Adman inspired by Goldman becomes Trade Desk billionaire

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Credit: Trade Desk

Making the ad world work more like financial markets has made Jeff Green a billionaire.

Green, 41, co-founded Trade Desk in 2009, seeing it as the Goldman Sachs of online advertising. The platform offers a marketplace that lets buyers place specific ads in front of a precisely targeted audience.

That's proved lucrative. Trade Desk posted a profit in every quarter since going public in 2016, including a record $19.3 million for the three months ended June 30. Revenue surged 52 percent to $308 million last year, and analysts surveyed by Bloomberg predict sustained growth at least through 2020, fueled by burgeoning demand for mobile video and connected TV.

Shares of the Ventura, California-based company more than tripled this year, pushing Green's fortune to $1 billion as of Thursday's market close in New York, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Co-founder Dave Pickles owns about $36.5 million of stock, a regulatory filing shows. Trade Desk declined to comment on Green's net worth or make him available for an interview.

Green has long used financial markets as a model. His first company, AdECN, was "trying to be the New York Stock Exchange of advertising," he said in a 2009 interview with socalTech, a technology-industry newsletter. "We built a hub, where we could conduct auctions in real time and allowed people to participate in real time."

He sold AdECN to Microsoft Corp. in 2007 for an undisclosed sum and left the software giant two years later to start Trade Desk. The company went public at $18 a share. The stock was trading at $141.79 as of 11:17 a.m. in New York.

"What we're building now is a system much more like the Goldman Sachs of online advertising," Green told socalTech.

Don Draper

That's a far cry from the world of Don Draper, the archetypal ad man from the "Mad Men" television series who crafted client campaigns from the gut. Trade Desk and its peers crunch reams of data to enable buyers to pick from more than 500 billion digital ad opportunities a day. Such figures are more associated with Wall Street than Madison Avenue.

"I often use analogies to the financial markets because I just think they're so much more mature than our market that we can learn a lot from them," Green said at Luma Partners' Digital Marketing Summit in 2017.

Now he has a fortune to compare with financial titans like Goldman Sachs Group Inc.'s Lloyd Blankfein and JPMorgan Chase & Co.'s Jamie Dimon.

Trade Desk is well positioned to benefit from the shift of advertising budgets to the digital realm from traditional television, Shyam Patil, an analyst at Susquehanna Financial Group, said this month.

Green sees more good fortune ahead, especially with global ad spending forecast to surpass $1 trillion in the next decade, he said at the marketing summit.

"When you're looking at a trillion-dollar industry," he said, "there's so much opportunity for people to make money."

-- Bloomberg News

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