By Eric Auchard
Openads, a supplier of free software used by Web sites to manage
online ad campaigns, has received $5 million in initial funding,
bolstering it to prepare for increasing competition globally with
The financing round is being led by Index Ventures, and joined by
early-stage U.S. firm First Round Capital, Europe-focused Mangrove
Capital Partners, and O'Reilly AlphaTech Ventures, an arm of the U.S.
London-based Openads was founded as a grassroots, open-source software
development project in 1999. It has signed up 25,000 Web site
publishers in more than 100 countries and 20 languages.
"In a way, this has been one of the best kept secrets on the Web,"
said Saul Klein, a partner with Index Ventures, who was previously
marketing chief at Web-telephone company Skype.
"What we liked about Openads is that they're disrupting the market and
(it) has secured significant, global adoption."
Openads powers more Web site publishers than all competing products
combined, it said, albeit small players. It is popular with users of
other open-source content management systems, including Drupal and
WordPress blogging software.
The community-based project turned 10-employee start-up company relies
on an open series of discussion boards http://forum.openads.org/ to
service its customers, solicit feature requests, and trade advertising
"What publishers love about Openads is that it is intuitive, easy to
use, solid and they can peek under the hood and see how it works,"
Klein said. "But more than anything they love the fact that it is
Instead of charging up-front, Openads supplies hand-holding services
to publishers, as well as more advanced services to bigger publishers.
A big strength is its global distribution. Only 30 percent of
customers come from the United States. The rest come from markets such
as Poland, Brazil and Russia.
Openads makes money in part from referral fees that advertising
networks pay it for connecting them to publishers who use its
software. Customers include blog ad network Federated Media, Sun
Microsystems Inc. and online music site Last.fm.
Simplistically, Openads' ad-server technology competes with
DoubleClick Inc. in the market for ad-serving services. But Marissa
Gluck of media research firm Radar Research in Los Angeles said they
operate at opposite ends of the market.
DoubleClick, which is seeking regulatory approval of its plan to be
acquired by Google for $3.1 billion, focuses on high-end advertisers,
while Openads serves up ads for customers who install and run their
own ads, relying on multiple advertising networks to sign up
Instead, Gluck sees Openads coming into competition with Google's
mainstay advertising service, AdSense, its pay-per-click text ad
delivery system that is transforming itself into both a text and
graphical ad service.
"Their main competition is really AdSense," Gluck said.
The difference between the two is that Google AdSense provides an
online hosted service offering both ad-serving and ad network
functions, while Openads does only ad-serving and then connects its
customers to independent ad networks.
That poses challenges for Openads as Google AdSense is the most
popular advertising network among Openads customers, according to the
company's site. Other Openads networks, which function like online ad
agencies, include Commission Junction, Tradedoubler of Sweden and
"I think of it as an evolution more than a competition," Openads
founder Scott Switzer said in a phone interview. "When publishers are
small, they will download Google (advertising) tags and put them on
their page. The next step up is Openads."
As part of the venture capital investment, Bernard Dalle and Saul
Klein of Index Ventures and Gerard Lopez from Mangrove Capital will
take seats on Openads board.
Copyright © 2007 Reuters Limited.
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