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InvestMaryland Challenge: Q&A with Staq

Staq, Baltimore
Baltimore-based Staq is competing in the InvestMaryland Challenge.

Check back for Q&A profiles on all the competition finalists.

The first-ever InvestMaryland Challenge is down to its final round with just 33 companies competing for more than $300,000 in grants and business services. The final winners will be announced during the Governor’s Cup Awards Ceremony on April 15.

One of the companies, selected out of more than 250 applicants, is Baltimore-based Staq, founded in 2012. To find out a little more about this innovative company, we spoke with CEO and co-founder James Curran.

Q. What does Staq do, and how would you explain it to the average person?

A. Advertisers and publishers on the Internet use a great deal of different technologies for business. We aggregate all of these technologies together into one unified dashboard. We are like the Mint.com for web advertising. We work with an advertiser or publisher, let’s say it’s BaltimoreSun.com. They have a login account with their ad server, they also have a login account with Google, they have one with Facebook, they have one with AOL’s Advertising.com, they have one with Millennial Media and the list goes on and on and on. We connect all of them together like Mint.com would.

Q. Tell us more about the unique and innovative things your company is doing. How is it moving the industry forward?

A. What we’re doing isn’t exactly new—the way we’re approaching it is new. Google, for example, is a great example of a company that is trying to own every piece of the placement of an advertisement on a website. They’ve been buying ad technology companies to own the entire process of adding an ad to the site. They bought an ad server, they obviously own search. They started a company that does mobile advertising. They bought a company that does auction bidding for advertising, so they’re buying every piece of the ad technology stack. When you talk about a stack, it has several components to it. Everyone in the ad tech marketplace wants to be the one to own everything. The problem is that if you still have hundreds and hundreds of players, and you can’t exactly offer everything and have someone use all of it all at once.

What we’re doing is a different approach, where we are not just building one piece of the ad tech stack; we’re building an operating system around all of what’s available already. We’re not going to build an ad server and we’re not going to buy and sell mobile advertising. We’re not going to buy and sell banner advertisements. Instead, we bring them all together so that anyone who is using them today can continue to use them.

Q. Has the company had much success so far?

A. We are in contract phase with Time Inc. We have GateHouse Media signed, which includes local newspapers. We’re in contract phase with Condé Nast.

Q. If Staq were to win prize money in the contest, how would it use the money to further its goals?

A. We primarily have it pegged for human resources. Our company runs on people. We are a software service company, and because we’re not buying any inventory, we’re not hosting any inventory, and our main costs are in people and services. Using those funds, we would hire immediately in Maryland.

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