Richard Jalichandra is currently the CEO of iSocket, a technology platform purpose-built to simplify the buying and selling of fixed price, premium, reserved inventory. Prior to iSocket, Jalichandra was SVP of Business Development for Fox Interactive Media, and was the Vice President of Business & Corporate Development at IGN Entertainment. The Makegood recently spoke with Jalichandra about what the company will do with the $5 million in funding, as well as the hire of Kevin McCabe as VP of Business Development.
The Makegood: Congratulations on raising $5 Million in funding from Time Warner and Condé Nast. What does this funding mean for iSocket, and how will the company be utilizing this funding?
Thank you! The fact that our latest funding comes from two of the biggest brands in publishing is a significant statement about the potential of our young company (and for that matter nascent industry) and the willingness of major publishers to lean into sales automation.
We’ll use the funding to invest heavily in the product. We’ve received so much valuable feedback from the publishers and buyers using our platform, and we are reacting by refining our existing tools and building new features.
The Makegood: How does iSocket stand in a unique position from the rest of the programmatic direct and sales automation companies in the industry?
First I want to clarify something about programmatic direct. It’s often referred to as a single market segment, but in reality there are two very distinct categories within programmatic direct. One is fixed-price, unreserved inventory sales. That category includes things like deal ID, which are direct deals, but still rely on a bid-ask protocol, need to be manually input into a publisher’s ad server, and don’t really support reserved or guaranteed sales. The second category (and this is where iSocket operates) is fixed-price, reserved inventory sales. The IAB calls this segment “automated guaranteed,” and the big differentiator is that inventory sales are actually reserved within the ad server, just like with manual direct sales. This is typically the highest value, brand safe and brand impact premium inventory by the largest and highest quality publishers.
Many players operating in programmatic direct are in that first category—fixed price, unreserved sales. iSocket is unique because we have the ability to automate reserved media sales. We were the first company to build technology in this category, and we’ve had the most significant opportunity to learn and iterate based on early feedback from the marketplace. Without question, of all the companies executing fixed priced reserved in the programmatic direct segment, our technology stack is the most sophisticated. A publisher can actually use iSocket For Publishers (iFP), not just for incremental marketplace demand from buying platforms, but also have their direct sales teams automate their current workflow to gain efficiencies by eliminating manual steps in the sales process, campaign management and ad ops. In fact, we believe the latter case is the biggest opportunity: supporting sales people, not replacing them.
The Makegood: How does iSocket’s technology increase buyers’ productivity while reducing delays and errors?
A typical reserved media sale requires more than 40 steps to complete. iSocket automates around 30 of those steps, which means media buyers and publisher sales teams don’t have to touch every aspect of a direct deal, like adding line items to an ad server. Instead of being consumed by these manual tasks, media buyers can spend more time on strategy and get more campaigns live in a shorter amount of time.
The 40 steps are undoubtedly a huge drag on productivity, but more than that, each step is an opportunity for something to go wrong. By automating these steps, we eliminate many of the opportunities for error.
The Makegood: With the announcement of Kevin McCabe as VP of Business Development, iSocket can expect extensive focus on channel partnerships. How will this benefit iSocket, and how will McCabe be a vital aspect of the company?
iSocket does have its own media-buying tool (iSocket for Advertisers) that buyers can use to buy reserved inventory directly from the premium publishers in our system. That said, our mission is to make reserved media sales easier for everyone, and we’re agnostic about the interface buyers use to access inventory through our system. If it’s easier for a buyer to use their DSP or media-planning tool to buy reserved inventory through iSocket pipes, then we want to make that option available. Frankly, we fully expect the efficiency on the buy side to aggregated into a limited number of buying platforms. But, in truth, no buyer wants to have to go to a couple dozen interfaces to execute a media plan, and this is where Kevin comes in.
Coming from Microsoft, Kevin has a very strong understanding of both the publisher perspective, and what buyers are asking for when it comes to programmatic. He’ll be integral to expanding the ways that buyers can access reserved inventory through iSocket by finding opportunities for partnerships with well-aligned platforms.
The Makegood: What do you see for the future of iSocket? Do you believe that the company can expand into wider, perhaps more international markets?
The future is bright for iSocket, but I want to note that programmatic sales automation is still in its earliest stages. I would say where we are right now is where RTB was in 2009, so there’s a huge, huge opportunity ahead. There was roughly $14 billion of direct sold media last year, and that number will surpass $20 billion by 2016. Most of that can be automated to some degree, and we aim to help buyers and sellers transact and execute more effectively. This all applies to international as well, so iSocket can, and will, expand into wider markets over time.
The Makegood: Thank you, Richard.