Some of the biggest barriers to small businesses adopting online advertising to promote their products and services, is not so much the lack of a budget, but the sheer range of choices available and the difficulty of understanding what works in the digital space. Online advertising management platform MyAdEngine aims to alleviate those issues for small businesses.
MyAdEngine positions itself as the easiest way for small to medium businesses to manage their paid online advertising. The startup connects with major ad networks like Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft, and Facebook so advertisers can manage their campaigns easily. The service also provides analytics to show where advertising dollars are most effective.
From Potential Employee To Partner
MyAdEngine was started by two founders, Hudarsono Hu and Michael Cho. Hudarsono, who hails from Indonesia, has a background in robotics and was recently working as a software engineer in Singapore. Michael most recently spent four years at eBay in Australia and Singapore, where he helped the online auction site set up their online marketing and affiliate programs in the region.
“I had always had an hobbyist interest in coding since young, so I built an early prototype of MyAdEngine in 2009 before receiving an MDA grant to develop the concept further,” says co-founder Michael. At the time, Hudarsono approached Michael for a job, but he so impressed the latter that they became partners instead.
MyAdEngine was partly inspired by his time with eBay, reveals Michael. “As a large company, we were fortunate enough to have some fairly advanced tools to manage our online advertising and drive excellent results from this channel,” he explains. “However the tools themselves were enterprise software, so difficult to use and also expensive. From speaking with several small business owners, I saw an opportunity to develop a similar application that would really help the SME segment make effective use of online advertising.”
“We found a lot of SMEs were engaging agencies where quite often the only service they provide is a junior account manager who manually logs into Google and downloads your report into a spreadsheet for you, and then prepares an expensive invoice to charge you!”
Maximizing ROI From Online Advertising For SMEs
One of the key benefits of using MyAdEngine, Michael says, is that it saves advertisers time – campaigns can be created in seconds, tested, and reports generated quickly as they like. Another advantage is responsiveness, as advertisers can easily identify where they are spending too much or too little, and adjusting accordingly to maximize return-on-investments (ROI).
Michael highlights an example. “We are currently working with a client where we have reduced their average cost-per-click (CPC) from SGD $0.74 to $0.26 through a combination of using ad networks they hadn’t tried previously – Yahoo and Microsoft, expanding their keywords, improving their text ad copy, and changing their landing pages,” he explains.
To date, clients come from a diverse geographic and industry base, from dating sites in Chile to American affiliate marketers and Taiwanese e-commerce stores. “One of the great things about MyAdEngine is that our application works in all markets and for many different industries, and can save customers time and money if they do even just a little bit of online advertising,” says Michael. “That said, MyAdEngine really works best for smaller businesses that drives most of their sales from online channels.”
MyAdEngine‘s business model revolves around charging a flat 10-percent of an advertiser’s online advertising budget as their management fee. They do not receive commissions from the advertising networks, and this allows them to be impartial and make recommendations on what’s best for the advertiser. This differs from how media agencies usually work – the commission structure can be a conflict of interest when it comes to recommending suitable advertising platforms, where unscrupulous agencies push networks from which they receive fatter commissions.
Michael says they are still at the very early stages of MyAdEngine‘s journey. Since making the service publicly available in January 2010, they have been working with advertisers in over 20 different countries and are on track to serve their two millionth ad by this month. “All our advertisers are paying customers and have been extremely helpful in providing feedback and suggestions, and this is driving our team to improve the MyAdEngine product on a daily basis,” adds Michael.
Their key challenge to date has been there have been more things to do than there is time, laughs Michael. “There are a lot of initiatives that we have planned to really help our customers – while right now we only interface with Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft, and Facebook, in the longer term we see MyAdEngine as the interface for all of your digital advertising and are carefully considering options for other advertising channels such as banner advertising, mobile, etc,” he says.
MyAdEngine is supported by private funds from the founders. It is currently incubated at NUS Enterprise, which Michael says has been excellent in providing support in many areas. “We have also been generating revenues pretty early on, so that helps,” he adds.
More Action, Less Thinking
Michael thinks entrepreneurship is a great opportunity to improve the world in whatever way you can, whether it is for customers, team members, or the industry in general. “We are tackling a rather large problem – i.e. where are my marketing dollars most effective? – so we still have a long way to go, but this is definitely the most enjoyable working experience I’ve ever had,” Michael explains.
As far as lessons learnt, Michael says it’s hard to overstate how closely entrepreneurship is linked to action. “In many environments like a large company, university, or MBA courses, a high premium is placed on the ‘thinking’ part of business – i.e. strategy, planning, meetings, etc – whereas the ‘action’ and execution parts are glossed over.”
“When starting a company, I think the reverse is probably more useful – certainly not a lot gets done without somebody consciously making an effort to do so!”
Michael believes that Echelon 2010, in which MyAdEngine participated, was a great startup launch platform in that it had definite pan-Asian reach with its mix of attendees and speakers from outside Singapore. Michael also observes the Singapore startup scene appears to be growing with the support of various university and government initiatives. “I think the ecosystem is approaching a critical mass where companies, investors, and developers are collaborating frequently enough that sparks are happening,” he says, adding that he’s excited to see what ‘next big thing’ will come out of Singapore in the near future.
MyAdEngine is offering our readers a free USD $50 advertising credit (to be used on any network in the next three months) simply by registering with the promo code ‘YOUNGUPSTART’. Just be prepared to answer their questions about how to improve its product!