Commentary

Real-Time With Centro's New CTO, Michael Radovancevich (Tapped From Oracle)

Centro this morning announced the addition of Michael Radovancevich as chief technology officer. Radovancevich joins Centro from Oracle, where he served as group vice president of development. He is one of several senior execs to join Centro in the past year and a half, including Kelly Wenzel (CMO) and Scott Neslund (EVP).

RTM Daily was able to ask Radovancevich some questions, including what draws him to the ad tech industry, who he would pick first in an ad tech fantasy draft, and what company other than Centro he would want to be CTO for. After congratulating him on his new role, we jumped into the questions. Check out his answers below.

RTM Daily: What is it about ad tech software that draws you in and keeps you interested on a daily basis?

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Radovancevich: What attracted me was the vision of building out a cloud ecosystem that addresses the significant challenges in digital media, both now and in the future, as new modalities come online. It is a very dynamic space with huge mismatches between people, process, systems and technologies. For planners, buyers, and sellers – everyone -- the inefficiencies take what can be a stimulating combination of analytical and creative work and turn it into a paper/email/phone/worksheet/invoice chase. The goal of anything we build should be to improve the world in some way, small or large. We have an opportunity to bring a powerful suite of tools to all players in this industry that lets them focus more on the value add and not so much on the mundane and tedious. 

RTM Daily: If there were an ad tech fantasy draft (think fantasy football), what would be the first overall pick?

Radovancevich: Playing and coaching soccer, one thing I learned was that it’s not so much the star players that win championships, but how a team works together that leads to success. Point solutions and technologies only solve part of the problem. I believe in a comprehensive suite, well connected, with buyers and sellers able to conduct business with each other easily, be that premium direct with all the bells and whistles or real-time bidding (RTB) or everything in between. Getting the advertiser’s message out requires a full set of tools.

Now, if you put me on the spot, applications to facilitate and automate the work is where I would start.  It isn’t glamorous, but you know it’s going to start producing for your team right away.

RTM Daily: Why pick Centro?

Radovancevich: I am fortunate enough to see a lot of very interesting opportunities come my way -- challenging roles, compelling business cases, great technology. Certainly ad tech itself stood out -- the opportunity to move from manual models to workflow to full automation. But the deciding factor was the great character of the people and the environment Shawn Riegsecker, our CEO and founder, has built.

I was very impressed with the focus on ‘raving fans’ (i.e. quality service) and I am thrilled to be able to be able to grow an engineering organization in that kind of an atmosphere. A lot of companies pay lip service to people, but great product, especially great software, is only built with great people. Centro backs up the message with action and creates a hard-working, but fun and humane environment. It's a great place because the people are great to work with and totally committed to making raving fans of everyone that interacts with Centro.

RTM Daily: What are some of your short- and long-term goals at Centro?

Radovancevich: My short-term goal is to keep iterating successfully and with increased velocity toward the long-term goals – it's a continuum. Hiring is a top priority. We are growing in Chicago and San Francisco and are looking for top talent in software engineering, quality assurance, product design, cloud operations, data science and implementation services. We are also working with a wonderful set of partners that will continue to grow over time. Building out that ecosystem is very important.

The long-term goals are to have a 100% raving fan customer base of agencies and publishers all using the best in class cloud based product suite for digital media. Period. 

RTM Daily: You have more than 25 years in software. How has the "cloud" changed things for you and for everyone in the industry?

Radovancevich: As it has come together over the past decade, the "cloud" is having a huge impact on many industries. In the 90's at 280 Inc. we built out an early cloud based solution that was similar to components of Trello, Box, HipChat, all rolled into a single environment. Does anyone remember when a 28kbps dialup modem was fast? Now, 20 years later, it's very different. People are connected 100% of the time (not so sure that is always a healthy thing), bandwidth is greater, more available and cheaper, the tools are better, the infrastructure is available in the cloud as well and enough complementary solutions and cloud products connect together to form ecosystems. 

More importantly, the fact that barriers to a buyer of SaaS solutions are far lower than traditional on-premise technology are starting to be well-understood. No $100mm implementations, no armies of consultants, no lack of support from over-burdened IT organizations, no massively customized but impossible to upgrade one-off solutions. It is a different model and difficult for some to come to terms with because we have done things so differently (and much more expensively) in the past. For those who have never embraced technology or are still using systems from the Lyndon B. Johnson era, it is far easier and cheaper to start leveraging technology now in the cloud. 

Once you do enter this new world, the ability to leverage connected and related solutions from multiple vendors all in the cloud, on demand, is hugely liberating. The synergistic effects of having digital media players in a connected ecosystem are enormous. I think it is the beginning of a very exciting time.

RTM Daily: What companies or individuals in the field do you look toward for inspiration? 

Radovancevich: I've been a long time Apple fan and while I don't necessarily agree with all of his approaches to management, Steve Job's concept of "putting a dent in the universe" resonates with me. Apple has had the courage to reinvent itself multiple times, take risks that others thought foolish and pull them off in a spectacular way. Not everything they did was invented by Apple, but they could take interesting capabilities and innovate by producing a well-integrated new thing that shifts a paradigm, improves people’s lives, and changes the world in a good way.

RTM Daily: If you had to pick a company other than Centro to be CTO for, what company would it be and why? 

Radovancevich: Wow, that's a tough one. There are many great organizations out there. I have several areas of personal interest. I'm a huge consumer of online courses. It started with MIT Open Course Ware and then iTunesU. Now, I usually have several concurrent MOOCs that I'm taking through Coursera and EdX. I also love my iPad but I have yet to see an offering that combines the courseware on the tablet in a truly compelling, intuitive way. I hope someone will build that soon. 

If you really go way, way out there, the audacious vision Elon Musk has for SpaceX, of "enabling people to live on other planets," is something that I would love to contribute to in some way. Just as Apollo did, the problems that would need to be solved would have huge positive spinoff effects on humanity. But I don't think Elon would be willing to give up that Chief Designer post he holds.

RTM Daily: Thanks for your time.

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