MainAd is an advertising technology company which counts GUESS, FarFetch and Hotels.com amongst its clients.
Founders Piero Pavone, Marino Gualano, and Marco Cotumaccio formed MainAd from a single idea – to provide a streamlined technology for advertisers, and create a smarter, faster way of managing display and retargeting campaigns. They spent two years developing and refining their proprietary technology – Logico – which is now used around the globe.
Here, Marino Gualano, General Manager and Co-founder, tells BLM about managing co-founder relationships, expanding to a global workforce, and the importance of philanthropy to his business ethos.
What was your background before founding MainAd, and how did you meet your fellow founders?
I have always been passionate about arts, music, foreign languages and international trade. After my university studies, I had many work experiences in various sectors, such as logistics, first as a salesman and then as a branch manager.
Myself, Piero and Marco became friends at university. We immediately understood that we had a common desire to develop large-scale international projects with high technological value. From those initial days, we evolved our business model many times. Founded in 2007, we have grown from our headquarters in Pescara, Italy, to a globally-successful advertising technology company.
What has your experience of co-founding been like? Do you have any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs who are considering founding a business as a team?
Learn from your mistakes: this is the only path. I believe first-hand that business is a “lifelong learning” programme, involving continuous professional and personal training.
What was your vision for MainAd? What or who did you set out to disrupt?
We wanted to create a workplace that was different from the one we came from and we were employed in. We wanted to create a reality where we could push hard activities at a fast pace; a smart reality where projects would be developed at the speed of thought.
MainAd must have been a high-cost proposition as a start-up. Did you seek funding? What were the first two years like when you were developing your technology?
We have joined forces and combined our ideas to work as a team. MainAd was born as a self-financed project – a bootstrap. This only works if you are as efficient as possible, avoid producing waste or investing in purchases without criteria.
When your ability as a founder perfectly matches with the market demands and opportunities, when you are selling the right services in the right moment, your company will not need outside help, at least for some time, until you need to take your company to the next level.
How did you land your first customers? And how did you eventually land such clients as Nike, Hotels.com and Swarovski?
At first, the three of us as Founders committed ourselves in approaching customers; we had little experience but a lot of goodwill. Over the years, MainAd’s sales team has grown and been enriched, and thanks to this great team and the right strategies we can boast these top-tier clients in our portfolio.
What were some of the biggest lessons you learned from the first few years in business?
You need to be fast and organised in perfect balance – in other words: be AGILE.
How have your roles and your conception of MainAd changed as the company has scaled?
In some ways we are different now, but in others we are still the same. We are different in that we have learned the value of delegating; we are the same in terms of enthusiasm and commitment.
MainAd now has a global workforce across 10 international markets. What are some of the challenges and opportunities of running a global staff?
We are diving in a deep ocean where we meet not only good fish, but also sharks. Today we are in the top seven in our niche. Everything is possible if you only believe in it and trust your global team.
MainAd supports Terre des Hommes, a charity which fights to end child exploitation. Why did you pick this charity? And why is philanthropy important to MainAd as a business?
The partnership with Terre des Hommes (TDH) is integral to MainAd’s business culture. Since the early days, MainAd has always cared about humanitarian causes, actively supporting local projects in India, Mozambique and Peru. Our employees are always involved and engaged through meetings, voluntary work and visits to local projects.
The company also helps to raise awareness of the charity’s work, for instance by recently organising and funding a photographic exhibition, and supports the charity through its own advertising business model.
What are your future plans for MainAd?
We will continue the optimisation of our programmable technology, Logico DSP and make it grow as a SaaS solution.
Meanwhile, after setting up our Brazilian company in Sao Paulo, we are now working towards market consolidation in the US, with a new office opening.