Harmen Tjaarda, co-founder and CRO of JustPremium discusses his decision to relocate from global HQ in Amsterdam to New York and looks back at his years as stock trader, to compare the Stock Exchange and the Advertising Marketplace.

In a few sentences – can you give us some background on how you took the decision to move to New York?

Harmen: It’s an easy decision to explain! 60% of all global digital advertising spend is invested in the US – and 70% of this is managed and booked in NYC. Within a square mile you can find all 6 major Agency Holding Groups which are managing this spend – it’s the advertising technology equivalent of being a kid in a candy store.

The US market has always, and will continue to be, our most important GEO in our global expansion. It therefore deserves total dedication and focus from one of the founders of JustPremium.

Over the last years I’ve been frequently traveling to NYC from our HQ in Amsterdam and so have been involved with our team there from the beginning – making it an easy decision when it came to deciding who was to relocate.

What will be your first steps after the move?

Harmen: I’m jumping on an already moving train, it will be just a matter of getting the train up to more speed. We have a great team out there already, in NYC and LA.

We already have a great team with a strong set up in NYC and LA, so it’s a little bit like boarding a moving train! My job will be pushing the train to go faster than it ever has before.

Short term this means growing the team in NYC, with us aiming to double the size of our Manhattan contingent within the next 3 to 6 months. Simultaneously we want to expand across the US, opening new offices in Washington, Atlanta and Boston.

What do you expect will be your biggest challenge? And opportunity?

Harmen: One of the biggest challenges will be finding the right resources in a short period of time – at JustPremium we have a historically sourced our employees ourselves and I intend to keep doing this states side. But this will mean a great deal of searching and extensive interview processes.

JustPremium is a ‘programmatic first’ business and this means we are looking for very specific profile. It must be an individual who is hungry to learn, has a deep understanding of programmatic and an equally deep knowledge of our industry, whilst being a creative thinker and a great relationship builder.

Luckily for us, NYC is definitely the place where we will be able to find the right people for this.

The biggest opportunity I see in the short future is the impressive and unique US Hispanic offering. We have been active in both the Spanish and Latin American markets for over 4 years, which gave us the opportunity to build relationship with most of the Spanish and Latin American publishers. The current US offering has not been focused on realising this great potential, which presents an irresistible opportunity for us at JustPremium.

Another opportunity comes through the fact that most of our current and potential technical and strategic partners are US based. Simply being on the same time-zone (and a few blocks away!) will help us improve and build these relationships further.

US vs. Europe – what do you expect will be most different?

Harmen: The biggest difference I have seen is the way of working. In the US business is very structured and process driven whereas the European way is more focused towards achieving the end goal.

Both ways have pros and cons so I’m looking forward to being able to combine best of both worlds in our US operations.

What do you plan to “bring” from the Netherlands to NYC and why?

Harmen: A more pragmatic way of working I hope. This circles back to the above point on the different working structures.
It is important to look ahead and to be able to pro-actively react, this is something which we ‘Dutchies’ value a lot.

Being Dutch also means that I might be a little more direct and forthright in my opinion than some of my American colleagues! But as the current team has been working with me for a while now they have been able to get used to this.

As well as this, I strongly believe that everything you do should be fun – you can never laugh enough during a day. Yes, there need to be time for serious work but there also need to be time for some laughter. It’s all about creating an atmosphere which empowers people to do their best work.

What is your long-term goal? What do you hope to achieve with this next big step?

Harmen: Ultimately the long-term goal is to become a US company with Dutch roots. We want to have our global headquarters in NYC, to become the global standard for rich media programmatically and be known as the company who brought creativity to digital.

You used to be stock trader in the past. What is the biggest lesson you took from the stock marketplace to the advertising marketplace?

Harmen: The biggest lesson is that all changes take more time than you expect. The introduction of the RTB protocol was expected to change the industry by storm in 2010. The reality is that in 8 years we have come a long way but it still hasn’t arrived yet.

This was the same for stock market, people are used to doing things in a certain way and although the new way has a lot of advantages, habit means they stick with the old way.

If you look at the potential possibilities, many are still relatively untapped. There is still so much to be changed and introduced. For instance, the current ad market is hardly leveraged, where leverage (derivatives) is the biggest part of the financial markets.

Here again it will take time for people to adapt but leverage will be part of the ad marketplace at some point.

I also learned that every part of the industry wants to have invented their own technology. While in 2010 the financial markets had already really advanced trading systems in place, at the same time ad tech companies started to invent the wheel all over again.

This was one of the biggest mistakes, or missed opportunities, in our industry. We could have progressed a lot more in the last 8 years if the industry looked at the available systems and took advantage of these.

How would you compare the two? What would you find in the common/difference that you think is most interesting?

Harmen: Comparing the two you realise there is so much in common. You can compare supply and demand almost one on one.

There is only one major difference concerning the product we are trading and that is the fact that there is no real ‘rest value’ in the ad marketplace.

If you buy a stock, 30 seconds later the value could be lower, the same or higher. In the ad marketplace there is almost certainly no value after 30 seconds.

This makes the trading slightly different but the principals still remain the same.

The current stage of the stock marketplace will be the end goal for the ad marketplace. Machines able to decide and execute in nano-seconds (instead of milliseconds = 1m time faster)

Which marketplace is more exciting & why? 

Harmen: The ad marketplace is the most exciting place to be right now. I can compare the time I entered the digital ad market in 2013 with the stage of the stock market in 1998. In the following years a lot of technical changes took place and the stock market became digital around 2003.

The same is true for the ad market. In the years before 2013 everything was IO driven, with the introduction of RTB the execution became digital as well.
Though the a system like the stock exchange market is the ultimate goal, the journey to this system is the most exciting path to walk.

Going from an inefficient marketplace, with human controlled/managed process, to building a new kind of efficient marketplace driven by machines/AI is a exhilarating path to be on and I’m thankful to be part of it.