EXelate estimates the traditional market research industry (i.e. panels and surveys) at roughly $30 billion annually, a little less than the total yearly online ad sales.
That eXelate can bring a tool like optiX to market reflects advertisers' embrace of technology.
"Ad tech is no longer a novelty for brands," Zagorski said. "We're well past the tipping point in the importance of ad tech to the ad industry. Criteo and Rocket Fuel's successful IPOs bear that out. So there's a fundamental shift on the advertiser side. They're comfortable coming to ad-technology companies directly, as opposed to going through an agency."
The greater acceptance of ad technology doesn't necessarily mean that the overall ad sales pie is growing that substantially, Zagorski added. What is changing is how that money is getting spent, not how much. The mantra of doing more with less is everywhere, but it's particularly well-suited to the SaaS enterprise model as opposed to the volume-based CPM business that most companies in the space have relied on.
Of course, Zagorski is quick to wave off any talk of IPO ambitions for eXelate or a desire to completely shift into a services-based business model — something of a trend among data companies. But while Zagorski said he isn't that interested in overhauling the way eXelate makes money, he acknowledged the appeal of being able to charge companies licensing fees for the use of its software instead of relying solely on revenue shares tied to impressions.
"OptiX is a SaaS-based model, and although it's not our first step toward that space, it is our most significant move into the fee-based services." Zagorski said. "SaaS revenues are always considered the best by Wall Street, because the stream of revenue is so predictable. We like that too, but we're not trying to please investors with easily recurring revenues. We're going to build models that make the most sense to our clients."