Carolina Abenante Co-Founds NYIAX To Bring NASDAQ-Like Transparency To Digital Ads
Ad impressions sold programmatically represent a huge global market worth $ 129.1 billion in 2020 and are expected to reach $ 155 billion in 2021, with North America accounting for nearly three-quarters of the market, according to Statista.
What if this huge pool of ad impressions could be bought and sold in the same way and with the same transparency as the electronic trading platforms used by the NASDAQ? This is the idea that Carolina Abenante had with the co-founding of NYIAX, a trading platform for ad impressions.
She invested a significant amount of her own seed capital and, together with co-founder Mark Grinbaum, founded the company in 2015. They were later joined by Robert Ainbinder as co-founder and CEO, with Abenante assuming the role of Chief Strategy Officer, Chief Privacy Officer, Head of Corporate and Business Development & General Counsel and Vice-President and Grinbaum as Executive Vice President of Product and Platform.
“I met Mark in 2009 through a mutual friend while he was still the chief architect of ISE, the International Securities Exchange. And I have to say he’s actually a brilliant man, ”says Abenante. ISE was the first automated options exchange and changed the dynamics of capital markets placed on public exchanges. ISE founders Gary Katz and David Krell turned to Grinbaum to develop the technology. They brought him in from Dow Jones where he created the Dow Jones International Indices.
“When Mark and I came up with this, we started looking at a lot of different patents that were out there. We looked at a few patents that existed from Microsoft, which was planning to use the NASDAQ exchange at one point, but then lay fallow, and there were a few more looking at it. We were looking at other aspects of how we could use financial markets and their technology to bring that kind of rigor. We weren’t really thinking of bringing an exchange itself into this framework, but we were looking for what we could do that would bring some of the methods that were being used, ”says Abenante.
The pair believed they could use ISE backend technology to create an exchange that would be much better than what the SSPs (Supply Side Providers) had at that time. Not only in terms of speed, but also of the functioning of a market, which would have this kind of transparency and respect for contracts. They first created a white paper to define their intellectual property. “We knew we were on to something with this and we were looking at the patent file and we knew we could do it,” says Abenante.
They first pitched their idea to ISE, which expressed interest but was distracted by their parent company Deautsche Börse, which was going to buy the New York Stock Exchange at one point, but was later bought out by ICE. And then they went to NASDAQ who liked the idea of trying to use their technology to work in other markets. “We immediately launched a design study in 2015. In December, we signed our design study, we partnered with them for the backend technology immediately after, and we started to develop the product together as well as develop common patents together, one of which we received last year, the NYIAX NASDAQ common patent in March 2020, ”says Abenante
Although still in its early stages, NYIAX is growing rapidly despite moving from the design and testing phase to making the platform available to customers in 2019. Customers are enjoying the system NYAIX for contract management, transparency between buyers and sellers, and blockchain security.
“We thought it was lacking in the market. We’ve never really seen that kind of financial rigor to try to get into the base price of what you’re buying. It comes close to that, especially live. It also comes close to that because we have a lot of learning that comes from each of the individual trades, whether you are working with an SSP or various other DSPs (Demand Side Platforms). We aggregate this learning for the agency as well as for the publisher. So that kind of learning comes from a market and having that kind of dynamics and market principles, and we don’t step in between and try to manipulate it, ”says Abenante.
According to Abenante, the business has grown by over 350% over the past year as automation took hold a few months after COVID and started dragging them into exponential growth. “And we’re seeing that increase on a monthly basis. We have never had so many agencies that wanted to work with us, and initially wanted to test with us with real big dollars and continue thereafter, immediately in framework service agreements, ”says Abenante. The company has deals with the biggest brands, most agency holding companies, many freelancers and a large number of publishers.
Abenante’s path towards entrepreneurship is atypical since she has spent most of her career in corporate law, business development and mergers and acquisitions. “I have my law degree. I also have an MBA. I worked in telecoms, I also worked in business. I worked in corporate law, but I mainly work in business development in mergers and acquisitions and I have been in digital since 98 ”, explains Abenante.
She grew up in New Jersey, went to Seton Hall for her undergraduate degree, then to law at New York Law School. She gained international experience after obtaining her MBA from SDA Bocconi in Rome, Italy and started at Telecom Italia in financial planning and analysis, then returned to New York to join United Online. After that, she joined Reed Elsevier as Senior Director of Business Development and Strategy, then worked at London-based Marchex and Phorm. She joined Cypress Ventures in New York in 2011 before co-founding NYIAX in 2015.
As for the future of NYIAX?
“We are not breaking the paradigm. We improve it. We work with others like Trade Desk. I like the way Trade Desk describes themselves as a broker, which they are because they tried to say that they are “Goldman Sachs” and I think that’s true about them, but you need a market for it. And that’s where we are. We are creating that market, that ability to bring that transparency, by monitoring this contract the same way the NASDAQ monitors it. We hope to be one of the contract management standards for advertising. I just think there is so much that we haven’t even scratched the surface on for NYIAX and I’m very excited about our future, ”concludes Abenante.