John Gentry, OpenX CEO, believes there is a lot of luck when it comes to weaving through a successful career, but he also seems a bit modest when talking about his own.
Chairman Tim Cadogan, former CEO, officially passed the reins to Gentry on Feb. 14 to become CEO at GoFundMe.
Gentry has been with OpenX for eight years in various roles, initially as consultant and then supporting clients as president and now CEO. He participated in building the company’s strategy and will continue to execute on those plans in 2020.
“There’s a strong element of luck when it comes to careers, being at the right place at the right time,” Gentry said. “I benefited by being around during the early days of the internet. That was luck, but it allowed me to be part of a growing category. I think there’s a lot of good fortune that takes place in careers.”
During the transition, Data & Programmatic Insider caught up with Gentry to talk about life and business plans for OpenX. What follows are excerpts from the conversation.
Data & Programmatic Insider: What is the difference between being president and CEO of OpenX?
John Gentry: As president I ran a large portion of the operations such as sales, products and etc. I did not run the corporate functions like legal, marketing communications, human resources, and finance.
Now as CEO I have responsibility for all the functions. As president, Tim was the boss. We worked together and had a great relationship, but it’s different now. Technically as chairman he’s still the boss of the board, but his role is a little different.
D&PI: Did you always want to run a company when you grew up?
Gentry: I had a lot of different passions, mostly involving the outdoors. I spent a lot of time on the water with scuba diving and boats. I spent a lot of time backpacking. It wasn’t until I started working in the summer at college for a real estate firm that I discovered a passion for business. I came up through sales and business development.
A couple of jobs ago I started playing a broader role across the company and ended up in a general manager leadership position.
D&PI: Any interest in business before college?
Gentry: When I was 11 years old I worked in a bike shop for $1.50 per hour. I fixed bikes and swept the floors. I did a little of everything.
D&PI: Did you notice any business-related traits at the time?
Gentry: I’ve always been a high-drive individual. I’ve always enjoyed people and working with them. I’ve always had a strong analytical orientation.
D&PI: What is the best piece of advice you’ve received during your career and whom did you receive it from?
Gentry: My first job in real estate there was a very senior guy. One night he came into the back office of the firm where I was doing some menial task. He looked over and said "Gentry, it’s better to be lucky than good." I’ve proven him correct over the years.
D&PI: What type of advice would you give someone new in the industry?
Gentry: Intellectual curiosity is one of the biggest traits I see for success in this industry. It changes so quickly that if you don’t continually seek to understand how the business works, you will be left behind.
D&PI: What are your plans for the year and what’s your take on the industry?
Gentry: Ad tech always changes. We just came off a very strong 2019, where we moved our entire infrastructure into the cloud.
We’re the first exchange to move into the public cloud on Google Cloud Platform. We also built out a product called Open Audience. That also will be our focus in 2020. We’re also spending time with publishers and investing in Prebid.org.