The soap opera is over. RadiumOne is going back to work.
The privately-held purveyor of digital media buying software continues matching prospects with ads. The firm is looking to further automate its services and connect clients with ever deepening pools of customer data.
“We need to take it a step further,” said Anna Baird, RadiumOne’s president and CFO. To that end, RadiumOne is working on a self-service product, called Activate. Now in beta, the product should be ready to launch in the second quarter next year. The product is aimed at agency service desks and seeks to automate the back-end of RadiumOne’s database to generate market segments that can be targeted with realtime online ads.
Most recently, RadiumOne launched Connect, a SaaS solution which ties together engagement analytics, geo-location and push notification. Connect works as application management software to track interactivity. Taking these bits of news together, RadiumOne has pretty much put its soap opera-like drama behind it. “I feel like we can breath,” Baird said.
RadiumOne was on track to go public last year when the company’s CEO and founder Gurbaksh Chahal was arrested and charged with domestic violence. Ousted by RadiumOne’s board, Chahal resurfaced last spring when he was identified as the source of a rumor that RadiumOne was about to run out of money, according to press reports.
Current RadiumOne CEO Bill Lonergan reassured employees this was not so. “We did not lose a single client or employee,” Baird noted. RadiumOne appeared to have turned a corner last June when it secured a $54 million, 50/50 debt-equity financing round. The company, which generated $125 million in revenue last year, is on track to hit the $200 million mark this year, according to press reports.
Much of the second and third quarter was spent stabilizing RadiumOne, Baird recalled. Moving into fourth quarter, revenues and profits are up, she added. That means RadiumOne can get back to innovation as its corporate mission, she explained.
Ad tech is not the easiest concept to explain to the non-technical professionals in the advertising industry, who came up by selling through TV, radio and print. In that business, an ad is made, it is printed in a publication read by a certain demographic, or aired on a TV show that reaches a large but defined segment likely to buy a product. But in ad tech, the advertiser has a much higher chance of reaching a person who is highly likely to purchase a good or service. To develop this information, RadiumOne will scan the internet and social media, looking for instances where stories or ads are shared between one user and another. Or a user may trigger notice by clicking on an ad, which in turn allows RadiumOne to follow that user online to develop that profile. Or attention is raised if a user searches on a certain topic related to a product or service, for example, car loans, which is related to buying a car.
“For us, the data and the delivery should never be separated, “ Baird said. These “handraisers”—users who indicate an interest in a product or service—can be reached directly, enabling users to bid on these “impressions” for the chance to show a related ad via social media. The cost may be 20 cents per person to build brand awareness, or maybe as high as $7 per person if that person is likely to convert interest into a sale.
Still there are things on the RadiumOne “wish list” to add to the firm’s capability. “We need more connectivity between audiences,” Baird said. “We are developing a single sign-on to see audiences across all RadiumOne software.” Another is “interactivity”—being able to link attributes identified by RadiumOne with best attribute scores usually found in marketing software, like Marketo. A typical score of 90-100 might indicate a good prospect, but that score cold really be 96-99. “Let’s get more granular,” Baird said, but it is going to take a lot of modeling to get there.
In the long run, RadiumOne needs to develop relationships with its client base, explaining what is possible and what technology can’t do, Baird explained. “We have to be a trusted partner.” The ad tech mark is in turmoil right now, as many competitors are trying to make sales at all costs in an overcrowded marketplace. “A lot of companies in our space are failing.” she said. Too many companies “are promising things that are not true.”
RadiumOne was working on an initial public offering last year when bad luck and bad timing put a halt to the effort. Will RadiumOne try going public again? Perhaps at some point, Baird answered. “The market has to be a great place to invest in a company like us right now.” Sadly, the market is not great at this point in time.
Like the dotcom bubble of the late 1990s, some companies think that going public is the “exit strategy”. Here Baird begs to differ. “There is no exit in an IPO. It is an on-ramp to the fastest freeway.” she said. If RadiumOne goes this route, it has to be “ready to go with a phenomenal driver.” Going public will not be like speeding down a highway—it will be more like Formula One auto racing, she observed.