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Part of the Advangelists team at July’s Bite of Seattle. From left to right, CEO Deepankar “Deep” Katyal; Whitney Rojas, senior director operations finance and HR; intern Ruby Rhodes and project manager Liz Schuette. (Advangelists Photo)

A lot of businesses outsource to cut costs. But the CEO of Seattle-based startup Advangelists says that keeping all of their operations in-house is what makes their digital advertising service cheaper and better than the competition.

By building their own technology and providing an overall product as opposed to an assortment of features, Deepankar “Deep” Katyal said their mobile ad company offers its services for a savings of 20-30 percent or more.

“Advangelists believes that advertising should be an amalgamation of great features, great usability and should have all the tools needed in one single platform,” Katyal said.

Their closest competitors include The Trade Desk, which is based in Ventura, Calif., and has offices internationally; AddNexus, which AT&T bought for $1.6 billion in June; and New York’s AdKernal.

The eight-person Advangelists launched in San Francisco in 2016, but in the fall of 2017 moved its headquarters to Seattle. The engineering team will remain in California.

The company is profitable, Katyal said, and is not seeking outside funding any time soon. Advangelists has three customers in what he calls “full capacity,” five others in the process of adopting their product, and 10 companies using some of their offerings. He admits that it’s difficult to win new customers in a competitive space.

“As with any new disruptive technology going to the market, the challenge is getting a company that is running effectively and profitably to move over to us,” Katyal said.

We caught up with Katyal for this Startup Spotlight, a regular GeekWire feature. Continue reading for his answers to our questionnaire.

Deepankar “Deep” Katyal, CEO of startup Advangelists. (Advangelists Photo)

Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: In simple words, we automate advertising. Do you ever get the feeling that ads you see on your digital devices are highly catered to your needs, your profile and what you want to consume? We ensure that advisers get to the right user on the right platform in a fully automated, AI-driven way.

Inspiration hit us when: We saw the ad tech industry grow really fast. This led to fragmentation. There were companies being launched that were implementing features instead of products. There had to be a better way. We wanted to build an operating system for ad tech, a system where anyone who wants to execute on their advertising strategy could come and use an intuitive user interface to achieve it all.

VC, Angel or Bootstrap: Bootstrap. The company started as a vision and we wanted to ensure we have a minimum viable product before scaling it up. Keeping it nimble helped us achieve a break-even point fairly fast and grow with bootstrapped investments.

Self-promoting the digital ad startup Advangelists. (Advangelists Photo)

Our ‘secret sauce’ is: In one simple word: automation. We work on very basic principle: automate wherever possible to reduce overhead. This helps us create an end-to-end product that is twice as cheap as the alternatives.

The smartest move we’ve made so far: We have identified the need for automation and the fact that not all companies can and should hire an army of engineers, operations experts and other roles. We have created a self-sustaining, autonomic system that helps our clients have the best tech without having an in-house team.

The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: Marketing and social. We have been operating in stealth mode and not getting the word out. We intend to change that in the next few months.

Would you rather have Gates, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: Bezos, any day. He is a futuristic visionary and already understands the problems that he needs to solve 10 years down the line. He’s an amazing inspiration.

Our favorite team-building activity is: Road trips. This helps to get our team together and develop personal relationships. It also helps us get out and understand our diverse users. After these outings, we’re much better at finding the next solution.

The biggest thing we look for when hiring is: Drive. We looks for passionate folks who are self-driven in a fast-paced environment. Folks who think, “Hey, it takes me and my team more than three steps every time to do a certain task. There has to be a better way. Automate it.”

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: Minimum viable products are key. Having ideas is amazing, but when you’re pitching your idea, it needs to be demonstrable. As entrepreneurs, you need to focus on research and building the product instead of funding.

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