Tech startup: Trada Inc.
INITIAL LIGHT BULB Born in Scotland, raised in California and educated at M.I.T.,
serial entrepreneur Niel Robertson has another hit on his hands. He sold his first Internet startup, Web-performance monitor Service Metrics, at the top of the market in 1999, then had less success with his second one, software-patch facilitator Newmerix.
Post-Newmerix, Robertson was struck by an idea on a visit to Scotland: a marketplace of paid-search professionals that small businesses could turn to for keyword-based campaigns for Google and other search engines. On his return to Boulder, he founded Trada.
The Trada marketplace launched in March 2010. The company now has about 80 employees in its downtown Boulder HQ (the former home of the Daily Camera) and is on track to break triple digits by the end of the year.
IN A NUTSHELL Paid search is about getting potential customers to click through on the paid advertisements that show up alongside the results to a keyword-based query, with Google being the dominant player in the market. Trada is not in the search-engine optimization (SEO) market, where companies tinker with their website in order to rise in the organic search results.
Small businesses find paid search "very challenging," says Bill Quinn, Trada's vice president of marketing. "You can have thousands of keywords, hundreds of ads and you're constantly in there seeing what works and what doesn't." The flip side: "It's great for advertisers because it's extremely performance-based."
It's perfect for "crowdsourcing" from a wide range of experienced professionals rather than doing it in-house, says Quinn, with the end result of lowering the cost per click, sale or other action. "There are a lot of tips and hints and strategies to make your paid-search campaign have high ROI."
That's where Trada's network of about 2,000 paid-search professionals enters the picture. They craft campaigns based on relevant keywords and earn the difference between the advertiser's target and the performance of the campaigns they develop - i.e. if the advertiser's target is $1 per click and the campaign comes in at 80 cents per click, the professional earns 20 cents per click, minus Trada's 25 percent commission. Besides pay per click (PPC) campaigns, Trada's experts can also deliver cost per action (CPA) campaigns, where experts get paid after potential customers click through and fill out an online form or submit their e-mail.
Experts are "an odd mix of creatives, but at least 50 percent of the job is data analysis," Quinn says. Only a handful of Trada's 2,000 experts make a full-time living off the site, but hundreds make more than $100 monthly, he adds. About 25 experts work on a typical campaign.
THE MARKET Englewood-based market-research firm IHS Inc. pegged paid search as a $30.4 billion worldwide market last year, with Google commanding a dominant 83 percent market share. Trada's target advertisers spend $5,000 to $50,000 a month on paid search, Quinn says.
FINANCING Trada closed on a Series C round of $5.75 million led by Google Ventures last July. Also participating in the round was Boulder-based founding investor Foundry Group.
QUOTE OF THE NOTE "You want multiple experts working on your campaign. You want a lot of different people thinking about how people will search for your product or service. That's why the concept of crowdsourcing is very effective for paid search." - Bill Quinn, Trada vice president of marketing
where Boulder | FOUNDED September 2008 | web www.trada.com