AdReady CEO and Former aQuantive Exec Karl Siebrecht on His Big New Opportunity

AdReady is one of those startups that everyone talks about but no one really understands. At least not most lay readers, whose eyes glaze over once they get past the words “online advertising.” I can’t really blame them. After all, can most people explain why Seattle online ad firm and local success story aQuantive was worth $6 billion to Microsoft in 2007?

Karl Siebrecht can. He spent eight years at aQuantive, including time as president of the Atlas technology division. He then spent two-plus years at Microsoft as a general manager in online services after the acquisition. After all that experience, he’s learned how to explain online advertising in plain English, and show why Seattle-based AdReady is a big deal. Siebrecht joined AdReady as president and chief operating officer three months ago, and was just named the startup’s new CEO this week. He succeeds co-founder Aaron Finn, who is staying on full-time as chairman of the board and chief strategy officer.

In a nutshell, AdReady has developed tools that make display ads (banner ads, as opposed to search-engine ads) faster, cheaper, and more efficient to produce and monitor for a broad class of online advertisers—especially small businesses. The company started in 2006 and raised a total of $12 million from investors including Madrona Venture Group, Bain Capital Ventures, and Khosla Ventures. Its customers and partners include advertisers, ad agencies, and publishers like the New York Times, ESPN, and Yahoo.

Siebrecht talked with me yesterday about AdReady’s broader strategy and his new role. He declined to comment on whether the privately held company is profitable yet—but media reports have said it’s doing more than $10 million in annual revenues. He did say the company is up to 50 employees, and is looking to “grow very aggressively” this coming year.

Here are just a few highlights from our conversation, edited for length and clarity:

On AdReady’s big opportunity: “In the online ad category, I believe there’s significant untapped potential in display advertising,” Siebrecht says. “Search advertising is fantastic, it works well, it’s a very large business. But what we see in display is very, very limited in terms of the number of advertisers that can do it effectively. There are only a few thousand advertisers in the U.S. who do it, as compared to the 1.4 million search [ad] customers that Google says they have. Yet there is a tremendous amount of supply of display advertising inventory. The largest and most sophisticated advertisers … Next Page »

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