Shawn Riegsecker is the Founder and CEO of Centro, Inc., an online advertising and media purchasing service headquartered in Chicago. The company was formed in 2001. The Makegood recently spoke with Shawn about the future of Centro.
The Makegood: Shawn, welcome back to The Makegood. Since we last spoke, Centro, Inc. announced Oracle Group Vice President Michael Radovancevich has joined as CTO. How will his knowledge and extensive background in technology impact Centro’s business?
Michael is one of the most accomplished CTOs in the country at building successful and scalable B2B software applications. We were impressed with what he and his team accomplished at Taleo in automating the HR industry. It grew to 5,000 customers with over 15% of all U.S. hires being transacted through their SaaS platform – and that’s in the span of just a couple of years. Taleo is now a key part of the Oracle cloud computing stack illustrating the impact the company had.
Michael shares our vision of automating and improving the entire operational structure of the media industry. Tremendous potential exists to address rampant inefficiency in our industry encompassing direct-sold, programmatic, RTB and the various operational and finance functions surrounding these buying methods. His experience at Apple, Avolent, Taleo and Oracle has given him an extensive background in building strong engineering cultures and teams producing category leading software products.
The Makegood: In the past 18 months, Centro, Inc.’s senior talent has grown to include agency veteran EVP Scott Neslund, media sales expert EVP Charlie Thomas and software executive CMO Kelly Wenzel. Now with the addition of Michael Radovancevich, what plans do you have for the future of Centro, Inc.?
We’re intent on building the best leadership team we can and I’m blessed to have the opportunity to work with these folks. Our plans are to continue solidifying our technology platform and building the best managed services team in the industry. Our mission is the same as it’s always been: eliminating low value tasks through software and services so our agency partners can focus on what’s most important. As for talent, we’re not done yet. We’ll be surrounding Michael with additional team members to scale our platform. Our aspirations are big and to meet our goals, we need to continue attracting the best designers, developers, product experts and data scientists who have the power, determination and passion to reinvent the media industry.
The Makegood: Cloud technology is being integrated into many industries, such as advertising. How do you see the “cloud” changing ad tech for both Centro, Inc. and the industry in general?
The “cloud” offers the ad industry huge advantages over traditional enterprise, installed or local software being used today. Cloud software allows for greater sharing of information, better human collaboration, improved work flow organization, increased access and usage of data and more convenience in integrating with other applications. These are in addition to the common benefits such as reduced cost and time of implementation, reduced IT budgets to support and the ability to deliver features and functionality much faster.
By delivering our entire application via the cloud, our customers will soon be able to go to our website, register, input a credit card and they’ll be creating and executing media plans better, faster and smarter than ever before.
The Makegood: You have reported that within the next year Centro, Inc. plans to add a digital billing service that will make you a one-stop shop for ad purchases. Can you describe this new service and how it will benefit your customers?
The digital ad buying and selling process happens in three stages – media planning and buying, ad operations and optimization, then billing and reconciliation. We are building applications and modules for each stage and, together, it will form the Centro software suite. Earlier this year, we released Centro Planner which encompasses the first process.
We’re currently using the ad operations software internally and are set to unveil it to the market soon. This application will enable ad professionals to analyze and optimize their campaigns in real time across all ad servers and publishers through one system. Soon after that, our billing and reconciliation technology will be released. The current way of doing reconciliation is still very excruciating, even with the enterprise software many agencies use today. Because of this burden, we still have agency personnel printing out media plans, ad serving reports and invoices and going through them line-item by line-item to find discrepancies. It’s a painstaking and mind-numbing task that no one should be doing anymore so we’ve built software that does it for you. I’ve heard of agencies deploying hundreds of personnel just to do this job. It is a major load.
The Makegood: As the ad tech industry grows and expands, what do you see the biggest challenges moving forward will be?
At the macro-level, I think the biggest challenge facing the ad tech industry is going to be the lack of investment funds willing to continue investing in the space. And with most of the companies in ad tech currently unprofitable, with little perceived differentiation, or they are a feature not a platform, the entire sector is going to go through some very challenging times and people need to be prepared for it.
At the Centro-level, I like our position and opportunity. We’re scaled, profitable and have a highly differentiated software and managed services story.
Our most important challenge is continuing to attract the best talent in the industry. We’re not just competing within our industry but across the entire spectrum including Wall Street, consulting firms, auditing firms and enterprise technology. And I don’t see Facebook, Twitter or Google slowing down their search for the same type of talent we are anytime soon. That said, it’s the challenges that make the sport of business fun. If building companies were easy, everyone would do it and it wouldn’t be that intellectually stimulating. For good or ill, I don’t see our challenges getting any easier going forward.
The Makegood: Thank you, Shawn