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Building a Silicon Valley Style Company from Australia: ROKT CEO Bruce Buchanan (Part 5)

Posted on Sunday, May 25th 2014

Sramana: You definitely do not need to raise money. However, if you apply the same logic as you did in Australia, then there could be a case for raising money in the US, right?

Bruce Buchanan: We would if there was an opportunity to extend the network. We would be interested in a partner that could help us achieve extending the network. Our independence is important to us as well. When you are operating in transactional environments like we do, our independence is a significant bonus.

Sramana: Venture money is usually considered independent money.

Bruce Buchanan: It is. I guess the point there is that if you take money off of a bigger player who is also a partner, then there could be some tricky navigation.

Sramana: I definitely don’t think you should be taking money from a strategic partner. Traditional VC funding is better for your situation. What else is interesting about your business from a strategy standpoint?

Bruce Buchanan: We took a contrarian view to consumer data. Most people are very nervous about PII data because of all the privacy concerns and they tend to steer miles away from it. They think consumers are never going to give them permissions to use that data.

We have taken a completely different view. We think that PII data is the essence of giving consumers the data they are looking for. We are going to ask them for permission to give them relevant advertising. That is a critical differentiator in our platform. Everyone who interacts with our platform has given explicit permission for us to interact with them in the manner that we do.

Sramana: When you ask for permission, what percentage agree to give you that permission?

Bruce Buchanan: Anywhere between 40% to 60%. That allows us to build up a really good profile of someone. The average consumer in the US and Australia is getting between 2,500 banner ads presented to them in a month. Most people can’t remember the last one that they have seen. That is because it is hard to deliver content that is relevant to them.

Operating in a transactional environment where you also have rich information about the consumer, across any device, gives us advantages. Traditional ad tracking falls over when it hits mobile devices. We know who the user is regardless of the device they are using. We personalize the content for the user based on the device they are using. We have a persistent user identifier that has allowed us to achieve this.

Sramana: Is this persistent user identifier sitting with you on your ad server?

Bruce Buchanan: It is sitting with us, but the agreements that we have with our partners regarding the data that we have gathered on each individual transaction from each partner will only be used to create better outcomes for them. We cannot use eBay data to personalize for a different site. When the same consumer sees our product again with a different partner, we will ask that consumer for consent to engage with them again. Even though they have already agreed to engage with our platform, we segment out the partner engagements.

This segment is part 5 in the series : Building a Silicon Valley Style Company from Australia: ROKT CEO Bruce Buchanan
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