Paulo Cunha is Co-Founder and Director at Portugese ad tech development provider, ShiftForward. Here Cunha Discusses the ShiftForward tech development solution, its value to local European players and where it sits in the eco-system.
Can you give an overview of the ShiftForward proposition in Europe?
ShiftForward’s core is its know-how in technology development and its application in the online advertising industry. Online advertising has very specific technical and business requirements, often not found in other fields, that can take engineering teams a long time to be up to speed with what the business and market are talking about.
We provide this expert independent advice to companies seeking to adopt or create their own technology for various purposes, from Ad Serving to Behavioural Targeting or Data Management Platforms. This means researching and designing solutions, defining the software architecture to support it and guiding the company’s engineering teams during the development cycle.
Today we also offer development services, completing the circle between you having a new online advertising business idea and it being ready for use in the shortest possible time. You go through the feasibility, design, architecture, development and deployment phases together with us, with the confidence that we’ve been there and done that many times before.
What is the business model? What value can you add to companies here in the eco-system?
We operate in the research and development arena, providing our clients with the solutions for them to run their online media business. Our pricing models are very transparent, for consultancy it’s on a time basis and for development it’s on effort points attributed to each feature we implement, something straight out of the Agile Development methodology.
The value we add comes down to reducing the time and cost you take to get things done when you’re sourcing technology for your online media business. With our new software development licensing model you get to have your own technology, and I mean really own it as a valued asset in the company, at a considerably reduced development cost. This is in contrast to using a 3rd-party technology vendor, which can be the quickest and easiest way to have a business idea in operation, but rarely adds to the company’s valuation and has the risk of the vendor being sold, invested in by a competitor or simply going bust at some point in the future.
How do you differentiate yourself from other development houses in the ad tech space?
We are specialists in online advertising and in technology engineering. There is a higly reduced ramp-up period when starting with a new client because everyone here is highly sensitive in the idiosyncrasies of this industry. Try explaining ad server forecasting to your average software engineer and you know what I mean.
We are independent, European-based and have a fresh approach on how transparent and flexible software development and it’s pricing should be, always using Agile methodologies for this purpose.
How are you dealing with licenced IP? If in the event of one of your partner companies being sold on, do you continue to own the IP?
We have two software development models, the traditional bespoke development where the client company keeps all Intellectual Property and Copyright to the software, just as if it was developed internally, and a new model we coined the ShiftForward Sponsored Development Program, where ShiftForward creates the software, keeps the IP and grants a full eternal license to the client, including source code access and express permission for creating changes and building derivative works. The license terms also include the ability for selling the license off to a third-party, which is what is required if the company is being sold. Thus the license itself becomes a valued asset in the company.
Why did you set up ShiftForward? How do you fit into the European marketplace?
Until recently, making the choice to develop your own software had to incorporate the associated headaches of managing your own infrastructure. The coming of age of managed cloud services is changing all that, so, in many situations, it is starting to make more sense to develop your own technology rather than depending on 3rd-party vendors. At the same time we felt that in Europe there was a lack of good technology development resources with online advertising industry know-how.
Our strategy is to position ourselves between the application providers and traditional software development houses, bringing top-notch software engineering talent together with online advertising expertise to offer a unique proposition in online advertising technology R&D.
From your vantage point, what are you seeing as the big trends? Data Management? Real-time ad trading?
Data Management and Real-time ad trading have been trends for a while now, and yes they will continue for the foreseeable future. The most interesting trend we’ve been watching lately is the need for company’s to pivot their service offering: Ad Exchanges being used as DSPs, SSP’s becoming DMPs, so it’s crucial for companies in this space to remain open to change. This space started with Ad Exchanges, broke down to the different components, but they will start to converge together again. Another interesting trend is in being more mindful with your own data, from improving internal data statistical analysis to data sharing and permission. Watch how Google stopped sending search terms to the sites as an example of how data control and monetisation is already on top of everyone’s agenda.