Andreas Bodczek is the co-founder and CEO of SponsorPay, a leading advertising platform in social networks, virtual worlds, mobile apps and online games.
The idea for SponsorPay was initally conceived by Team Europe, a Berlin-based incubator. Andreas eventually joined the team as CEO bringing his expertise in business development, strategic expansion, company building and financial management to help grow the company further which he has continued to deliver on since joining the company.
I spoke to Andreas about SponsorPay and his journey into entrepreneurship.
Can you give you some background information about yourself; were you the entrepreneurial type growing up?
Although my father ran his own practice as a doctor, I was never directly exposed to any entrepreneurial ventures until I became a member of the Bertelsmann’s Junior Management Programme. There I was able to hone my entrepreneurial skills by taking risks and developing new business models within a controlled environment.
Later on, I would go on to work for Telefonica where one of my first projects was launching a new business into the UK. Armed with a young team, I was able to construct the venture successfully from the ground up, literally starting from nothing.
Tell me how the idea for SponsorPay came about?
SponsorPay is the leading cross-platform in-game advertising company, which provides value for brands, games publishers and users of these games by providing targeted advertising offers. The idea was originally conceived by internet incubator Team Europe.
Eventually, I was brought on as founding CEO to help realize the potential of this idea. Combining my business development, strategic expansion and financial management experience with Team Europe’s expertise in business model development, company building and financing turned out to be a good match.
What is SponsorPay and what problem are you trying to solve with it?
SponsorPay provides advertising opportunities in a space (gaming) where such opportunities are scarce and rarely user-initiated. Our innovative engagement marketing product, BrandEngage, allows for users to interact and engage with brands. The users have a choice of which brands they engage with, as they are the ones who trigger interactions in exchange for benefits in a virtual economy.
Talk me through the first few months of running the business? What would you say was the hardest part of starting the business?
The most difficult part of starting the business was convincing publishers to accept advertisements within games and social networks. They were afraid to clutter their space with unwanted solicitations. However, once they realize that these ads not only generated more revenue, but also helped to funnel users into becoming paying customers, they quickly warmed up to the idea.
How were you able to fund the business?
Before we were able to secure larger funding, Team Europe was instrumental in growing SponsorPay. Not only were they able to provide the initial funding, they also provided the contacts and relationships to begin building SponsorPay’s network.
Later on, we were able to acquire significant rounds of Series A funding provided by Hasso Plattner Ventures and Nokia Growth Partners.
Tell me about a difficult time starting the business and how you were able to overcome it?
Starting any new business is always a challenge. More specifically, it wasn’t until we launched our services that we realized there was already another German competitor. After months of competing with GratisPay, we were eventually able to buy them out to seize control of the market.
Would you say the initial idea for the company, or that your business model has changed since starting the business?
The value exchange ad model has always been in place and still is, but the depth and breadth of our advertising solutions have continued to evolve. We have since not only added more advertisements, but more formats of ads as well as improved on our targeting, campaign management and reach.
What would you say has been some of the most crucial that you've done to build the company to this level now?
One of the most crucial progressions we’ve made is extending our ad formats from direct response to brand engagement as well as broadening technical capabilities from web to mobile.
We also continued to build our reach and proved our commitment to localization by expanding our offices to new locations such as Istanbul, Tokyo and New York.
What has been some of the most valuable things that you’ve learnt so far on your journey as an entrepreneur?
There are many valuable lessons I have learned along the way. But no matter the business or the market, you will be faced with adversity as an entrepreneur because part of being an entrepreneur is evaluating risk and knowing when to take chances. It’s important to know when to cut your losses and when to press on and “just go for it.” This is one of the decisions that excite me about entrepreneurship over and over again.
What’s been your most memorable moment so far on your entrepreneurial journey?
The most rewarding part of my experience has been seeing young, ambitious teams mature, grow together and ultimately deliver on what initially seemed to be too-high-flying plans. It’s great that we have all come together to achieve and surpass milestones month after month. It has been very gratifying to grow an organization from the ground up and go from a little-known entity to an industry leader.
What pieces of advices could you give to aspiring entrepreneurs out there?
Don’t be afraid to fail. No matter how diligent and detail oriented you are, you will make mistakes at times. Entrepreneurship is not for the fainthearted. There will be a time when you will need to pick yourself up off of the ground and keep pressing forward. It’s important that you learn from your errors and stay dedicated and passionate to whatever it is you’re doing, no matter how daunting the task at hand may seem.
In this sense, we can still learn a thing or two in Europe from the US, where failure is considered a common stage of growth on the path of individual development for an entrepreneur rather than a means of shame.
What can we be expecting from you and SponsorPay in 2012?
As previously mentioned, SponsorPay continues to grow at a feverish rate. As we continue to increase our revenues, we are excited to expand upon the mobile side of our business and increase our footprint within the advertising space with BrandEngage.