Chango initially designed its platform for the prevailing ad-business model in which salespeople represented various ad networks of up to a few hundred sites. Just when the job was done, Sukornyk heard some startling news: Yahoo! and PubMatic each had launched a radical innovation, a market in which advertisers bid for online ad space in automated real-time auctions—each one lasting just split seconds. Should Sukornyk have his team start over? He knew how tough it is to get people to adopt a fundamentally new way of doing business. But if ad exchanges took off and Chango failed to embrace them, the company would go nowhere.

Sukornyk says his gamble could have doomed the startup “if the market had done a complete left turn.” But his gut feeling was that ad exchanges were the future. Still, he first carefully analyzed the opportunity and consulted with people well versed in the technology.

Ad exchanges offer enticing advantages for advertisers. These include real-time reporting, ads going live instantly and an end to all the back and forth with sales reps.

Central to Sukornyk’s thinking was the concept that ad exchanges would run on a massive scale—the biggest ones today sell space on hundreds of thousands of sites—that would make ad buys far more efficient. If Chango redesigned its platform, it could crunch prodigious data streams from ad exchanges and reassure clients they were running the right messages on the optimal sites to reach their best prospects.

Sukornyk also spotted an additional opportunity. Advertisers spend billions in advertising on search engines because these sites display ads matching what each user searches for. Yet people spend only a small fraction of their time online on search engines. Sukornyk figured if Chango’s platform could analyze enough ad impressions, it could steer its advertiser clients to cost-effective buys on non-search sites.

To check his analysis, he sought guidance from experienced tech investors in Toronto. They not only endorsed his vision, but ultimately invested in Chango.

These steps confirmed Sukornyk’s gut feeling that ad exchanges were the way to go—and ASAP. “All startups require a leap of faith,” he says. “If you wait until the market proves things out, it will be far too late to build a business around it.”

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