First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Ionut Ciobotaru: It has been a strange few months for sure, but all things considered, I’m doing quite well. It’s been interesting to see how quickly everything can shift and how priorities change within a short period of time.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded PubNative
Ionut Ciobotaru: I founded PubNative back in 2014 to improve mobile monetization for app publishers after seeing firsthand that advertisements did not adapt smoothly to the evolution of apps and mobile operating systems. My vision was to translate the advertising ecosystem’s advancement into solutions for publishers, with the belief that each app owner should be enabled to individually tailor ads to his/her needs.
Before PubNative, I started the web development company Weebo followed by co-founding BettaHub, helping startups to find early adopters/beta testers and collect feedback. I also worked for games publisher EA before leading the product team at mobile AdTech company Applift, who we now work with once again under Verve Group.
I’ve been passionate about computers since I first got my hands on an HC2000 (a Romanian computer!!!) in the ’90s. That passion evolved into building products, solving problems and driving value for people and businesses through software.
How does PubNative innovate?
Ionut Ciobotaru: As mobile AdTech continues to evolve, we’ve always been right there evolving with it. Our advanced tech stack has grown exponentially, and we’re always coming up with new ideas and strategies to revolutionize mobile advertising. Our business model started with a focus on purely native advertising but has advanced over the years to all major ad formats like video and display to provide a more comprehensive solution for app publishers and demand partners. Our first product was also API-based, whereas today, we offer multiple integration methods for publishers, and our SDK footprint continues to grow.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Ionut Ciobotaru: The initial effects from COVID-19 were definitely felt across the business as many advertisers cut their spending budget, but we did notice an increase in volume within the marketplace. During the pandemic, PubNative also announced its merger with Applift and Verve to form a unified company under Verve Group, which has been a positive side to the situation. We’re now coming back stronger than ever with a group offering for not just publishers, but brands and advertisers too.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Ionut Ciobotaru: Before COVID times, we did have to make some difficult decisions with killing products, such as our mediation solution. As well as that, we decided to pivot from performance advertising to being fully programmatic. Success is not a given, it takes time, practice, effort, and years of blood sweat and tears, and we had to make difficult choices as we advanced and found our place in the ecosystem and to continue driving for growth and value creation.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Ionut Ciobotaru: As we’re under Verve Group now and provide an array of advertising solutions for different industry players, our competitor list has decreased, as few companies have a similar integrated offering. We see ourselves as an essential part of the open advertising ecosystem, and considering the diverse offering of Verve Group, we work with most, if not all industry constituents, from DSPs and SSPs to DMPs, delivering our unique value proposition across different customer groups.
Your final thoughts
Ionut Ciobotaru: Digital advertising is a hugely dynamic and fast-changing industry and the people and technologies within it have been continuously evolving to adapt to the changes. It’s challenging and exciting, but we work with some of the smartest people we know making every day feel like a day well spent/invested.
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