NCA Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year
founder and CEO
Aaron Bell’s background and path leading up to establishing advertising firm AdRoll is quite remarkable. Before becoming CEO of his own company, Bell was programming and creating video game software that was sold and distributed nationally when he was 12. Three years later he became the youngest software engineer ever to be hired by Microsoft.
While at Stanford University, Bell studied artificial intelligence, started a Facebook-type website that was unfortunately shut down by the university, and worked with NASA to lead and design schedulers for manned space flight missions.
It was during difficult economic times that Bell founded AdRoll in 2007, but he stuck with it through the years of slow growth while he struggled to generate profit. By taking time to understand customer needs and creating a transparent product with a high ROI, customers simply could not say no.
Online display advertising is usually purchased by cost per ad impression served. In an effort to make sure the company could report the websites on which clients’ ads are placed and the cost of each placement, AdRoll charges a 30 percent margin on top of the cost of each impression. This increased reporting is unlike many of his competitors who place ads on spam or low-quality websites with high chances of accidental clicks but little chance of reaching a client’s customers.
With Bell’s technical background, the AdRoll team was able to develop proprietary technology in-house, rather than integrating with third-party software, and these technologies are more robust with advanced retargeting tools.
While it can be challenging for Bell to retain the company’s unique, entrepreneurial culture as it grows, he’s managed to maintain the same approach to people, culture and management as he did when the company was in its infancy.
In fact, the company has an almost perfect retention rate — only four of the current 130 employees have left of their own accord in the past three years.
How to reach: AdRoll, www.adroll.com