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Thai software engineer sets up mobile ad service in US

AdsOptimal focuses on advertising for games and finance businesses, with revenue coming from "click-to-action"

After breaking away from Google in California two years ago, Prachaya Phaisanwiphatpong, a Thai software engineer who now is just 28, started up his own company to provide an advertising service for mobile websites.

Social Nation Inc was established in October 2012 in San Francisco by Prachaya and his friend. Its core product is AdsOptimal.

Prachaya had worked at Microsoft in Washington for two-and-a-half years and at Google in Silicon Valley for one-and-a-half years.

He jumped to Silicon Valley at the age of 21 after graduating in computer engineering from Kasetsart University. When he was an upperclassman, he formed a team called 3KC Returns with friends to develop LiveBook to compete in Microsoft's Imagine Cup 2007. His team won the Thai round and went on to the World Imagine Cup.

He was offered the chance to apply for a job at Microsoft's head office in Redmond.

"I came to the United States because I needed experience working with global companies to see how they operate. My passion is to have my own software business developing products and services for people around the world," he said.

When he was a Matthayom student, he won the silver metal at the Computer Olympics in the US in 2003 and Greece in 2004. He was offered scholarships up to the doctorate level but he refused to go down that path since his goal was to become an entrepreneur rather than a lecturer.

However, he first spent four years as a software engineer at Microsoft and Google.

His project at Microsoft was Office Online, while his work at Google was for Google Advertising, actually video advertising. He was gaining skills and expertise in software development while seeking an opportunity to set up his own business.

After leaving Google, he decided to join Y Combinator, a three-month incubation programme, from which Social Nation was born. The new venture got seed money from Y Combinator in return for about a 7-per-cent equity stake.

Social Nation's first year was busy providing a social plug-in to support the import and export of users for websites. It was a free service.

"There were many websites using our services. But it was not monetised," he said.

Social Nation then shifted to providing an advertising service under the ad network model for websites on mobile devices, both smartphones and tablets. AdsOptimal was launched last year.

"AdsOptimal helps websites to monetise web traffic on mobile devices. Our ads are optimised on mobile devices even if the website is not," he said.

There is room in mobile advertising. It is a blue ocean market because no player dominates it like how Google dominates online advertising in the desktop world and AdMob dominates mobile ads in the native app world.

In the mobile website world, there is a need for ads that can fit the various screen sizes of smartphones and tablets and can rotate with the device.

"We know first-hand what it takes to build a business because we have done it before. Our repertoire includes promoting some of the largest apps on the Web and Facebook, reaching over 150 million people.

"We turned our past into a product that can help websites grow their business, no matter how big they are," he said.

AdsOptimal is initially focusing on advertising for the games and finance businesses. Its revenue comes from "click-to-action", when people who see an ad and click on it to download a financial service game.

Over 12,000 websites have joined Social Nation's network. Most of them are in the US, United Kingdom and the West. Over one million people per month see its ads.

After spending the first six months on developing and improving the features on AdsOptimal, this year he will work on scaling up its ad network coverage in terms of websites and users who see the ads.

"AdsOptimal is free for end-users. We charge advertisers and brands through revenue sharing with the websites. We really hope that this year we will see rapid growth of AdsOptimal," he added.


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