Start Small. Grow Large.

Posted on Jan 07, 2014 by

Our “compound progress” approach makes lots of little goals add up to big success over time at Adchemy.

Murthy Nukala, CEO & Founder, Adchemy

Years ago, a friend convinced me to participate in a Team in Training adventure race. Having spent every waking hour of the prior few years building a company, my exercise regimen had been largely limited to running for flights at SFO and typing really, really fast. The idea of a 5-hour race with trail running, kayaking and mountain biking seemed ridiculous – and impossible.

“Start small and build from there,” said my friend. “You can do it – just set small goals every week.”

Reluctantly, I started to train. It was painful and embarrassing but my friend was right: As the weeks went by, I improved, bit by bit. I became fully committed to completing the race

On race day, I finished in record time. I was thrilled but I wasn’t shocked: My commitment to training coupled with steady advances in speed and distance had transformed me from a desk sitter to an adventure racer in a matter of months.

Its a lesson that applies to all aspects of life: Whether running a race, getting out of debt, losing 50 pounds, or building a tech startup, the key to achieving large things is to set small goals, move quickly, stay flexible and stay committed.

All startups start with a big vision – like a big mountain ahead of you, it’s both exciting and daunting.

The secret to realizing these visions is “compound progress” – the process of achieving small goals more frequently in order to achieve exponential growth.

The approach reminds me of the old software industry saying, “Just ship it.” Rather than working months or even years for a perfect release, it is far better to ship the product out to customers at more frequent intervals, see what works, incorporate their feedback, and build from there.

Our compound progress – like compound interest – is characterized by two things:

  1. Smaller, more frequent goals – From a development perspective, we’re a completely agile shop, and we ship code every two weeks. But our “compounding period” can be even shorter – we often easily see tangible progress in a week, and sometimes, within days.
  2. Exponential growth – The improvements we make are not simply additive; the progress across our compounding periods is multiplicative. Each improvement multiplies prior improvements, and within the course of a few compounding periods, we’ve improved by an order of magnitude (see figure).

There’s nothing more exciting than working for a company experiencing compound progress. The progress is not just abstract – it’s apparent to every single Adchemy employee. The fast pace keeps our entire workforce motivated and our executives looking ahead.

You can also see our progress in the improved quality and throughput of our software – and in our clients’ faces when our products deliver beyond expectations. The flexibility of smaller, shorter-term goals enables Adchemy to adjust course and respond quickly to customer requests and competitive moves. The sum is truly far greater than the parts.

So remember, next time you’re faced with a large opportunity – “Start small and build from there… You can do it.”

Our Engineering “Himalayas”

Posted on Jan 02, 2014 by

Adchemy developers are tackling the biggest challenges in technology today – and then moving on to the next adventure.

By Rohit Deep, VP of Engineering

“While on top of Everest, I looked across the valley towards the great peak Makalu and mentally worked out a route about how it could be climbed. It showed me that even though I was standing on top of the world, it wasn’t the end of everything. I was still looking beyond to other interesting challenges.”
- Sir Edmund Hillary

I’ll be the first to admit: I don’t know the first thing about climbing a Himalayan peak. But I have hiked enough mountains to know that even though the summit rarely looks near, we always make it to the top – and have a good time on the way.

At Adchemy, our engineering goals never look easy. We face some of the biggest challenges in computing today, and overcome them with smart, determined, adventurous people who are empowered to reach new heights with the best technologies available.

Adchemy set out to revolutionize the search advertising business. We build the products that enable large retailers to make and manage highly relevant search campaigns which maximize their online revenues. The unique part? We allow retailers to manage these campaigns in their own language and not in the publisher’s language. This makes the campaigns more effective as they now have a better understanding of what is working for them and what is not.

To deliver this business success to our clients, our engineers have to move mountains – in some cases, literally. Here are the three biggest development challenges we face every day at Adchemy:

1) “Big Data” Scale – Delivering cost effective search campaigns to some of the world’s biggest retailers is no small undertaking. We are marketing millions of products. That means we crawl millions of pages, compile millions of performance data points and generate hundreds of millions of keywords. The resulting data set is the equivalent of a massive data mountain – one of the biggest “Big Data” computing opportunities on the Web today.

2) Real-Time Speed – The power of Adchemy’s product offering hinges on finding buyers when they’re ready to buy. Our “Big Data” engine must be able to capitalize on a user’s experience in real time or near-real time:  We generate hundreds of millions of ad keywords on the fly and must analyze them extremely quickly. This real-time imperative presents a tremendous challenge for our engineers.

3) Expert Translation – Crawling millions of pages results in mountains of unstructured data.  Adchemy’s products must extract meaningful information from each page and turn it into actionable knowledge. For example, a color that one retailer calls “Khartoum” translates to “Khaki” for most pants buyers. Developers work hard to create algorithms and systems to cleanse, standardize and organize this “dirty” data in order to make it usable for advertisers to generate the right ads at the right time to the right buyers.

Meeting engineering challenges head-on is what we do every day at Adchemy. It’s like crossing the Himalayas: we celebrate reaching the top of one peak and then get excited to tackle the next one.  And its a great feeling being at the top of the world.

Next Up: How Adchemy empowers its engineers to tackle these challenges.

Absolute Faith. Brutal Honesty.

Posted on Dec 19, 2013 by

Entrepreneurs must believe completely in their future success, but be brutally honest about the day to day realities of where they are.  

Murthy Nukala, CEO & Founder, Adchemy

Most startups die. Its a widely accepted fact of entrepreneurial life.  The ride can be wild, with high highs and low lows.  You can win a huge customer deal, have a key employee resign and have a contentious board member call – all before lunch!

As Ben Horowitz says here, the hardest thing is to manage your own psychology. But how to keep an even keel through the maelstorm?

Any time I feel like the odds are against us, I remember the story of Admiral James Stockdale as retold in Good to Great. For seven years, he endured horrific torture as a prisoner of war in Vietnam yet outlived many of his fellow prisoners of war.

 A combination of two things set Admiral Stockdale apart:  1) An unwavering faith that he would survive in the end, and 2) the discipline to accept and deal with the day-to-day challenges of being a POW.

Stockdale said the other prisoners started out more optimistic. They would persevere by hoping for release by Christmas – and then by Easter – and then by fall – and then eventually give up and “die of a broken heart.”

Admiral Stockdale had a different perspective. He never sugarcoated his current nightmare. Nor did he abandon his dream of being free again:

“You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”

In shorthand – Absolute Faith. Brutal Honesty.

I can’t begin to compare my white-collar business challenges with Admiral Stockdale’s torture and confinement – but I wholeheartedly endorse his advice.

My faith was tested when I started my first company in the frothy dotcom bubble economy of 1999 (about as far from a 1960s Vietnamese prison as you can get…)  My co-founder and I had convinced two tech gurus to join our startup and we signed our first Series A investor. We were ecstatic!

 Yet within days, our newborn company was on life support. One engineer became entangled in personal issues and backed out. The other worked for a company that filed to go public and so he decided to stay for the IPO. Finding great engineers was as difficult then as it is today – if not more so – so it seemed likely that our investor would pull out and the financing would fall through. If there was ever a time to give up, this was it.

As I prepared to call the investor with the bad news, I realized I had a choice. Convey the news and await the inevitable – OR, fight like hell. The key to which path to take came down to a central question: did I have faith?

The answer was a resounding YES.

So rather than call apologetically, I laid out the bad news (you invested in four people, and both tech folks have pulled out), but then asked the investor for something he had every reason to refuse.

“You have every reason to walk away. I would not blame you if you did. But I want you to have faith in me. Give me a chance.”

To his credit, the investor gave me a shot – 30 days to find a lead engineer.

I started that minute. I called everyone I knew. Then I called everyone they knew. I met with dozens of people all over the country – even in the middle of the night in airports because that was the only time that worked forthem.

On the 26th day, I succeeded in signing our lead engineer and the rest is history: We built the product, got bought six months later, went public 2 years after that, and returned 8X to our investors.

Like Admiral Stockdale, I’ve found that the key to survival is balancing a frank assessment of today’s circumstances with an absolute belief in the future. The ability to effectively manage these contradictory elements will separate the founders  that survive and thrive – from those that don’t.

Adchemy Divests Customer Acquisition Division, Adchemy Actions, to XL Marketing

Posted on Nov 04, 2013 by

We have exciting news.

Today, we announced that Adchemy has divested its customer acquisition division, Adchemy Actions, to XL Marketing of New York, NY.  You can read the press release from XL Marketing here.

This deal makes a ton of sense for Adchemy. We’re extremely proud of what Adchemy Actions has been able to accomplish to-date. At the same time, since we introduced our paid search software, market reception for its ability to help online brands scale their ecommerce revenue acquisition has been overwhelmingly positive.

As a result, our software business has been growing really fast. Currently eight of the top fifty retailers on the IR500 use Adchemy software, and that number is increasing almost every day. The sale of Adchemy Actions allows Adchemy to focus solely on creating elegant SaaS software that’s unbelievably easy to use and delivers  stunning insights.

In other words, by selling Adchemy Actions, we’re doubling down on the future of search.

XL Marketing, a company co-founded by former Apple CEO John Sculley, has been a long-standing business partner of Adchemy Actions, and we think this deal makes a ton of sense for customers and partners of the platform. In addition, several Adchemy Actions employees will be joining XL Marketing’s management team, including:

  • Cullen Jowitt, Vice President and General Manager of Adchemy Actions, becomes a Senior Vice President for XL Marketing
  • Eddie Rau, Jr., one of the architects of the Adchemy Actions platform, will become Vice President of Engineering
  • Matt Tillman will be a Vice President and General Manager in the Financial Services vertical
  • Eric Soli, Director of Finance and Operations at Adchemy Actions, joins XL Marketing as VP, Call Center & Finance.


We’re very excited for them, and we’re sure they’ll be wildly successful.

I’m as excited as ever about the future of search.  And Adchemy’s future is brighter than ever.

Murthy Nukala
CEO, Adchemy

New Adchemy eBook: How to Sculpt Your PLA Campaign with Negative Keywords

Posted on Jul 23, 2013 by

Google Product Listing Ads (PLAs) are shaping up to be an enormous opportunity for online retailers to drive qualified traffic to their websites and steal market share from their competition.  Even though PLAs are becoming increasingly important, many online marketers are overlooking fundamental strategies to optimize their PLA campaigns, like adding negative keywords to their PLA campaigns.

Download this FREE eBook to understand why negative keywords are even more important in your PLA campaigns, and learn 7 different ways you can sculpt your PLA campaign with negative keywords.

Download Now!

How to Supercharge Your Merchant Feed for PLAs

Posted on Jul 23, 2013 by

In a recent poll of retail search marketers, improving the quality of the merchant feed was cited as the biggest impediment to scaling Google Product Listing Ads (PLA) campaigns.

Everyone knows that compliance with Google’s merchant feed policies is a basic cost of entry into PLAs. But what does it really take to optimize your merchant feed to maximize the competitiveness of your PLAs? And can the quality of your merchant feed really make that big of a difference in your PLA campaign?

If you’re a digital marketer at an online retailer and PLAs are becoming a increasingly important part of your online marketing mix, this webcast is for you. Greg de Haaff, Sr. Director of Product Management from Adchemy, will take a closer look into how you can not only optimize, but supercharge your merchant feed for PLAs.

Join us for this webcast and learn:

  • Why your merchant feed needs to be comprehensive, and not just feature your best selling items
  • The importance of having a merchant feed that is complete
  • How and why you should enrich your merchant feed whenever possible
  • What optimizing your merchant feed for PLAs really means (hint: it’s not just about filling empty spreadsheet cells) and how the quality of your merchant feed directly impacts revenue
  • How you can start to systematically optimize your merchant feed and get ahead of your competition

Register now for this free, live webinar!