Bob co-founded the e-commerce startup Switchouse Inc, which he later sold to Amazon. Before that, he worked at Yahoo, leading the company's search business development team. Most recently, Bob served as CEO of Gigwalk.
I invited Bob to Marketing Smarts to discuss the evolution of mobile advertising, the future of the ad-tech industry, and how the corporate culture at InMobi helped the Bangalore-based startup reach 1 billion users this year. (That's "billion," with a b!)
Here are just a few highlights from our conversation:
"We have a firm belief that by just taking sides with the users...in the long run we're going to build a more sustainable relationship with our advertisers and our publisher partners by simply delighting the users and helping [clients] build longer-term relationships with that user, whether they're an app publisher or an advertiser who wants to build a brand or build a user base."
To succeed on ad tech, think beyond the short term (10:04): "Middlemen models tend to come to publishers with a very simple one-dimensional approach, which is often captured in a metric of ECPM [cost per thousand impressions]. So, middlemen...are able to come to a publisher and say, 'We have a pipe, and inside that pipe we can flow money to you... So, for every thousand impressions the app developer has, how much money do I get?' And some app developers will think very much in terms of maximizing ECPM, which means in a given day, 'who's giving me the highest ECPM; I'm going to give the most inventory to them.'
"And many publishers work on what's called a waterfall. They may work with multiple providers—so InMobi, Facebook, Twitter, etc.—and they put us in a waterfall. So, whoever on a given day has the highest ECPM—the highest price for my inventory and the most that they can fill of my inventory—I give them the first shot.... So, that's the traditional way.
"What we're trying to do with publishers is change the conversation to, instead of ECPM, to...LTV—lifetime value. Instead of measuring how big the pipe is, we're saying, 'Can we make your user more valuable? Can we make your user come back more often and stay with you longer?' either because of the experience we deliver in terms of the ad format that isn't disruptive, or we start delivering in the space that we have, not just ads that are driving a user to an action, but maybe surface to them discovery experiences.
"Some of it may be content-oriented, some of it may be [long]tail-oriented, meaning It's not the hot-selling product, but it's the product that might be most interesting to the user, because when we surface that, the user's going to maybe come back more often, find what they see in the app more relevant, and what you're doing is expanding the pie. If your user becomes more valuable...everything you do inside those monetization pipes suddenly becomes more valuable."
To build a global company, make employees feel they're part of something larger (28:04): "At InMobi, we're not just part of a company, not just part of an industry. But I feel super-excited to be part of a global team. And part of that global story is we are part of the global sea change that's happening in terms of the rise of India, the rise of China, and the rise of the rest of the world economically, and we're the startup vanguard of that massive sea change in the whole world. And InMobi was one of the first pebbles in the pond, so to speak, in India. I think that's very much part of our culture. I think a lot of the team, whether they're French, Japanese, Korean, Arab, or American, I think all of us realize that what we're doing here is part of this bigger global picture.
"We're contributing to a world where we can say Silicon Valleys exist not just on Sand Hill in San Francisco. We're helping to create a Silicon Valley in Bangalore. We're helping foster the startup culture and community in China. And so we're sort of part of this global movement that's creating a global network of innovation, disruption.... Sometimes we don't talk about this openly, but...[when I ask,] 'Why are you at InMobi,' there's something a little bit deeper about what we're doing for the world."
Bob and I talked about much more, so be sure to listen to the entire show, which you can do above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode!
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Special thanks to production company Candidio, an efficient, affordable video production platform allowing marketers and communicators to collaborate and curate video content, with help from a team of professional, on-demand video editors for the finishing touches. Check them out!
Music credit: Noam Weinstein.
Bob Bahramipour, senior vice president of global brand development at InMobi, a mobile-first platform that allows brands, developers, and publishers to engage consumers through mobile advertising. Check out the InMobi blog and follow Bob on Twitter.