Focusing on competition can lead you astray

Bambi Francisco Roizen · September 24, 2008 · Short URL:

Rubicon Project's Addante on focus, selling aspirin and leading with your gut

If you've been successful raising a lot of money, it doesn't necessarily mean you'll be a success running or building a company. That said, 31-year-old Frank Addante, founder and CEO of Rubicon Project, seems to have been pretty fortunate doing both. Since starting his first company - Starting Point, a search engine portal that became the 7th most popular Internet site between 1995 and 1997, and was acquired by CMGI/ - he's raised $200 million.

Of the companies he's founded, two were acquired, one went public and one failed. The company that went public was L90, one of the earliest ad networks. L90's technology was eventually sold to DoubleClick, now part of Google. The one that failed was Zondigo, a wireless and voice software company. The problem with Zondigo was that it was probably too early for its times, said Frank, in this "Lessons learned" segment.

Today, Frank is at the helm of yet another ad network company. The big lesson for him is understanding timing. That's not a surprise, given that he's been early when it comes to ad management solutions and late when it comes to wireless. 

Importantly, Frank's learned to ignore the noise. "So many companies and entrepreneurs focus on competition," he said. "Focusing on competition could steer you the wrong way." As an example, look at what happened with United Airlines and American Airlines. If they weren't so hot on competing with each other, they would have focused on a pain point, which was eventually served by newcomers JetBlue and Southwest Airlines.

He's a big fan of figuring out "how you can provide aspirin, and not vitamins," he said. "Because if someone has pain, they're more likely to buy your products." 

Additionally, Frank said there is a lot to be said about intuition. As he grew older, he realized that he was less inclined to take risks. He felt he had to operate "by the book" and thoroughly analyze each situation.

Yet, it wasn't comfortable. “I found myself feeling insecure about the way I was leading the business," he said. "Finally, one day, I was like, ‘Wait a second. I just don’t feel good about the way that I’m running these businesses, or this particular business'... I completely flipped things around [and decided] I’m going to start leading with my gut."

And, the result was a good one, he said. "The business took off."





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Bambi Francisco Roizen

Founder and CEO of Vator, a media and research firm for entrepreneurs and investors; Managing Director of Vator Health Fund; Co-Founder of Invent Health; Author and award-winning journalist.

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Rubicon Project


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the Rubicon Project is a group of industry-experienced, aggressive and passionate renegades dedicated to bringing a new level of efficiency to the fragmented Internet advertising space. As of January 2008, the company has raised $21 million in funding.

The founders of the Rubicon Project shook up the online advertising industry in 1998 when they created L90/adMonitor, one of the most successful Internet advertising platforms that served over 3,000 of the web’s most recognized sites, reaching 65% of the Internet population before DoubleClick acquired it.


$27 Billion was spent advertising online in 2007, yet it’s still too hard for websites to sell their ad space online. While Internet advertising is an explosive market, it is an incredibly inefficient one with advertisers spending money with 300+ disparate advertising networks worldwide (e.g. Google AdSense, Yahoo! Publisher Network, HispanoClick and Adtegrity). the Rubicon Project’s web-based, self-serve solution gives any size website the most complete access to the total available advertising market and its smart matching technology does all the work to perfectly match each ad impression with the optimal money-making opportunity. the Rubicon Project is the new online advertising standard that makes it effortless for websites to generate the mad cash they've always dreamed of. And, it’s free to join.


Frank Addante

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