What engineer thinks this sounds very interesting:
- Big data
- Incredibly complex algorithmic learning
- Huge scale
- Millions of users daily
- A de-emphasis on the user interface – EXCEPT WHERE IT IS EMPHASIZED
The answer is most engineers. Because most engineers cannot stand the idea of working for an advertising company.
One of the things I have noticed in the course of recruiting people to work at Advertising.com, Deconstruct Media, and Verve Wireless is that engineers have an irrational loathing of working on advertising projects. Despite the fact that their rational mind recognizes that advertising funds free content (including search engines like Google), they have no desire to help make the world a better place for advertisers and help fund the development of better content.
Why is this? When I was at Ad.com and random people would ask me what I do, I would say, “You know all those University of Pheonix ads you see on the Internet.”, “Yeah, I see those everywhere, they drive me nuts”, “I put those there!”
I would say that because it was funny. Engineers would feel like it was the truth and be depressed by it.
When you compare some of these projects to other projects, they frankly don’t compare too badly:
- LivingSocial: We sell pizzas at half price – is that what engineers want to do?
- Government contracting: We are building tools to help the FDA manage case applications
- Yahoo: We help people read their email (where success=seeing more ads)
- Google: We help people search for stuff
- Even Quora: We help people get answers to their questions
Call me crazy, none of those seems inspiring. But advertising seems to create a response that is 100% pure loathing.
This is particularly tragic given the fundamental interestingness of advertising technology online today.
I will add to the list of good qualities advertising companies have:
- Clear path to revenue, profits, and fundraising
- Huge market
- Rapidly growing
It is easy to start a company in this space – why aren’t engineers diving in?