By: Tunde Kara
I sit on that curious divide between techie and noobie, in the sense that, I’m an avid gamer who uses a lot of gadgets and tech paraphernalia. But that’s where it ends for me – I’m just a user. Which is why I’m fascinated with the guys behind the scene. The guys who crunch up the binary numbers, that make my FIFA 14 Lionel Messi replicate the same real life magic with a football, on my TV screen – just because I pressed a couple of buttons.
I met some of these guys – the coders – in a recent trip to Ghana. Major players of the very vibrant Ghana tech underground. Young men and women, CEOs of incubator start-ups, Social entrepreneurs, and programmers who work for multinationals. Needless to say, I was impressed.
I sat down to a chat with Derek Jason Bossman, one of the founding partners of AdsBrook – a web and mobile advertising company – here’s what he had to say:
Question: So when and how did you start AdsBrook?
This was in May/June 2012. I started the company with my co-founder Annette Tête who happens to be the CTO of the company. This was about two years ago. I met Antoinette at the Meltwater training program called MEST – Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology. We hit it off instantly and we started working on different projects together. So it was only natural that when it came to the clustering stage where we had to form teams, we formed a team together. And as providence will have it, our pitch on web and mobile advertising was good, the investors liked the business model and the concept, and they decided to fund us.
Question: Why mobile and web advertising, what pulled you in this direction?
A number of reasons really. Initially during the ideas development stage, we were a bit confused. So we decided to focus on business ideas that played to our strengths, and passions. Before this time, I had been a very active member in the local developer online publishing community, and I used to hear a lot of complaints about how difficult it was at that point, to monetise their apps and online content. People talked about Google AdSense, but I realised that there was nothing local here, that could cater uniquely to some of the needs of these developers and publishers. I figured I was finally in a position to meet this need, and after we put out a few surveys, our hunch that this could be a huge need area became fact, and that’s what gave birth to the AdsBrook idea at the time.
Question: When you say, web advertising, In the general sense of the term, what does AdsBrook do?
In a nutshell, AdsBrook is an online and mobile advertising network. Similar to the way Google AdSense operates for publishers. You want to make some money from the your website, so you sign up, you register your website, you generate a code or tag. You place the tag on your website or your mobile site, and then through that tag, ads are shown. In addition to that, we also make it possible for advertisers on the other side, to sign on onto the platform, create an online campaign, pay with a credit card and run these campaigns on the local sites and apps that are registered on AdsBrook. So you see, it’s a platform that connects people that want to advertise locally, to those who sell space on their local sites and apps. We are essentially a middleman – broker if you prefer – to these two sets of people.
Question: Why would I want to use AdsBrook, when (no offence), AdSense is a bigger platform – at least right now?
You should for a number of reasons really. Firstly, our ad content is more relevant to the local audience it’s being directed to. One of the most valuable feedbacks we got when we were fleshing out the AdsBrook idea at the time was that for some of the publishers that used other external networks, a lot of the ad content wasn’t relevant to the local audience these web and mobile sites (apps included by the way), targeted. For example, I have a website that supplies local music content and then there’s an ad that’s advertising some school or course in the Bahamas that the people I’m targeting have no interest in?
Problem with such ads is, the payout for them is really small, because they’re reaching the wrong audience who won’t pay enough attention to actually click on these ads. So publishers end up getting very little for that advertising space. AdsBrook on the other hand supplies local ad content, that is precisely targeted at specific local audience. By specific I mean an advertiser can specify what kind of website (business, music, sports, fashion focused pages etc), that he wants his ads to appear on.
Secondly, it’s much easier for the publishers and developers to get their money. Because we do a direct bank transfer to their locally opened accounts at the end of the month, when they’ve reached a particular threshold.
Question: Any particular stubborn challenge that you had to overcome before you could pitch to the investors?
That’s a good question, because we had a huge number challenge. We needed to show the investors significant supporting numbers to prove that our idea was viable and worth investing in. Problem was, we had no readily available data to support the viability of our idea. And you’d find that availability of data is a prevalent problem this side of the world. So we had two options, spend the rest of the time organising a massive research campaign we didn’t even have the money for, or actually build a system that works and is already running on major websites even before the day of the pitch came. It was a no-brainier for us, we decided to go with the second option. And this turned out to be our saving grace because, as at the time we were making our pitch, we already had 700,000 impressions (in two weeks) from placed ads on member subscribed websites. We had a product that was working already, so it wasn’t a hard sell.
Question: Impressive. So what’s on the horizon for AdsBrook?
Corner the Ghanaian market, then we’d see about the rest of Africa.