Sramana Mitra: Now we’re talking 2015 and you’re trying to recover from this fiasco.
Kean Graham: This was the beginning of 2014.
Sramana Mitra: You did this $2 million in 2013 and early 2014, you had this fiasco. That revenue was basically being forfeited.
Kean Graham: Yes, all revoked.
Sramana Mitra: What was the recourse? How did you recover from this situation?
Kean Graham: We lost a lot of clients. We had a huge backlash. I essentially was the front man to answer any emails, calls, or Skype messages. I acted as professionally as possible. I was trying to keep any publishers who were still willing to work with us, because a nice thing about our offering is we increase ad revenue. Despite them losing a big pocket of their revenue, we can increase their future revenues to compensate for the loss. We set up one-off deals to give them credits equal to the amount that they lost. They essentially received free services for months, and in some cases years.
Sramana Mitra: What percentage of your clients were you able to salvage in this mode?
Kean Graham: Maybe 20%.
Sramana Mitra: How much did you do in 2014?
Kean Graham: In 2014, we were able to recover and we were healthy about halfway through the year. In terms of gross revenue, we were probably a little under $1 million. We were at a good healthy point. We were growing the business in a more sustainable way. What we learned from this is we implemented a screening process for any website. We make sure that they are Google compliant. We worked with a partner company that provides fraud traffic detection and suppression. If a competitor were to attack one of our client websites, that traffic would be suppressed and there would not be a resulting Google ban.
Sramana Mitra: Did you have to write off a portion of the million you did in 2014 against the money that you lost for these clients?
Kean Graham: In terms of the credits that we gave them?
Sramana Mitra: Yes.
Kean Graham: We did not write that off. We, essentially, offered the credit to them as an offering in good faith.
Sramana Mitra: Did the million that you generated in 2014 come to you or did a portion of that go to your client?
Kean Graham: A lot of it came to our client. There were several clients who were unaffected by this ban. We were still profitable in that small pocket of clients.
Sramana Mitra: What happened in 2015?
Kean Graham: Things were good. We learned from this disastrous situation. Things were going a lot better for the long term. We introduced a CTO who is also a good friend of mine. I’ve worked with him. I have a huge amount of respect for him. This is where we started to introduce the technology component. We built an interface so that when users sign up to AdExchange, they can actually check the revenues, impressions, and CPM that they’re earning on a real time basis.
We also built a platform so that we can slowly automate our ad optimization practices to become more scalable as a company. This allowed us to take more clients on because we get a lot of demand. We cannot take on all the client leads that applied to our site. Our biggest issue was scalability. The best solution for this is, of course, building technology. At the beginning of 2015, that’s when we began to build this technology.
Sramana Mitra: What’s in the technology in terms of what was productizable? What were the core elements?
Kean Graham: We already had the AdExchange. Adding the interface made it more usable and more of a holistic product. Our premium publisher model where we tried to take a percentage of the increase, that’s where we wanted to make it more of an automated product, but we did not want to compromise on our high-performance, which separates us from our competitors.
We started automating the more time-intensive tasks that do no require a huge amount of creativity. It’s essentially very standardized tasks that take our team a lot of time, but are very menial. We started automating that. We created an interface that is easier to optimize than the actual ad service that we use. We also consolidate data from many different sources into one place.
Sramana Mitra: How did this impact revenues in 2015?
Kean Graham: 2015 was our highest revenue year. We were able to exceed $3 million in gross revenues. We are the strongest point we’ve ever been. By the end of 2015 – almost two years after the ban – we became a stronger company.
Sramana Mitra: What is your forecast of 2016?
Kean Graham: 2016 has realized incredible growth. We started very hot from the first month. The technology is really coming along now. Our company is able to take advantage of it. We implemented team optimization rather than individual ad optimization. We are on track to hit $9 million in revenue this year.
Sramana Mitra: Great! This is a very interesting story. I enjoyed listening to you. I’m glad that things worked out. Thank you for your time.