Mobile advertising chameleon Ampush is powering through another iteration of reinvention, according to the company’s co-founder and COO, Aniket (Nick) Shah.
The company’s current motivations are moving it toward end-to-end customer acquisition, Shah said. Previously, pivots have been introduced by employees, inspiring an accessible culture of open ideas and diversity. Shah and Ampush’s two other co-founders, Chris Amos and Jesse Pujji, saw last year the mobile advertising market broadening beyond performance marketing and media execution.
The tight-knit leadership trio – friends since they met at a business leadership summer program in high school – wanted to avoid a commoditized solution that would offer lower prices for the same services. Instead, they took another turn toward the company’s fourth reinvention.
“We entered into a strategic partnership with Red Ventures to help evolve the business,” Shah said. “In 2016, we’re going to our largest partners and asking them,’How can we provide more value?’ We can go well beyond just a Facebook click to take over and grow their other user acquisition channels. We can improve their business models with insights into the user journey and their customers’ lifetime value, and we’re able to provide customized technical solutions to improve existing toolkits, from attribution to global reporting dashboards.”
So far, Ampush has seen positive market feedback, but the transition has only been in the works for a few quarters. Today, Ampush employs about 125 people, Shah said, and their level of satisfaction with their colleagues reflects the close relationship he has with his co-founders. In a recent company engagement survey, results showed that 96% of employees who responded really enjoyed working with their colleagues.
“It’s not a homogeneous culture,” Shah said. “There are a lot of very unique and diverse backgrounds, and that kind of smart, humble, entrepreneurial DNA just creates this culture where people like working with the other people here, and solving problems and winning as a team.”
But employees who enjoy working with their coworkers aren’t what Shah said he would lead with if he was describing the company’s culture. From his perspective, it’s a specific approach to communication that has led the company to its current success.
“To this day, Jesse, Chris and I, we’ll lay out a vision or a goal or a concept of a future state where we want to be,” Shah said. “But we don’t know how we get there. It can be a strategy problem or a technical challenge, and we rely on the team to take risks, make bets, try different things, to break rules to get there.”
Ampush was founded in October 2009. After the 2008 recession, Shah, Amos and Pujji ditched their Wall Street jobs and headed to California with an eye on mobile advertising.
“We were enamored with the concept of an organization that could take some really big problems, bring people together and solve them. We had no business plan, no capital,” Shah said.
Initially, the company focused on performance advertising across multiple channels. An intern suggested the option of adding Facebook as a new advertising option, Shah said, but it was very early.
“But we told her, ‘ We agree. Why don’t you take a few weeks and test the ecosystem. Here’s a budget, go figure it out.'” Shah said. “This intern came back with a strategy document, and ultimately we ended up pivoting the entire business. You could argue that a lot of what the company is today was led by the initiative of an intern.”
It’s happened multiple times, when an employee suggests an idea, and the entire company changes as a result. During a company growth spurt in 2014, an employee pointed out that a lot of the people who Ampush was trying to attract were located on the East Coast, and those potential recruits might not want to relocate their lives to the other side of the country.
Now, half of the business is based in the company’s New York City office. And that employee who suggested the idea?
“He’s a leader in the New York office,” Shah said. “Whether someone is three weeks into their job or if they’ve been working here for four years, there’s a culture of respect for other people, a humility that’s helped guide us, as opposed to that ‘Let’s listen to what the boss is saying.’”
“We’re first time entrepreneurs, and because of that we’ve never told ourselves that we had all the answers,” Shah said. “Every problem is approached by thinking about alternatives, about the pros and cons, and by having thoughtful analysis before making decisions.”
April Nowicki is a contributor at Street Fight.