EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™ 2014 Northern California Awards

Digital Advertising






George John
CEO and co-founder


Richard Frankel
president and co-founder

Rocket Fuel

Rocket Fuel co-founders George John and Richard Frankel met while working at Yahoo. John has a background in computer science, artificial intelligence and adaptive learning, while Frankel’s is in engineering, English and digital advertising.
Yahoo was looking to acquire companies that built upon what it was doing in digital advertising and couldn’t find any that matched what it wanted. That signaled to John and Frankel that there was an opportunity to create an innovation technology company to serve the needs of advertising clientele.
Many advertising agencies provide analysis based on key data points such as a user’s behavior, contextual data or geographical area. Rocket Fuel goes beyond to connect digital advertising with artificial intelligence, analyzing millions of data points covering information such as location, time of day, weather and past user actions.
Most money in corporate advertising goes through large agency holding companies, which control the market. Rocket Fuel appealed to these agencies to work with it to better serve clients.
When hiring, Rocket Fuel seeks people with openness, kindness, honesty, genuineness and the ability to accept feedback.
When recruiting Mark Torrance for the critical role of chief technology officer, John wrote a press release with the quote, “As CEO, your goal is to hire so well that you become the dumbest person in the room, and our hiring of Mark indicates a bittersweet success in this regard.”
Rocket Fuel’s culture has been that anyone who sees something that needs to get done has permission to do it. That extends to the company’s philanthropy program, Rocket Fuel Gives Back, which started when former administrative assistant Kiwoba Allaire began organizing employees to visit a homeless shelter near company headquarters with food from the office refrigerator. The program has since grown into a global initiative led full time by Allaire.


Brett Wilson
CEO and co-founder

TubeMogul co-founder and CEO Brett Wilson has a vision not just to enhance brand advertising, but to transform digital branding to be simpler and more accountable.
Wilson was securing a master’s degree in business administration from the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley when he won the Berkeley Business Plan Competition in 2007 for starting TubeMogul with co-founder John Hughes.
The company was created as a video analytics business helping content owners understand the exposure of their online videos. Technology TubeMogul created enabled it to become a leader in video analytics, but Wilson sought a larger goal.
He thought the business model could not be scaled economically and sold the video content analytics business in order to focus on video advertising. Wilson’s goal was to make brand advertising as simple as Google made searches.
Innovation is part of the culture at TubeMogul, from launching the first self-serve platform for branding to open sourcing its technology and providing transparency for every dimension of an advertiser’s campaign.
The campaign has strategically grown worldwide, and one-third of revenue comes from international locations. TubeMogul hires young professionals from local universities, trains them and gives them opportunities to travel overseas. TubeMogul academy also was established to provide online classes for employees.
Mistakes are OK at TubeMogul; it’s considered a natural byproduct when defining the cutting edge at a fast pace. The company values hard work and rewards employees who do what they say and make things happen. That value is reflected in the “say to do” ratio used in the performance review process.
More than 30 percent of employees are from UC Berkeley, and Wilson is actively involved in entrepreneurship programs at the university, including business competitions and mentoring.
TubeMogul also looks for other volunteer opportunities and a team recently helped renovate an East Bay area school.


Aaron Bell
CEO and co-founder

The path to AdRoll for CEO and co-founder Aaron Bell started when he was developing video game software at age 12. At 16, he was one of Microsoft’s youngest software engineers.
Bell graduated from Stanford and worked as a programmer at NASA before getting the entrepreneurial itch and leaving in 2007 to start AdRoll. Once the recession hit, the company had to stretch out its Series A funding and used that time to better understand customers’ needs. Bell was thrust into the role of CEO mid-recession when AdRoll went through a change of leadership, and he worked to reshape the initial vision that investors liked in order to find a solution that worked for customers.
AdRoll’s co-founders anticipated the trend toward programmatic advertising and real-time bidding. The company created a software as a service-based dashboard to create, execute and monitor advertising campaigns. AdRoll offered free trials to secure a foothold and has been leading the retargeting wave ever since.
As the first company to offer marketers a single platform to retarget customers and prospects on their mobile phone, AdRoll become an early alpha partner with the Facebook Exchange ad network and Twitter’s tailored-audience products.
Bell believes “culture eats strategy for breakfast” and is critical to attracting and retaining talent. AdRoll has a 96 percent retention rate, and 100 percent of employee postings on GlassDoor approve of Bell as CEO.
AdRoll assists in the growth of its employees by hosting hundreds of employee-taught classes as part of a learning program. Bell promotes transparency through a weekly all-hands meeting where employees submit anonymous questions that are answered by management. The company also places importance on giving back to the community, encouraging employees to donate time and resources in San Francisco’s Mid-Market area, where AdRoll is located.