A Slice on Steve Swoboda, Founder and CFO of SpotX
As a Colorado native, Steve Swoboda wears his nativity as a badge of honor. With partners like Adobe and Verizon, SpotX supplies premium video to Disney, Samsung and Fox so you’d expect them to be located in New York or the Bay Area. “When we would go to trade shows and meet with investors, partners, or big media companies they were always like, ‘I saw you guys in the Bay Area, are you in New York?’ We’d be like ‘No, we’re in Westminster, Colorado,’ we kind of work with a badge of honor.” Nestled in the Flatiron foothills, SpotX found its home base in Broomfield, CO and has grown into a digital advertising powerhouse that is trusted by premium publishers and broadcasters around the world.
Swoboda graduated from Leeds Business School at the University of Colorado Boulder with a degree in accounting. He soon found himself on the traditional path that led him overseas to Budapest and back to New York, where he worked at a due diligence company that focused on transactional structuring for mergers and acquisitions. The company also dabbled in the business of the internet in the late ’90s, piquing Swoboda’s interest in the idea. “I really thought that it was an interesting time, and I saw how it was really changing paradigms of how people got information and entertainment. It’s obvious now, but at the time I was like, ‘Wow this is interesting,’ and I really wanted to figure out a way to use my skill set in that industry.”
After New York, Swoboda found his way back to Colorado where he met his co-founder Mike Shehan at a company that was a casualty of the dot com downturn in 2001. Because of this, the two decided to start their first company together, Booyah Networks. Booyah was advanced for its time; the vision was to be an image-enhancing paid network similar to Google Adwords. However, Google dominated the industry and the co-founders pivoted to digital advertising and thus Booyah Advertising was created and later bought by a local Denver advertising agency.
Bit by the entrepreneurship bug, Swoboda and Shehan recognized that the paid search model was the next big thing. The two created an auction-based marketplace to bid on keywords with real-time optimization that could be done by the advertisers or their agencies. “So we thought, ‘Okay, what will be another use of that type of business model?’ Broadband connectivity was coming on, so we thought, ‘Hey, this can be a lot more content-rich, video, audio, games, consumed online. Let’s create a monetization platform for that.’ So that was really the genesis vision of SpotX.”
In 2007, SpotX became the first online advertising marketplace and has been at the forefront of video advertising technology ever since. In 2021, SpotX was acquired by Magnite, the world’s largest independent sell-side advertising platform and a competitor of SpotX. While this is something to be proud of, Swoboda isn’t super focused on the metrics. He helped build a company that raised $13 million in funding and an exit valuation that was in excess of $1.2 billion.
However, success for Swoboda looks a little different. While the metrics speak for themselves, Swoboda is proudest of the 450 jobs (280 are in his home state) and of the culture the company has created. The culture is reflective of Colorado’s collaborative nature and is showcased in the way the teams within SpotX interact with each other. Mistakes are expected at SpotX and learning from them is just a part of the process. “If we’re not making mistakes we’re not trying hard enough. We expect that when we do, we’re just gonna learn from them and move forward. I’m super proud of that and, as a result, got a lot of good friendships and good relationships with folks at the company.”
When asked to give advice for entrepreneurs, Swoboda highlighted the endless opportunities and the importance of pivoting when you need to. “Look at things with clear eyes and keep after it. I think most companies have a great chance of success. Think about the people that you add; make sure that you have a similar view with respect to how you’re going to be able to work together… and if you hire someone who isn’t a good fit with you (i.e. doesn’t see eye to eye with you or is political or is trouble in the clubhouse) you should move on from them. Without hesitation.”
Steve Swoboda is Co-Founder and former CFO of SpotX, a global video advertising and monetization platform that was acquired by Magnite in 2021. Prior to SpotX, Swoboda founded Booyah Advertising, a digital advertising firm. Connect with Swoboda on LinkedIn.