9/11 hit. The combination of these events had a freezing effect on people and businesses. I was bootstrapping the company and only had enough money to last a few months so it prevented me the luxury of sitting around and worrying. The clock was ticking so I just put my head down and started working night and day to get Centro off the ground.
The Makegood: Centro recently raised a large, $22.5 million Series A round of financing. Unlike other startups, you waited ten years to do your first major raise. What drove that decision?
SR: One accomplishment I’m proud of at Centro is that the company we have today (250+ employees) has been built on $1.8MM in angel capital that I raised from a few investors in 2006. No other technology company has matched our success from an investment-to-revenue ratio in this window of time. We’ve always run Centro profitably and didn’t have the need for more outside capital. If we had raised a large round earlier, it would’ve only served to dilute our ownership interests and I don’t believe we would have developed the financial discipline I expect to see from a strong and successfully managed company.
The primary reason for raising a significant round of capital last year was to give us the strength and firepower to ensure Transis is the industry-leading media logistics platform.
The Makegood: In a recent eMarketer article, you talked about your expectations of media’s evolution, saying “By 2016, we are not even talking in terms of online and offline media—because it’s all just media.” What steps does the industry have to take in order to reach this future where media will no longer be divided by online and offline?
SR: The industry doesn’t need to take any steps because our industry is headed there whether we do anything or not. The difference between the winners and losers will be those that choose to get there first versus those that are forced to go there kicking and screaming. To expand on what I mentioned to eMarketer, in 2016 we won’t be talking about newspaper, cable, broadcast, magazines, web, etc. Those concepts will take a backseat to text, image, audio, video, and content. Media consumption will be fragmented across so many devices, screens and delivery methods, the goal will be to find the right creative balance of ad units that engage users in all areas and across all screens. Candidly, I don’t care if it’s local TV, network broadcast, pre-roll video or tablet watching, all I care about is that my commercial is being seen by the right audience and it achieves the proper weighting and frequency.
The Makegood: In 2011, Centro released Transis, a proprietary technology that streamlines the entire digital media buying process. What has been the industry reception thus far and are there any results that you can share with us?
SR: We released a free, lightweight beta version of the media technology platform that powers Centro to gauge the industry’s appetite for a full-scale SaaS solution for all digital buying (not just ad exchange buying). The initial response for the application was encouraging; we wanted 30 beta partners and ended up with 50. The beta program has been enlightening and informative. We have spent the last year listening and developing Transis into an intuitive and powerful platform based on the needs of ad agencies. Building a seamless and open workflow platform that eliminates the need for Outlook, Excel, Word and PDFs is a transformational challenge and takes time to get it right. We got it right and are excited for the forthcoming release.
The Makegood: What initiatives can we expect to see coming from Centro in 2012?
SR: I’m more excited for 2012 than any other year previous. We are witnessing a transformational moment in our industry. We are at the beginning stages where an industry lets go of broken and outdated business models (and processes) in order to be young again and creative about new models and new types of relationships. Centro, through our media logistics services and software, has been a trusted agency partner for ten years and we’ve been helping create a better future for our industry. As agencies transform into more strategic partners to their clients and make a move into the owned and earned space, expect Centro to play the leading support role in helping them achieve these goals quickly, safely, and more profitably.
The Makegood: Thanks, Shawn.