May 15, 2018
OpenX in 2008
May 15th, 2018 marked the ten year anniversary of OpenX becoming incorporated in the U.S. This post is part of a series looking back at each of the ten years in the company’s history – Part 1 of 10
Looking back to 2008, tech innovation was everywhere. Apple’s App Store was released in July and the first device to run Google’s Android system, the T-Mobile G1, released in October. Total global smartphone users reached 237 million and Google launched their first web browser, Chrome in September for Microsoft Windows users. As the OpenX business was incorporated in the U.S. there was an undeniable opportunity to monetize this growing digital audience.
It was against this backdrop ten years ago, that the idea of a “real-time” digital ad exchange began to take shape in a living room in Pasadena, California as OpenX’s Co-Founders Tim Cadogan and Jason Fairchild laid out the business model for what would eventually grow to become the world’s largest independent advertising exchange.
OpenX started with 30,000 publishers using an open source ad server, and the plan was to slowly start transitioning these existing publishers as the foundation for building a global ad exchange.
A small core group of OpenXers began the journey from about a dozen desks huddled together in the middle of a shared work space at an architecture firm. Within short order, the team grew to more than 20 people in that first year, a ping pong table would soon join the ranks and OpenX set off on a journey to revolutionize the the digital ad industry.
Like many startups, OpenX’s original business concept encountered unexpected twists and turns early on. While the open-source ad server seemed like a great catalyst to start the business, it quickly became clear that getting those publishers to participate in the new marketplace was not going to happen at meaningful scale. Additionally, not all open source ad server publishers proved to be the type of publishers that buyers would find attractive. And so it became soberingly clear that the founding thesis of OpenX–leveraging open source publishers to launch a global ad exchange–was not playing out. To make matters worse, the economy was in a period of massive and historic disruption, and early attempts to raise money during this period came up empty.
While it was an incredibly challenging period, 2008 was a year where the basic foundation was laid, and the company began the first of many re-inventions it would undertake as it began the shift from offering a single product—an open-source ad server–to providing monetization services via its nascent ad exchange business.
Watch our video below to listen to our co-founders share memories about our first year, along with a look at the original OpenX business plan, sketched out on parchment paper. Then come back tomorrow for part 2 in our series to learn how the company shifted from business start-up to helping shape the future of digital consumer engagement.