Jesse Hurwitz has left the Googleplex.
Hurwitz, Google’s now former head of global strategy for mobile ad platforms, has joined London-based AdBrain as its vice president for the United States. He will take an equity stake in the U.K. startup, which enables advertisers to strategically target ads across mobile, desktop and tablets simultaneously. AdBrain recently raised $7.5 million in venture funding and is quickly ramping up a respectable client base in the lucrative and competitive mobile advertising sector.
The notable hire comes amid a flurry of activity in the wide-open mobile ad space, with 500 players including ad networks, game publishers, retargeters, and ad firms frantically vying for a piece of a nascent industry that totaled over $17 billion in 2013 and is expected to top $30 billion in 2014, according to eMarketer.
Venture capitalists and private investors continue pouring billions into the space, and analysts warn a shakeout for those not playing by the rules is coming soon.
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Hurwitz, a youthful looking New Yorker who grew up on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, said Google tried to keep him, even offering to boost his salary, but he demured for the challenge of a well-positioned and well-funded startup prudently ramping up and running their business on transparency and trust. Prior to Google, he previously did a stint at Admeld, an online ad exchange bought by Google for $400 million in 2011.
There are some bad things happening in the mobile ad space, and AdBrain is rising above it, Hurwitz told VentureBeat during a sitdown.
“This is not a job but a life and career. Mobile is going to be the next big thing, and I want the ecosystem to succeed. AdBrain actually cares about doing it right. Mobile is changing the way people engage. Data and privacy are going to drive the mobile space forward,” Hurwitz said.
The New Yorker said a majority of mobile ad outfits are “doing the right thing,” but because the sector is growing so quickly, and the margins are so high, a few bad operators, including questionable ad networks and third-party brokers, have quickly moved in to take advantage of the chaos. And since it’s so hard to track mobile users and their information, it’s even more important that the mobile sector is leveled for those working to build a real business.
In other words, it’s easy to set up an ad network, and another to build one that scales.
“The barriers to set up an ad network are very low,” said AdBrain chief executive Gareth Davies.
AdBrain currently employees 30 executives and engineers based at the startup’s London headquarters. Davies said the focus on the European side is Germany, England, France, and to a lesser extent, Spain. At this point, AdBrain has little intention of setting their sites on to the slowly emerging markets of Central, Eastern, and Southern Europe.
Google’s Doubleclick, Appnexus, Adfonic, and Appsalar are competition. Especially Google, Hurwitz’s former alma mater. He added that when he told colleagues he was leaving, there were no hard feelings.
Hurwitz is busy building the startup’s New York team. And, he said, the challenge of organically growing a company from nearly scratch, is one that appeals strongly to his entrepreneurial nature. He sees his work building AdBrain — and a reputable client list — as crucial to his instincts and ethos of growing disruptive technology that will dominate in the near term.
For Hurwitz, his passion for protecting data and user privacy, while transforming the mobile ad sector, is one of the main reason’s he left a fat salary and job security behind for a jump into the unknown. Bridging the gap between desktop and mobile users is an enticing equation Hurwitz strongly feels will be solved sooner rather than later.
Solved by a killer platform. And the capability to scale.
“It’s important that the buyer and seller connect in a transparent manner,” Hurwitz said.
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