The Silicon Review
“You can get to the future faster by using predictive marketing to anticipate consumer wants and needs”.
Rocket Fuel was founded in 2008 as a programmatic media-buying platform. A couple years after the company went public in 2013, Randy Wootton was brought on to lead the company as CEO. Rocket Fuel is headquartered in Redwood City, CA but has offices all over the world including, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Toronto, London, Madrid, Paris, Milan, Stockholm, and Sydney. Rocket Fuel has since developed into a Predictive Marketing Platform designed to go beyond 1:1 marketing by learning to predict in real-time what marketing actions to take with a particular consumer in a particular moment of time.
Genesis of Rocket Fuel
Randy entered online advertising after business school in the early 2000s, as the internet was taking off and recognized that advertising was a profitable business model compared to other industries. He was also intrigued by the potential of the internet to deliver on the 1:1 marketing promise outlined by Rogers in their book 1996 - The One to One Future. Since then, he has gravitated to the tech challenges associated with making that vision real and creating solutions for marketers to reach and engage more effectively with consumers online.
Today there is more behavioral data available to marketers than ever before-more than any individual can possibly process and interpret on their own. Rocket Fuel was founded on the principles of artificial intelligence and still heavily relies on AI to help brands and agencies process this influx of data.
With AI comes the human responsibility to ensure that data is being processed in a transparent way and ads are being served where it matters most to marketers. Right now Rocket Fuel is focused on bringing more transparency to the industry as a whole. For example, it was one of few companies on The Trustworthy Accountability Group’s (TAG) first group of companies to meet its anti-fraud standards. TAG is a third-party regulator of the industry that works to eliminate fraudulent digital advertising traffic, combat malware, fight ad-supported Internet piracy, and promote brand safety in the industry. Randy fundamentally believes that these types of investments help Rocket Fuel’s customers, company and industry. He hopes to join with other companies to ignite a “trust revolution” to his industry. Randy says, “A company is like tending to a plant. While it’s difficult to get those first buds to grow, you still have to nurture it for it to come to full bloom and be able to reap the real benefits from it. This requires time and constant attention, which isn’t always easy. Same with any venture you start. It takes a lot of effort to maintain over time, but the benefits can be incredibly rewarding”.
Rocket Fuel’s Growth as an Unbeatable Marketing and Advertising Industry Leader;
The most fundamental shift was when Rocket Fuel acquired X+1 in 2014. This allowed the company to offer a set of “platform” solutions versus one ‘managed service’ solution so that customers could directly experience the power of moment scoring technology.
Over the past year, Rocket Fuel has shifted its go-to-market approach to focus direct sales on large advertisers who have lots of data and complexity; it began to build a reseller network to support the small to medium sized business space and allow these companies to include Rocket Fuel capabilities in their set of solutions. This has allowed the company to get a better understanding of its customer segment and the problems brands and agencies are trying to solve.
Rocket Fuel reduced its costs in 2016 and 2017. “I am proud of the way we handled measures, enlisting people’s input and ideas on where and how we could cut to achieve our goal of being free cash flow positive in 2016. I also feel we treated impacted employees with dignity and respect through the process. The net result is that we took out almost $70M dollars in OPEX between 2015 and 2017 from rationalizing our facilities footprint, infrastructure requirements and focusing our people investment on the customer set we thought would be most profitable over time”.
Around the corner: “We’re always looking for new ways to compete and innovate in the market including several upcoming partnerships with a notable companies to help combat the ongoing trust and transparency issue that plagues industry and improve our technology overall. Lots of exciting things coming for Rocket Fuel!”
Five years down the lane!
Rocket Fuel is experiencing a renaissance in “applied AI”. Rocket Fuel was one of the first to apply AI to marketers’ problems. Randy says: “In the next five to 10 years, we will continue looking for new use cases where we can help our customers glean more insights from the immense potential of the data all around us.”
At a time when marketing is reinventing how it engages consumers and connects them to the brands they value, Rocket Fuel’s understanding of human behavior and its ability to drive better results will continue to set the industry standard.
“We have never lost track of what we do best: we provide efficient and intelligent insights that matter to our customers’ bottom line. This will serve us well in the coming years. In this world, where the older models of media planning and ‘message delivery’ are left behind, our AI’s scoring, prediction and decision capabilities will help companies deliver experiences that are helpful, invitational and welcomed. This is the future of marketing, and Rocket Fuel will be one of the companies leading the way.”
Leaders become great, not because of their power, but because of their ability to empower others
Randy Wootton, CEO of Rocket Fuel: Randy has been at Rocket Fuel two years but has been in the advertising and marketing tech space for almost 20 years working at agencies such as AvenueA/aQuantive, publishers including Microsoft, and tech companies like Salesforce and Ad Ready.
Randy spent 12 years in the Navy and is passionate about veteran’s affairs - he co-founded Vetforce.org at Salesforce and continues to be involved with several veteran service organizations.