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Crain | Culture

A Postcard from Amsterdam

Improve Digital, Staff Blog, Blog, Tech company, Programmatic

A funny thing happened this past week.  I woke up one morning to find myself in Amsterdam of all places.  Not the ‘New Amsterdam’ of my dear NYC, but the real deal – Rembrandt, bitterballen, canals, and all.  Some may find this a surprising development – and I certainly did – but the explanation is quite simple.

My friends, Janneke and Joelle, the founders of Europe’s leading SSP, graciously invited me to join them in Amsterdam for six months serving as Improve Digital’s acting Chief Strategy Officer.  It’s worth noting that I preferred a less fussy title, perhaps “Senior Intern,” but there was some concern about tarnishing the reputation of the actual intern program itself.  Title notwithstanding, their offer proved impossible to refuse.

Yes, part of it is the location – I mean, really, Amsterdam is a gem of a city.  The people are amazing, and ever since my first visit fifteen years ago, it has been second only to New York on “my list of favourite places.”  But that’s on the personal front.  Professionally, I am excited at the transatlantic digital media information sharing that’s possible.  The folks here in Amsterdam seem to think that there is a bunch of smart stuff we’ve been doing in the US that the EU can learn from.  Truth be told, I’ve always thought about it the other way around.  I’m pretty sure I’ll be the one doing most of the learning.

I woke up one morning to find myself in Amsterdam


Another consideration is the people.  Even just one week in, it’s clear that the diversity and talent of the Improve Digital team is among the best of any technology company I’ve worked with over the years.  Moreover, I’ve had the pleasure of working with its founders Janneke and Joelle for more than a decade as friend, colleague, partner, and client.  They are two of the brightest media folks I know.  Moreover, they have proven themselves extraordinarily tenacious, carving out their place quite brilliantly in an all too often male-dominated industry.

Perhaps most importantly, it’s the opportunity to do two of the things I love most.  Those two things, simply put, are company-building and helping media and technology companies make more money.  First is good old fashioned company-building. Janneke and Joelle have built an impressive operation, and they are experiencing tremendous growth.  To partner with them at this moment in time is a privilege – helping to shape strategy, go-to-market approach, and organisational structure as they scale the operation and fully capitalise on their leading market position.

The second is pretty simple – I love helping media and technology companies make more money.  It’s in my blood – from my early days as an inventory and pricing nerd at Microsoft to my later days delivering yield optimisation and data management solutions at technology leaders Rapt and Krux.  I share Janneke’s and Joelle’s passion for giving supply-side players the tools and support they need to survive and thrive in a dynamic media market.

With the increasing dominance of just a few large platform and marketplace players, there are not many independent companies left that can make a real difference on the supply-side.  Improve Digital is one them – delivering the technology, intelligence, and market connectivity to let media owners control their destiny and fend off the commoditisation and margin erosion that a channel masters like Google leave in their wake.

So, here’s to the continued success of Improve Digital and creating value for clients and partners.  Further, here’s to six amazing months in Amsterdam – and who knows, maybe I’ll stay a little longer if they let me.  After I shake off the jet lag and get settled into the Amsterdam HQ, I look forward to heading out into the field to meet with Improve Digital’s amazing roster of clients and partners.  After all, were it not for them, none of us would be here.

Ben joins Improve Digital from Krux, a leading global DMP provider.  Ben has spent the last two decades working with a diverse mix of media and technology companies including Krux, Rapt, Microsoft, and Turner Broadcasting.  He can be reached at    

Chief Strategy Officer