AdRoll’s Adam Berke: “Dublin has been a big success for us.”

AdRoll is a global leader in retargeting, with over 15,000 active advertisers around the world.

Established in San Francisco in 2007, the company’s popular marketing platform enables brands to create personalized ad campaigns based on their own website data, offering them maximum return on their online advertising spend. AdRoll opened their first European office in Dublin in 2013, and on the back of a $70m funding round in April 2014 have since expanded their Irish operation to 100 employees, while making continued inroads into the global market.

As Co-Founder and CMO of AdRoll, Adam Berke oversees all aspects of marketing at the company, including performance advertising, product marketing, and brand development. In his downtime, he’s also an avid surfer, kiteboarder, snowboarder, and barefoot runner.

Ahead of his Web Summit appearance later today, he talked with Dublin Commissioner for Startups Niamh Bushnell:

So what prompted AdRoll’s move to Dublin?
It started a few years ago, we discovered that the problem we were trying to solve existed globally, so in 2013, we decided to start our international expansion and the first place we picked was Ireland. We decided to set up our EMEA HQ there, for a number of reasons. Firstly, we were looking for a location that had a primarily English speaking workforce, but that also had bilingual talent. Then a lot of our sales management comes from a Google pedigree and Google obviously have a huge hub in Dublin. We’ve had a lot of success following that playbook so that’s what we decided on and now we have about 100 people in Dublin. It’s going strong and it has been a really successful year.

What functions do you have out of Dublin?
Primarily sales and account management, but also product teams, technical support, finance, and marketing. So it’s really a fully fledged operation.

How would you describe Dublin to tech companies who haven’t been there yet?
For people in tech companies who haven’t been to Dublin it will feel very familiar. As I mentioned we were following a playbook of companies that came before us, and so there’s now that network effect in Dublin. There are big companies there and then fast-growing startups like ourselves. They’re all there so it’s a cycle that reinforces itself. For new people coming in, they’ll quickly see all these companies are already there and the talent pool is well established, so as more companies come to Dublin it gets easier and easier, and there’s a network effect.

Now we have offices in Dublin, London, Sydney, Tokyo and it all started from a small team from Dublin.

From living a long time in the US myself I didn’t know that a lot of multinational tech companies are doing product development out of Dublin…
Yes and actually, the interesting thing to us has been people’s eagerness to move to Dublin from across Europe. As I’ve said there’s already a great talent pool there and then as the office developed, we found people with a variety of skill sets were willing to move to Dublin from across Europe, so as the office became developed people were very eager to move there and they complimented what was already available locally. That’s another reason why it would feel familiar for tech companies moving there, that’s a characteristic of the States, people move from around the world to various economic hubs in the US, and that’s cool that the same thing is happening for Dublin as well.

Would you recommend Dublin as a tech location?
Yes, so Dublin has been a big success for us, and it was the right move at the right time. To get our foot in the door of being a global company a couple of years ago. Dublin was the right place to build that foundation and start that process, and we could build on that foundation to expand globally from there. Now we have offices in Dublin, London, Sydney, Tokyo and it all started from a small team from Dublin.

I love that, that Dublin was the place that you came to, to become global.
Right!

Talk more about how important your Irish operation is to what you do?
Yes, we’re about 550 people globally, with about 100 in Dublin so it’s our largest international office, and Europe and EMEA is a massive market. And one of the big learnings for us was, while we understood it already intuitively, was that EMEA is not like the US, it’s not one large market, it’s really an aggregation of a lot of smaller markets, so it creates a large opportunity to take advantage of, it’s not just going into one country, it’s going into dozens of countries and localizing your product for those countries and for those regions. So it’s a big opportunity but it does require a solid investment to capitalize on it.

Are you being innovative, creating new things out of Dublin, has being in EMEA prompted you to be more innovative?
Yes. actually, our mobile product team was started in the Dublin office. Obviously in our industry of marketing and advertising, adapting your product for mobile is a crucial area of innovation and a lot of what will become best practice are still to be figured out and our efforts in that area have started in Dublin.

Are there specific skills sets in Dublin that you were pleasantly surprised about?
Yes, we initially conceived of it as a sales office and then realized it was a good opportunity to have remote innovation pods. Like the mobile example. There’s always a risk when people are working out of HQ that they’ll get sucked into core product or day to day stuff so having a little distance allows remote development teams to work independently, not get sucked into the strong pull for resources and allows us to ensure that we’re dedicating the right amount of time and energy and resources to new initiatives. Mobile is a great example of that so it was cool to be able to get that started out of Dublin.

That’s really cool – that it’s easier to try new things from outside HQ and one of the benefits of having the office here in Dublin. I’ve heard you describe the AdTech sector as a ‘battlefield’; tell us more about that, I know you guys are in a very competitive market.
Yes, it’s competitive but it’s also an enormous market and there are a lot of tailwinds out there. Adroll’s product specifically is a performance advertising solution so it’s geared towards anyone who wants to convert customers online, so there’s a play for us with almost every single business there is, and so there’s a massive tailwind out there, our entire economy is becoming more digital, advertising is becoming more digital. Instead of network tv or print, all of those marketing dollars are flowing into digital environments and so people want best-in-class tech to be able to leverage those opportunities, so there are trillion dollar industries that are migrating to digital, and naturally you’ll have many different types of companies getting involved when that sort of migration occurs.

It’s competitive but it’s also an enormous market, and there are a lot of tailwinds out there.

What are the key trends we should be looking out for in AdTech?
The big one is around how to leverage data. One of key differences from analog to digital is that now in marketing you can leverage data in real time to make very specific targeting, bidding and optimization decisions, whereas in the analog world you might have to run an ad for a month and then see what happens or try to measure it in some way. In digital, these decisions are being made by our bidding algorithms, in tens of milliseconds, so one of the trends that we’re seeing is that businesses, as they move online, are recognizing that how they collect and use data is becoming a core capability. And this is one of the things our software helps with, how to gather data, how to use it and then feed it back into the rest of the organization. How to value it and invest in it going forward.

Are there industries that you’re targeting more than others?
Historically one of strongest verticals was retailers. It was one of the first business models to emerge online, and an early adopter sector for us because they clearly understood the value of website visitors and how to compare the value of visitors from different channels. But more and more we’re seeing other verticals recognize this. A good example is B2B. There’s not always a clear online conversion with B2B. The customer doesn’t just click on an ad and buy an enterprise software package, they consume content, they attend events and webinars and so forth and, what those marketers are realizing is that where they were stuck with few options in reaching those B2B customers, in airport advertising or niche publications, they’re realizing that in digital and by using precise targeting data that they can do a lot of that targeting at scale and then track it back to specific events, not click to buy exactly, but those marketers want people consuming content, attending events, downloading whitepapers and those are all measurable events. So we’re seeing B2B marketers leveraging our technology in much the same way as online retailers, but instead of driving towards the purchase of a shirt or pair of pants or a gadget it’s to a whitepaper or video views and measuring the engagement level of that channel in general.

Adam Berke is speaking at the Metrics That Matter panel @ Web Summit 2015, on the Marketing Stage, today (Wednesday 4th November) @ 3.10PM

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