Adblock Plus: “The Future Definitely Still Has Ads In It.”

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Ben Williams, Communications Manager at Eyeo, talks about their MVP Adblock Plus, which - with 500mln downloads - is the most popular add-on ever, and why blocking some ads is better than all of them. Learn more:

Describe Eyeo in 50 words or less.

We develop open source software that millions of people use every day to have a better online experience. Our solutions such as Adblock Plus, which, with over 500 million downloads is the most popular add-on/extension ever, put users in control over the kind of content they see online.

Why did you decide to pursue your own dreams rather than someone else’s?

Seemed like the right thing to do. Plus, those “dreams” we share at Adblock Plus were more interesting than those held by my previous employers in and around government – but can you really say a government dreams?

Describe your typical working day from coming to the office to leaving it.

I usually get in at 9 and leave around 5, pretty dull really. The rest is a tossup, so there’s that …

7 years from now: How did your startup change the world?

Sorry, but any answer I give to this will sound like it should be on a motivational poster in a dentist’s office.

Anyway, here goes … I’m not sure, if we have really changed the world, a little part of it maybe we have disrupted the billion-dollar ad industry by giving users a tool, which in turn made companies rethink the way they advertise, so that users will accept these ads and have a positive online experience.

What does the future hold for online advertising?

The future definitely still has ads in it. But that doesn’t have to be a negative. Better, more relevant advertising that even discerning users will accept can provide value for everyone in the chain. But I think I’d be irresponsible or stupid to assume that ads will always be the only monetizer. There can, should and will (likely) be alternative ways to make cash online. We’ve just got to work together to explore these new ways while keeping a user-determined Internet our paramount goal.

In what ways do you measure your success and how do you make sure you don’t lose track?

Our main source to measure our success are our download numbers, as well as the numbers of the companies which participate in our Acceptable Ads Initiative to encourage better online ads.

Already pivoted? Did customers use the Adblock Plus like you imagined it in the beginning?

Well, I really wasn’t there at the very start – that was our co-founder Wladimir Palant, who developed the first Adblock Plus as an extension. That being said, Wladimir intended that his ad blocking tool would block all the ads. We, however, have pivoted toward a middle way, which allows ads that conform to standards. So in that sense, no, not at all. But I think blocking some of the things is better longterm than blocking all the things.

Bootstrapped or financed: What fuels your startup now and what will in the future?

We were very fortunate. We’ve had help from one investor, but now we’re in the black numbers, and are not seeking further investments.

With ferocious competition and a booming trend to build new companies: How do you make sure you don’t get lost in the shuffle?

We’ve always tried to bring the best quality products to our users and to our partners. We have an international team with very dedicated employees, as well as an open source community who constantly try to improve and help our products. I think this is the key to our success.

What do you look for in team members?

People who aren’t afraid to roll up their sleeves and work hard; creative people; smart people; people who aren’t assholes.

Why would a talent join your team?

We’re disrupting a billion-dollar business and we offer a solution for users and businesses. In short I believe we have great products – but if that’s not enough to convince new talent, so we also offer a great international team and a nice office with a roof terrace in the heart of Cologne.

Also, we’re not assholes.

What was your most memorable moment so far?

When I walked through the door on the first day, and I’d been camping in Sweden, between jobs and very much off the grid for two weeks, and a German blogger had decided to write a veritable dissertation about how much he hated us. Everyone looked around, and said, “well, I guess you’ll take care of that?” Intimidating, but fun.

What advice would you give fellow founders for their startup?

None really, sorry.



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