Sramana Mitra: Talk a little bit about what was in the product that drove that much increase. What did you do in the product that allowed you to go to that level of scaling?
Kean Graham: Because the product is intrinsically scalable and because we were leveraging Google’s technology, we were able to take all these publishers that were only running Google AdSense and we were able to give them access to Google AdExchange, implement it for them, and then it would run on its own.
Sramana Mitra: You kind of became a value-added reseller of Google AdExchange.
Kean Graham: Yes.
Sramana Mitra: It actually systematizes your process greatly because instead of doing everything ad hoc, you had a lot of it productized. You just had to implement it. You were still operating in the business model of taking a percentage of the increase?
Kean Graham: For the AdExchange product, it was a combination. For the very large publisher, it was a percentage of the increase. For the smaller publishers, it would be a percentage of the AdExchange revenue.
Sramana Mitra: That got you to $2 million in 2013?
Kean Graham: Exactly.
Sramana Mitra: In terms of the travel and lifestyle that you were looking for, how did 2013 pan out given all these moving parts in your business?
Kean Graham: Since it was a very high growth stage and I just came back from a long six-month trip, I decided to have a little more stability and stay in Victoria for the full year. That allowed me to buckle down and work some of the longest hours I’ve ever worked. I focused a lot on the growth of the business. That is part of the reason why I’ve seen such large growth. Now I believe that I can get the same growth while traveling, however, I was not good enough at working and traveling at that point.
Sramana Mitra: That makes sense. You also have to focus to really get leverage. It sounds like in 2013, you did choose to focus on the business side a bit more. What happens in 2014?
Kean Graham: That’s when things got really interesting. At the end of 2013, I was going on a trip to Southeast Asia. Things were going great. December of 2013 was absolutely amazing. January was looking incredible as well. Then all of a sudden, our largest client had a spam attack. One of their competitors sent a bunch of traffic that were meant to click on their ads multiple times with the purpose of getting them banned on Google.
They were successful because this publisher was getting huge amounts of traffic and they sent such a huge attack. It actually created an investigation on our master account with Google. About three weeks later, that investigation resulted in a whole master account ban. When you’re banned by Google, that means that they revoke all unpaid ad revenues. The unpaid ad revenues were all our revenues for December and January. That was the highest gross revenue we’ve ever had. They were all revoked. This was $2.2 million.
I was in Singapore at that time. We were staring at going bankrupt as a company. It was a huge shock and we had to go into this survival mode immediately. I had to manage the expectations of a lot of publishers. That also meant that they would not get paid because in our contract, if we don’t get paid by the source, they don’t get paid as well. There was a lot of angry publishers and threats. It got ugly pretty quick. It was a very difficult situation. There was a lot of legal aspects involved.
I didn’t sleep much for the next two months. I did everything I could possible to set up one-off deals to help them recover from the loss of revenues. I had to personally inject my own funds to make sure that all the team members were still paid in full and to avoid any layoff. I had to work day and night to bring the company back to a healthy standard so that we can grow again.
Sramana Mitra: How many people did you have on the team at that point?
Kean Graham: It was about 15 people.