50 fastest-growing start-ups
StartupSmart Awards 2011
35. The Ad Network
Founders: Beth O’Brien, Ben Pullicin
The Ad Network was founded in 2008 by Beth O’Brien out of a passion for new media technology and the need for innovative marketing and business strategies.
Forming an impressive team, including her brother Ben Pullicin, O’Brien set out to carve a niche in the competitive world of real estate online advertising.
“We have built a business as a brother-and-sister team that competes every day with News Corp and Fairfax,” O’Brien says.
O’Brien says real estate is the number one subject Australians search online every month, which means the business must be on its game in order to outdo its competitors.
“We are a real estate-obsessed nation – we monetise this web traffic and we’re the first company in the world to do this for real estate agents,” she says.
In addition to a Sydney office, The Ad Network also has an office in New York, ensuring the business maintains its global scope.
“We have a powerful advertising network, which targets over 1.5 million people every month in real estate,” she says.
“We have worked hard and made huge sacrifices to make it happen in a global financial crisis. And it’s working, and almost profitable, after less than two years of operation.”
Raking in revenue of $600,000 last financial year, the business now employs six staff. But prior to its growth, The Ad Network was marred by a few mishaps.
O’Brien says dealing with real estate agents proved to be an important learning curve.
“Everyone warned me but I had to learn for myself – a contract means nothing, even if it costs $15,000 to get a fancy law firm to draft it. It’s all about the relationship and trust,” she says.
“The guy that signs the contract can be there one day and gone the next. If there is no relationship between the businesses and its people, it means nothing. If your business is not operational in their business, it isn’t real.”
O’Brien says the best part about starting a business is making it happen, which can only be achieved with belief.
“Going to bed stressed out if we can pay wages and waking up at 3am to find an email to say we just signed $25,000 [is the best part of starting up],” she says.
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