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Talking Heads with Roy de Souza

Televisionpoint.com
September 1, 2008
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Roy de Souza is the CEO and co founder of Zedo, the third largest global Internet ad-serving firm and a pioneer in social network advertising. A visionary, Roy founded Zedo in Silicon Valley during the peak of the Internet boom in 1999 and long after the bust, he not only survived to tell the tale but thrived.

Prior to Zedo, he was in product management at an Internet city guide company that became part of Alta Vista. He also consulted for Coba Group, a strategy-consulting firm in the UK. There, he gained experience in marketing strategies, consumer goods marketing and advertising, with companies like Avon, Hewlett Packard, and Schwab. He also evaluated potential venture capital investments.

Having started his career in the advanced technology division of Ove Arup & Partners Consulting Engineers, Roy has also worked for Rover Group Cars and Imperial Chemical Industries.Roy received his MBA from the Kellogg School at Northwestern University, where he served as vice-president, technology. Roy received his Masters in Engineering and Economics from St. Anne's College, University of Oxford.

Roy divides his time between San Francisco and Mumbai. His newly acquired interest is also in restoring a 250 year-old house that he and his wife have recently bought.

What, according to you, is the future of online ads in India. Could they ever be as a threat to other mediums?
Online advertising will be huge in India. Indians are young with 50 per cent of the 1.1 billion people below the age of 25. Even by 2012, 50 per cent of people will be under 28 years old. Young people use the Internet a lot. So advertisers will have to spend a lot of their money online to reach to these people. This is not a threat to other media, all forms of media will grow fast, but online will grow the fastest.

What is the business mode of Zedo?
Zedo is an leading ad server for publishers and social media sites. Our feature set is specialized for the needs of publishers with growing inventory, a growing user base, and an urgent need for more efficient inventory management. Our publisher plan offers three valuable solutions for publishers - best ad serving features for social media; optimization across ad networks; and higher total revenue from high CPM re-targeting ads.

On the other hand, advertisers have found re-targeting to be the effective form of Internet advertising after search engine optimization. They love it and they need as many impressions as they get. As the third largest ad server worldwide, we serve tens of billions of ad impressions every month reaching tens of billions of users.

Social networking sites – the good, the bad and the ugly?
The good thing is that social networks are here to stay. The Internet will be dominated by social networks or something very similar forever. The reason is simple, humans are social Homo sapiens. They want to talk to their friends and family.

The bad one is that whatever bad things happen in the real world, will also happen on social networks. This is because both good and bad people use them. So parents will now have to teach their children to be careful of people they don't know on social networks. Children need to be taught, and they learn fast, how to differentiate a real friend from someone wanting to be friend you for the wrong reasons.

The ugly part being some people or groups of friends have warped ideas. They believe in suicide pacts or attacks on people based on their race or religion. They are good at getting more people to join their groups. We need to stop the ugliness whether it is on social networks or elsewhere.

How did you survive the Internet bust when many had to shut shop?
We survived because we focused on the big picture and believed in our vision. We knew that the Internet would be huge. We knew that the Internet like other information media would be supported by advertising. So, with this belief we always found ways and means to survive and prosper even while dot coms were falling and most of the world was laughing at the whole dot com industry.

I don't think that there will be another huge Internet bust though a few web sites will go out of business in the next year or two as is natural with so many being started.

How do you balance out your personal life considering you divide your time between San Francisco and Mumbai?
I ensure that my friends and family know where I am so that we can easily organise things in advance when we are in the same country. In some ways this discipline means I see the friends that I really want to see more often. One of the best ways to keep in touch of course is the Status Updates on Facebook.

Your daily stress buster?
I tend to read a lot. I read lots of newspapers and the Economist. I often read books too as it takes me to another world. I just finished reading an old book: Charles Dickens' Little Dorrit. It explains human nature and what happens when a really poor family becomes rich.