Accelerator Pitch Winner Sells to Google

The last time we saw Dave Gehring was on-stage at mediaXchange 2017, during the News Media Alliance Accelerator Pitch. Recognized by the Alliance as a promising start-up with solutions for news media companies, Gehring introduced Alliance members to Relay Media, an AMP convertor.

Flash forward eight months and Gehring has sold Relay Media to Google and is in the process of naming his new startup.

Wait, what? Slow down!

In May 2016, Gehring brought publishers an AMP converter. This lovely piece of technology helped publishers convert content to fast-loading, mobile-friendly web pages. At mediaXchange, one year later, Relay Media had onboarded 60 publishers with zero churn. By the time Google acquired the converter, they had 100 publishers on board.

“Google was in a much better position to scale the availability of that converter technology,” he said. “After a lot of conversations, it made sense to sell Relay Media.”

His team went to Google, but Gehring made the decision to remain independent. Google will close down Relay Media, per the deal, but the converter will continue to operate as part of Google’s platform.

Gehring describes the process of letting go as a mixed bag. “On one hand, saying you sold your company to Google is a very valuable thing. On the other hand, my two cofounders are some of the most brilliant people I’ve ever worked with.” He says it took him a few weeks to get over not working directly with them anymore.

Gehring is still very much focused on AMP with his new startup. He is co-founding the new project with Sam Parnell, former CTO of Bleacher Report. Parnell was an early advisor for Relay Media.

The duo hopes to build out a content distributer for publishers. The business is still in the early stages of development, but Gehring says it follows in his original vision of using AMP as the standard for the web.

When Gehring worked at Google earlier in his career, the tech giant wanted publishers to link to each other to improve placement within search. He laughed, acknowledging publishers weren’t too keen on giving the competition page views.

“Linking out was always challenging, because you’re sending users away,” he said.

Worse, you were sending users’ data away.

“Publishers have become much, much more aware of how bad it is to leak users’ data,” he said, citing ad fraud and misinformation campaigns. To solve this, he imagines a portal that maintains user data and sessions on existing domains without punishing them in search results.

“We’re still in the early days of it,” he said. “We’re having conversations with publishers and gathering info.”


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