I’ve been meaning to write about Satish Polisetti ever since I met him last fall. Yesterday he gave me a news hook for jumping in, announcing that he closed the series A round for his venture, AdsNative. I met Satish while I was auditing a startup training program for an elite group of young agency execs at KBS+ and The Media Kitchen, and he immediately struck me as a person worth writing about. It just took me until now to figure how to tell his story.
Polisetti was one of the seasoned startup speakers who helped teach the program, which is managed by KBS+ Ventures, the agency’s venture capital arm, which also happened to be one of AdsNative’s early ($8 million) round investors. After filling me in on his new $8.5 million round, I asked him to give me a simple description I could use to explain to our readers what AdsNative is. His answer was the real reason for this blog post, because his description was so radically different than what he told me when he first briefed me on AdsNative last November.
Back then, it was a platform that was helping publishers create new native advertising formats that used data and technology to optimize the experience for their two most important markets: their users and their advertisers.
What was most interesting about Polisetti’s description back then was how AdsNative got to be that version. It didn’t start out that way. It began as a user authentication technology that utilized visual imagery instead of captcha-like typography to authenticate that a human being was engaging with a publisher’s content. Polisetti explained how the company began working with brands that wanted to integrate their brand imagery into the authentication process.
It worked and created engagement for the brands that used it, but Polisetti said it wasn’t scalable. So when publishers and advertisers started jumping into native formats, he said AdsNative pivoted and set out to create the best system for optimizing the experience for the user and the brand.
But the AdsNative Polisetti has described in this week’s post-A-round briefing is a very different company. According to Polisetti, its core native formatting platform is working great and delivering high yields for publishers, brands and engaged consumers who use it, but the business has evolved into an integrated part of a publisher’s total ad tech stack, including components of content creation, revenue optimization and ad-serving. He said that makes AdsNative more than an SSP or an exchange like a Rubicon, or an OpenX, and makes it more like an integrated exchange and ad server like a Google or a Facebook. In fact, Polisetti says he defines AdsNative’s competitive set as Google and Facebook, and says because they have integrated ad-serving and exchange technology. I would include AppNexus in that set, but Polisetti believes that AdsNative actually represents a new marketplace altogether. Kind of a an ad server for a post-display advertising world.
Polisetti says most of the investors -- and the publishers -- that are backing AdsNative right now are doing it because it has solved the problem of the transition from desktop display to mobile. The next phase, he says, will be more like an “ad server of the future.”
I hope to check back soon and hear how Polisetti describes AdsNative again in the future -- but what he demonstrates best for me, and the reason I’m writing about him, is his adaptive nature. One of the things I learned in the KBS+ Ventures “Fellows” program was the need to be nimble and iterative and be able to pivot your model -- your product, what it does and how it is positioned to the marketplace -- as the marketplace around it evolves. Few would argue that the marketplace is evolving rapidly and that the most disruption and innovation are coming from the organizations that can evolve as quickly as it is, or even better, anticipate where it is going next.
That’s what venture capitalists like to invest in, because there are high potential returns on that kind of disruption. And Polisetti and AdsNative have come to represent that for me. In the end, it will be a function of how well he and his team execute on those rapidly evolving models, but so far his story is getting better for me every time I hear it. Which is why I’m sharing it with you today.Because the most important thing I learned from the Fellows instructors -- Jessica Peltz-Zatulove and Josh Engroff -- is that what makes ventures successful is the combination of their product, their market, their “product/market fit” and their team. The most important component of that mix, they said, isn’t the product or the market, but the team, and that is the thing that venture capital investors are most looking for when they decide to back a startup. And it is the reason, I imagine, that KBS+ and now some A-round investors, decided to back Polisetti.