As Google AdSense Turns 10, An Upstart Wants To Own The Next Generation Of Web Ads

The year-old online advertising startup AdStage, though young, is taking online ads by storm. But founder Sahil Jain thinks he's pinpointed Google's weak spot.

This week, Google celebrated the milestone 10th birthday of AdSense, the self-serve version of its AdWords search-based Web advertising service.

By 2011, more transactions were being made through AdSense than on all of the world's major stock exchanges. And as of May 2013, 65% of comScore's Top 200 ad-supported sites are using AdSense.

Which begs the question: Is there room for an upstart to wedge itself into online advertising?

Sahil Jain, the founder of AdStage, thinks so.

"The number of networks that an advertiser should at least experiment with is continuing to grow. It was not the case five years ago, but that's the future," says Jain, a high-school dropout who went to work for Yahoo's mobile division at 17 before attending (and dropping out of) the University of California, Berkeley to cofound the Y Combinator—and SV Angel-backed Trigger.io.

AdStage today announced it has received $100,000 in new seed funding from Jason Calacanis's new LAUNCH Fund, which includes an investment from Yammer founder David Sacks. The product, which debuted at this year's LAUNCH Festival, is a smart-advertising product that lets brands create, deploy, and manage web ads for multiple platforms from a single interface. AdStage can handle cross-network ad campaigns regardless of whether a brand marketer wants to serve ads using Google AdWords, Bing Ads, Facebook, or LinkedIn, which normally all require separate protocols.

AdStage also has a built-in smart-recommendations system that provides its 1,300 brand and business beta customers with data on similar and competitive companies. This helps customers determine how to best write ads, select keywords, and divvy up ad dollars across the different networks. AdStage then provides real-time results so advertisers can determine whether or not to adjust their ad spend.

Jain is trying to reach novice, small business-type advertisers as well as experts, with the idea that both groups would welcome a way to reach maximum eyeballs in as few steps as possible.

“We’ve built AdStage to make online advertising easy and accessible to the masses. Our goal is to become the starting point for online advertising by enabling businesses to gain an instant presence across all networks,” Jain says.

AdStage has raised $1.53 million to date from investors, including 500 Startups' Dave McClure and Federated Media's John Battelle. Jain has also poached two former Google AdWords employees, one of whom created Semply, an AdWords analytics iPad app that's being rebranded as an AdStage app.

And though a recent report shows Google controlled 41% of worldwide digital ad spend in 2012, Jain says he thinks AdStage's agnostic approach to ad platforms will prove its value to advertisers in a way Google and its ilk can't.

"Google does advertising well. But a percentage of an advertiser's budget may get a better bang for the buck on Facebook," he says. "Google will never be able to recommend you move your budget to Facebook."

[Image: Flickr user Luca Sartoni]

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