Cunningham Joins Ad Startup IronSource, Shuttering Appssavvy

Ad tech veteran Chris Cunningham is stepping down as CEO of Appssavvy, the mobile-focused ad company he founded in 2008, to become head of U.S. mobile for Tel Aviv-based ad startup ironSource. As a result, New York-based Appssavvy, which worked with advertisers including Coca-Cola, TNT and Chase, is shutting down operations.

He indicated that ironSource, which provides digital tools that help software and app developers better distribute and monetize their content, may acquire assets of Appssavvy, which had grown to more than $70 million in revenue. It paid out more than $35 million to publishers and developers, according to a release today.

No information on the Appssavvy Web site today indicates the company, which started the year with about 20 employees, is ceasing operations.

In an interview, Cunningham acknowledged that running a small ad network in the face of intensifying competition in mobile from Facebook, Google and Twitter, as well as real-time ad exchanges, had become more difficult. “We reached a point where either raise future capital, look to M&A or remain a moderate size, and this is where we ended up,” he said.

Cunningham started Appssavvy in 2008 as a platform connecting advertisers and agencies with social-game developers, including Zynga and RockYou. In the ensuing years, it focused on targeting ads to activities such as earning virtual goods, completing a level or sending messages within a game. More recently, it expanded into the burgeoning native ad space, delivering behaviorally targeted ads that appear within a user’s stream.

Earlier today, TechCrunch reported that ironSource secured $85 million in new funding from a group of unnamed investors. In his new role, Cunningham will focusing on expanding mobileCore, the company’s set of tools powering distribution and native advertising for mobilie apps. More than 50,000 apps have installed the ironSource SDK (software developer kit).

In particular, Cunningham said he’ll focus on using his agency and advertiser relationships to help ironSource build up its U.S. and global ad business beyond in-app ads mostly promoting games. “This company has the ability to build out very unique and differentiated ad products in mobile, but it’s not going to happen overnight,” he said.

Despite having 400 employees, an office in San Francisco and a revenue run rate this year of nearly $300 million, he said ironSource has remained mostly under the radar in the U.S. Raising awareness of the company in advance of a planned initial public offering in 2015 is also part of Cunningham’s new job.

“The idea is to bring a brand story [about ironSource] to agencies I’ve been working with for 15 years, “ said Cunningham, who will continue to be based in New York. 

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