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Meet Spotfront, the NY ad tech startup that said “Not today, thanks” to investment offer

Imag­ine this: you’re an ambi­tious young prod­uct man­ag­er in a young (and up-and-com­ing) adver­tis­ing tech com­pa­ny and ven­ture cap­i­tal­ists have caught wind of your product’s poten­tial. They want to invest. What would you do? For Alex Sher­man and Peter Schwartz, co-founders of New York based ad-tech firm Spot­front, the answer is sim­ple: “Thanks. But no thanks.”


Sher­man and Schwarz launched Spot­front at the start of 2012 after leav­ing demand side plat­form ad tech com­pa­ny Media­Math. Now the inter­est­ing thing about Media­Math, our ambi­tious young prod­uct man­ag­er might care to note, is that it was ven­ture cap­i­tal-backed. Spotfront’s co-cre­ators want­ed to do things dif­fer­ent­ly: their new baby is com­plete­ly self-funded.

Spe­cial­iz­ing in data-dri­ven adver­tis­ing tech­nol­o­gy and auto­mat­ed dig­i­tal media buy­ing sys­tems for dig­i­tal adver­tis­ers, Spot­front is strong­ly com­mit­ted to its inde­pen­dence. Those strate­gic investors were real, and they real­ly were polite­ly declined by Sher­man and Schwartz.

But if you were actu­al­ly a prod­uct man­ag­er with this com­pa­ny, you’d be aware that it reached prof­itabil­i­ty with­in its first year. The founders were in no rush to start dilut­ing their ownership.

As Sher­man puts it, when he and Schwartz were con­sid­er­ing whether to accept or decline invest­ment, they looked care­ful­ly at both paths. Ulti­mate­ly, though, they decid­ed they want­ed to build a prod­uct that cus­tomers also want­ed and to do that prop­er­ly, they need­ed to work at their own pace. He added:

“There’s a big dif­fer­ence between tak­ing a risk with some­one else’s mon­ey and your own. We val­ued our inde­pen­dence and our abil­i­ty to make mistakes.”

Big career prospects 

Boot­strap­ping their com­pa­ny has inevitably tight­ly focused their minds right from the out­set. Her­man explains:

“When­ev­er you boot­strap a busi­ness rev­enue becomes that much more impor­tant. You become very busi­ness mod­el focused, very sen­si­tive to cost struc­tures and it real­ly does force you into a kind of dili­gence with regards to finan­cial per­for­mance and man­ag­ing your costs.”

But if a prod­uct man­ag­er role became avail­able, there are some big advan­tages to work­ing for a suc­cess­ful boot­strapped com­pa­ny like Spot­front. Sher­man says that they make every can­di­date aware that by work­ing for a boot­strapped firm, they’ll rapid­ly be placed into the mid­dle of the com­pa­ny where they’ll have “very real respon­si­bil­i­ty and very real impact.”

The firm is aim­ing to dou­ble its team in the com­ing six months.

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