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Innovating as a CTO in Online Advertising with Oded Cohen

By April 23, 2019 No Comments

Audio Version

Technology and the internet go hand in hand, as does the innovation both engender. Nowhere is this more apparent than with Nativo’s CTO Oded Cohen. He joins the CTO Studio to tell us what it is like to be innovating as a CTO in online advertising today.

We’ll also talk about why he’s a startup guy at heart, how Nativo continues to innovate their offerings while also building and scaling their teams. This is an in-depth talk about the world of online advertising, and how innovation from that world applies to every industry within tech today. Join us to hear it all on this episode of CTO Studio.

In this episode, you’ll hear:

  • What does it mean to be a “startup guy”?
  • What’s the difference between native advertising and banner ads?
  • Why advertising is still effective.
  • Does the paid wall approach work for all publishers?
  • What is the dirty secret of cloud storage?
  • And so much more!

Today Oded Cohen is the CTO of Nativo and is based in Los Angeles, but he is originally from Israel. He was working in an Israeli start up that went public, after which they were acquired by an American company. A few months later he was offered a job in Dallas in a more corporate setting. He took the job and moved his family to Dallas, but it didn’t take long for him to realize he is a start-up guy at heart.

What does he mean exactly when he says he is a startup guy? Oded explains he likes the excitement and fast-moving environment in which he can have a meaningful impact and embrace challenges. In bigger companies you often have to get approval for more things and you have to plan things out or execute on someone else’s plan.

So with that realization he moved on about a year later and after exploring some options, he found Nativo and felt it was a good fit. He and his family moved to L.A where he joined Nativo as Senior Vice-President of Engineering. Today, he is the CTO.

When he joined there was no product, no marketing but there was an operations and there was sales. The engineering team was 7 people and everyone was doing multiple things. I asked him to expand on the sales aspect of what they were doing at the time – were they a consulting agency?

Their business has two sides: one side is the publishers. They provide technology to publishers to help them monetize their site using native advertising (which is how they got their name, Nativo).

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The other side is the advertisers (brands). So their sales team goes directly after advertisers to get them to run native campaigns across all sites that embrace their technology. Their platform also act as a supply side platform (SSP), which allows publishers to auction their inventory in real time and serve the highest paying ad onto their site, maximizing the yield for the publishers.

The idea behind native advertising (versus display banners) is to provide a better user experience for site readers by adopting the characteristics of the rest of site, or in other words being more “native to the site”. That means if you go to a particular site looking to read articles in a specific topic, you will be shown ads on similar topics, with a headline and an image promoting sponsored articles (or videos)

When you actually click on the sponsored content ad, you read the article on the same site (whereas banners will send you to some other site). With their sponsored content you stay on your original site giving you a true full native experience.

We then move on to to talk about what it’s been like to be the CTO of Nativo and his teams there.

Going from SVP of Engineering to CTO hasn’t been much of a change, according to Oded. He’s now managing 40 people and working very closely with the VP of product and his team.

He’s still a technical guy so he’ll sometimes get involved in the coding. He might be even deploy some of the code himself, as they are moving more towards teams deploying their own code. In general, he doesn’t do a lot of coding but he is highly involved in a lot of the technical architecture decisions.

On this episode of CTO, Oded gives more details on other information they track and where ad tech is going today. Next we talk about how they are innovating in this space.

One of the interesting things he has learned is that when you come up with a good idea then you build it and bring it to market first. You get good adoption and at some point the market reacts and the followers come in (some big, some small). Then it becomes a competition.

If you stay in that situation you won’t continue to grow as a company, eventually you will just be one among many. The challenge is that what you brought to market first was your core as a company and it’s very hard to suddenly put effort into investing in a new path for your company. It’s like you have to have a mini-start up within your own company.

What he has learned is you have to make those decisions, otherwise the growth will disappear and your company will die out. This concept is an understanding at the core of Nativo’s CEO and the company itself, and it’s one of the things he likes most about working there.

He goes on to tell us how they’ve done this in the last year and a half, how they are building and scaling and how he ensures they aren’t missing the next big challenges and trends in the industry. You’ll hear those topics and more when you tune in to today’s edition of CTO Studio with Oded Cohen.

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