Ernie Cormier, CEO & President of Nexage explains his coma theory and how the company evangelized the mobile ad industry in less than five years.
Founded in 2009, Nexage is a leading player in the mobile advertising exchange. It offers a premium market that is both efficient and liquid for buyers and sellers. The Nexage Exchange allows publishers and developers to operate in a mutually beneficial, brand-safe environment to accelerate the revenue growth through DSPs, ad networks and real-time buyers. Nexage helps deliver targeted, highly successful campaigns. With over 45 billion impressions per month from more than 300 publishers, the Nexage Exchange is fast growing.
The business continues to double in size each year. In 2013, its revenues more than doubled. This was on back of tremendous growth in 2012’s revenues. With offices in multiples cities in the US and London, the company has over 75 employees spread across the business.
It has plans for a European and Asian expansion, following a successful round of capital funding.
CEO and President of Nexage, Ernie Cormier has spent much of his career in the digital sector, focusing largely on the content side of the business.
Cormier currently oversees the Nexage’s strategy and overall operations. Prior to Nexage, he was CEO of a venture-backed start-up in mobile gaming and consumer electronics, which was sold in December 2009. His other roles includes Chief
Commercial Officer and MD Group Strategy and Corporate Development for Virgin Media, where he was responsible for P&L, sales channels, marketing, content acquisition, PR and more broadly corporate strategy and development.
His background is in engineering, though he also holds certificates from Georgetown and Harvard business schools as well as a seat on the Mobile Advisory Board of the Mass Technology Leadership Council.
The Coma Period
The Nexage CEO has his own theories about the tech industry. He says, “Early in my career in the early 80s I used to have this principle that I talked about called the coma period”. The coma period referred to the amount of time you could spend in a coma, wake up and still expect to catch up with the industry. Back in the early 80s, Cormier estimated this period to be three to six months.
Fast forward three decades and he says this time frame is impossible these days. “Now it’s probably more like three to four weeks,” he concludes. This sector is moving at lightening pace, but fortunately Nexage is staying ahead of the competition.
As CEO, Cormier warns top level executives of the importance of staying current in a highly competitive industry. With big names like Google in the running, Cormier says Nexage is accustomed to working in a sector where you have to win business every day. It is part of the company’s DNA. From the beginning the company’s goal was to achieve the best ad quality not to monopolize the industry.
“We have always foreseen a market where there are multiple exchanges,” Cormier explains. Nexage made the decision in late 2010 that they were not going to operate in an environment with one exchange. Instead, the company concentrated on programmatic and attracting premium publishers. Brand safety is at the top of the company’s priorities, along with managing complexity and offering customers flexibility. “We made the decision in late 2010 that we were not going to be in an environment with one exchange. Thus, competition was never a surprise.” Cormier has spent his career looking at what is happening, changing and adjusting his platform accordingly. He’s been on both sides of the business as a developer and working for Virgin Media brand. This gives him an edge and a unique understanding of the industry.
While mobile technology is moving fast, the CEO advises companies against changing goals internally all the time, because teams require a steady direction. It comes down to calibrating rather versus shifting the goal posts.
Although Cormier loved his time at Virgin, he says he was eager to return to the startup world. It was an explicit decision. He craved the action of being at the frontline of technology. Cormier observes, “At Virgin I had a lot of resources, we were a much larger entity so we weren’t necessarily subject to the quick changes in the market.” He likens the brand to a big ship. It took of a lot of energy and discussion across the business whenever they wanted to react to changes in the market.
Returning to the startup world meant Cormier had to recalibrate his horizons. He focused Nexage on building market-leading technology – the technology that became the standard for programmatic in mobile today. It put Nexage well in front of the market; enabling it to shape how the market evolves and accelerate the adoption of technology.
Times have certainly changed. For the most part, Cormier concedes everyone has bought into programmatic, its value and scale capabilities, but the industry has only just begun to understand that ‘programmatic and mobile’ is very different
from ‘programmatic and online’. Unlike online programmatic and its frequent association with low cost, low price inventory, mobile differs significantly. “Buyer’s ability to target at the impression level creates the foundational value of programmatic. When you add in our ability to enable a brand safe environment and integrate 3rd party data, we have become a market where brands are able to reach premium audience – and buy that audience exactly how they want to.”
Though Nexage’s startup days are well behind them with their current revenue streams and roster of premium publishers, the seed of entrepreneurship still rests within the organization. The multi-screen logins of companies like Twitter bring new attention to RTB, helping companies realize the value of programmatic and exchange. This makes Cormier’s job a bit easier as it means he has less evangelizing to do.
Brand Safety remains a core focus for the company. The company strives to be the place where brands go to acquire their premium audiences. On the publisher side, they want to make 100% sure they are providing appropriate, high quality ads in their platforms. Brand safety works both ways, Cormier says. It is also the reason why the company recently launched Nexage Protect, which enables publishers to enforce brand safety and ad quality controls and proactively manage their
channels. For advertisers and buyers, the solution gives them decisioning intelligence on whether the mobile app, site or page aligns with their brand.
Cormier is very happy with the company’s London team which has exceeded his expectations. Though Europe may be a couple months behind in terms of acceleration and velocity into the market, the needs of publishers and buyers are almost identical in both the US and Europe.
Getting a physical foothold in Europe was an important achievement. Though the company has long held a strong presence in Europe, Cormier says that programmatic is a personal face-to-face business, something mobile and tech companies need to keep in mind.