The White Whale

At a company meeting in late 2008, an employee asked me what my goal was for AppNexus. With a cheeky grin, I said “to be a billion dollar company!” After the meeting, Mike Nolet, my co-founder, said I had missed the point on two levels. First, our real goal was making online advertising better. Second, a billion dollars wasn’t nearly ambitious enough! Given that we only had 18 employees at the time and had just served the first RTB impression ever, I wasn’t sure about the second point, but he was definitely right about the first. I went home and wrote the following:

Our purpose is quite simple: to be the transactional platform for the online advertising industry.

I believe I was reading Moby-Dick at the time, so I titled the document “The White Whale” – the single purpose to which we would point all of our efforts. I knew that Ishmael was lucky to survive the journey, which reflects the daunting task of achieving this mission in such a competitive industry.

Today, I will publicly admit that Mike was right on both counts. We are a billion dollar company, and we do have much greater ambitions: to make a lasting impression on the Internet by making advertising better for content producers, marketers, and consumers. With the capital we've raised we have the resources to achieve three major goals:

  1. Eliminate fraud and malware from online advertising;
  2. Make mobile advertising work for marketers, publishers, and consumers; and
  3. Hire and engage the best minds in New York and around the world.

We hear a lot of Silicon Valley talk about billion dollar companies being “unicorns,” but New Yorkers pride themselves on being more pragmatic. I’m much more interested in pursuing our White Whale: making the Internet better by making advertising better.

I still feel daunted by the huge task in front of us. I want to thank everyone who has supported us in our journey as we never could have made it here without the hard work, dedication, and willingness to make greatness happen from our employees, Board, investors, advisors, and our amazing customers who use our platform to power their advertising businesses.

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