Hires this year by MediaMath, one of the few large independent ad tech companies that hasn’t gone public or sold, suggest that it’s gearing up for change, beit an initial public offering or more aggressive growth as a still-private player.
Most recently, Rich Schmaeling joined MediaMath this month as CFO, filling a post that had been vacant since Jeannie Mun left in March to join an e-book startup. He had been a consultant at Media General and before that was CFO at Lin Media, which Media General merged with, and VP-finance at Dow Jones, where he worked on its integration with News Corp.
His arrival follows Peter Piazza’s appointment as general counsel in June, succeeding Brian Miller, who left in March. Mr. Piazza had been deputy chief legal officer at Nielsen.
Both were chosen partly because they had been involved in M&A deals and understand how large private and public companies operate, according to MediaMath.
And Richard Beattie was named to the newly created post of senior VP-commercialization for Europe, the Middle East and Africa in January; he had held an international role at Oracle.
MediaMath has also expanded its board, handing seats to Jeffrey Rayport, professor at Harvard Business School and founder of Marketspace, and Bill Wheaton, head of media content at Akamai.
The company’s demand-side software helps advertisers serve video and display ads across mobile devices and desktop computers using data and analytics software.
Mr. Schmaeling can help the company along any of several possible routes, according to MediaMath CEO Joe Zawadzki. “We absolutely wanted someone who could handle any of the range of options that help us thoughtfully reinvest profits in order to continue to scale the business, and do it in more geographies with more departments, and in an overall more complex business,” Mr. Zawadzki said. “We want to make use of his public market expertise so the notion of an IPO, and living as a public company, is not foreign.”
But an IPO is not imminent, much less the the only option. MediaMath may remain private, Mr. Zawadzki said. Selling to a behemoth, a third possible scenario, is the least likely move for MediaMath, which would rather be a buyer than the seller, he added.
“We did six acquisitions last year,” Mr. Zawadzki said. “We plan to continue to be acquisitive.”
Mr. Piazza will support those goals, as “someone with very strong general counsel chops in terms of building a really good commercial team and also being really good at M&A,” said Mr. Zawadzki.
MediaMath’s investments in the near-term will likely expand its cross-platform ad-buying and analytics capabilities, spanning not just desktop and mobile but TV, digital signs and radio, among other media, he said.
MediaMath, which says it employs over 700 people, increased its gross revenue excluding refunds and discounts to $470 million last year, up from $322 million in 2013, according to Mr. Zawadzki. In May, the company raised $84 million in equity and another $120 million in debt lines, which Mr. Zawadzki calls a “bit of an abnormality.”
“Last year was certainly a building year in terms of acquisitions and global expansions,” he said. “We’re largely growing organically and scaling it that way, versus constantly requiring financing.”
There’s been a cloud over ad tech since the flurry of ad tech IPOs between 2013 and 2014 left Wall Street unimpressed. Early this year, Ad Age reported that four out of seven hot ad tech companies that went public during the IPO flurry were trading below their opening prices.
Some large ad tech firms such as like MediaMath are looking to invest in broader capabilities through M&A, and large marketing technology companies like Salesforce are investing in ad tech companies to bolster their own capabilities.
Programmatic ad tech has grown beyond its start in unloading unsold digital inventory, Mr. Zawadzki said, and now helps marketers determine which audiences to buy and how much to pay for them as part of larger business objectives. “We’re in the early phases of the long-term transformation that’s happening,” he said, “about how programmatic and the use of technology and software is ultimately changing the nature of an industry.”
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