Peter Kafka

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Ad Tech Start-Up Sociomantic Labs Grabs Google’s Jason Kelly

Last December, Google bought ad tech company AdMeld for $400 million; in June, its CEO Michael Barrett left for Yahoo.

Now another top AdMeld employee is out: Jason Kelly, the company’s former chief revenue officer, is running Sociomantic Labs, a Berlin-based ad tech company that’s expanding from its European base into the U.S.

Jumping from AdMeld to the start-up means that Kelly has flipped his focus. AdMeld was a “supply-side platform,” which meant it worked on behalf of publishers trying to negotiate prices with ad buyers; Sociomantic is a “demand-side platform” used by ad buyers.

There are a whole lot of demand-side platforms in the U.S. already — including Invite Media, the one Google bought two years ago — but Kelly says Sociomantic will carve out a niche by focusing almost entirely on e-commerce companies like eBay that “retarget” Web users who visit their sites.

One other big difference between Sociomantic and other DSPs: It hasn’t taken on any venture funding. Many of its U.S. peers are stuffed with VC money, at valuations that may prove difficult to achieve.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik