Frank Addante has already started five companies. And he’s only 33.
But that’s not even what’s most remarkable. Take a look at the scorecard: Two were acquired by large corporations, one went public and another continues to grow in Silicon Valley with Addante as a passive investor. Finally, there’s Rubicon Project, the Internet advertising company he runs in West Los Angeles.
Tony Greenberg, RampRate chairman, a technology purchasing company in Santa Monica, first met the serial entrepreneur during the startup phase of Addante’s first company. Greenberg was quickly impressed with Addante’s determination to convert complex pieces of software into a viable commercial product.
“There are entrepreneurs buildings bells, whistles and widgets, but Frank solves big, complex problems in elegant ways,” Greenberg said. “He’s extremely focused on seeing huge inefficiencies in marketplaces and then attacking them full force.”
Addante believes the essential talent for starting a company is old-fashioned hard work.
“You can make up for a lot of mistakes by just working through them,” he said. “The quicker you can make those mistakes and recover, the better your chances to build a great company.”
Rubicon has developed technology that matches ad networks with Web sites in order to bring the most dollars to Internet publishers. More than 1,400 Web publishers use Rubicon’s service and the company currently channels more than 40 billion ads per month from networks to Web sites. Audience research firm QuantCast ranks Rubicon as the third largest ad platform on the Internet, behind Google and Yahoo.
In less than three years, the company has grown from four partners to more than 150 people at offices in West Los Angeles, New York and London.
Addante gives himself credit as a good communicator for keeping the company functional during this expansion. Hard work may start a company, but communication is what makes it successful, he said.
To help communications, every employee uses Yammer, an instant-messaging service for corporations, to send messages via e-mail, mobile phones and handheld devices. The messages sent during a typical day range from departmental updates to party invitations. Addante believes this information flow keeps employees “informed and engaged.”
Addante’s value of “complete transparency” applies to these messages as well as company meetings. For example, if a manager makes a presentation to the board, he or she then makes the same presentation to colleagues and co-workers. Addante believes the practice avoids intrigue and fosters discipline in communication.
On Sept. 22, he announced a $9 million investment in Rubicon led by NBC Universal’s Peacock Fund, which put up $6 million. Additional money came from Clearstone Venture Partners and Mayfield Fund, which had previously invested in Rubicon.
Addante said the money will go toward acquisitions similar to the purchase of OthersOnline.com, which Rubicon bought Sept. 15 for an undisclosed sum. Since launching in 2007, the company has landed $42 million in venture capital.
Addante spends his free time outdoors: camping, surfing, snowboarding and running.
He was born and raised in Chicago, and studied electrical and computer engineering at the Illinois Institute of Technology. He went straight from school to full-time entrepreneur.
He’s never applied for a job or worked for anyone else. He said that makes it essential that Rubicon maintains its success.
“At this point, it’s a matter of survival,” he said. “Since I’ve never worked for anyone, at this age who would hire me?”
SMALL PRIVATE COMPANY
FRANK ADDANTE, 33
YEARS ON THE JOB: 3
QUOTE: “When you start a company, you’re doing something no one has ever done before so you’re bound to make mistakes.”
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