Gary Lin of glispa

Category: Future heads




glispa produces 400 billion ad impressions per month for companies all over the world. The company was founded in the US in 2001 and in 2008 the performance marketing service moved to Berlin. Last year, London-based company Market Tech Holding bought a 32 million euro share in glispa. However, instead of keeping things as they were the company decided to expand. At the end of last year glispa moved into the new headquarters in Prenzlauer Berg.

Mr Lin, when your company moved to Berlin in 2008, the startup scene in the German capital was still in its infancy. What were your reasons to make the move to Berlin at the time?

In 2008, Berlin was the perfect location for us to found our company. Due to its dynamic economy and central location in Europe, Berlin provides perfect conditions for rapid global growth and entrepreneurial success. At the same time, Berlin is extremely diverse and has grown into a cultural melting pot for highly-skilled talent from all over the world. This offers ideal conditions for companies to find employees that are a good match for the company. In addition, what's unique about Berlin is the willingness of young entrepreneurs to liaise with one another, to learn from each other and to benefit from each other's experience. There is a high level of innovation across industries which results in an inspiring atmosphere that permeates the city. The political world, too, has recognised the city's potential and has an interest in supporting young tech companies in order to push the entire industry forward.

Not only your company has seen rapid growth in the last eight years, but the startup and creative industries in general have skyrocketed. How have you experienced these years in your company and in Berlin in general?

The technological development has made it possible to build global companies with half the time and effort than eight years ago. The startup scene in Berlin has long come of age and now has a solid foundation that enables it to gain more and more momentum. The founders based in the city have already gone through various cycles of entrepreneurial projects and know their way around the startup industry. In addition, it's not just young entrepreneurs with global ambitions who flock to the German capital from all over the world, but there's an increasing influx of experienced specialists to the startup scene in Berlin who work with the young startups in order to push forward innovative ideas. There are still plenty of e-commerce and market place startups in Berlin , but I can see a strong trend towards mobile-oriented companies. I think that in future, more and more original and visionary ideas will be generated in Berlin. This fits the future-oriented nature of the city that has always been characterised by constant change.

You have been working in online marketing for 15 years. Your company is a performance marketing service. What exactly does that mean and how has the industry developed in the past couple of years? 

Simply put, our vision is to enable people to discover products and brands that they really like through mobile advertising. Whether shopping or gaming - mobile has grown into one of the most important consumer trends globally. With glispa we offer our customers innovative, data-driven marketing solutions in order to provide relevant and personalised digital content to a very specific group of customers at exactly the right time. Above all, our focus is on developing and marketing the most innovative ad tech solutions. For example, we have only recently introduced our audience platform which is based on our big data technology and which has been specifically developed to cater to the needs of both advertisers and publishers in the mobile advertising ecosystem and implement effective advertising strategies for the mobile advertising industry.

When London-based company Market Tech bought a 75 percent share in glispa last year it did not go unnoticed with the startup scene in Berlin. Some even feared that they would be pushed out of Berlin. Instead, you have just recently expanded a former transformer facility in Prenzlauer Berg to house the new company headquarters. What made you pick exactly this building and what are the specific goals that you have in mind for the "innovation campus for digital pioneers"?

When we founded the company eight years ago our small team was located in the basement of a generic startup office building. Since then Berlin and glispa have come a long way. In the past couple of years, Berlin has become even more attractive for both young talents and experienced specialists working in the digital industry. We have employees from Singapore, Israel or Brazil who would love to come to Berlin and work here. Even though we now operate from San Francisco, Beijing, Bangalore and Tel Aviv we have made a conscious decision to continue using Berlin as headquarters for glispa's global operations. In the past, the Ampere provided Berlin's central Eastern districts with electricity. It is our vision to channel the energy of this historical building and to use it to build a community of innovative tech companies. In addition, we are planning to create several hundred new jobs over the next few years which would make us one of the top employers in Berlin's digital industry.

What is your definition of "digital pioneers"?

A pioneer in the sense of a dynamic entrepreneur is someone who constantly launches and establishes new combinations of products on the market. Other characteristics include creativity as well as assertiveness and personal initiative. Digital pioneers have grown up around technological progress and possess abilities they have developed through years of taking risks and experimenting with business ideas. On top of that they know the processes from both the real world and the online world. As mentors and leaders in the digital sector they have a passion for technology and are constantly looking for new innovative markets , technologies and products that have the potential to enrich our lives and make a positive impact. 

For some in the industry, you have become an even bigger role model following the deal with Market Tech. If you were asked to share some of your insights with young startups in Berlin, what would you say?

In virtually every industry building a company on an international scale is part of a powerful business model. However, tapping into global markets does not mean opening up branch offices in every corner of the world, but rather cultivating internal diversity. Culturally diverse companies frequently outperform homogeneous teams by as much as 35 percent. Additionally, a company that invests in both emerging talent and experienced professionals will reap the benefits of having access to a wide range of perspectives. Last but not least, global companies, too, have to maintain a level of transparency and sincerity in order to properly manage expectations and to earn the loyalty and motivation of employees, customers, partners and investors.

Finally, could you please complete the following sentence: Berlin is...

...young and brave.

Gary Lin, born in Minnesota in 1975, has more than 15 years experience in online marketing. After obtaining an MBA from University of Michigan Business School he worked for several companies in Los Angeles, New York, Hong Kong and Sao Paolo. He founded glispa in 2001 and moved his company headquarters to Berlin in 2008.