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Q&A: NYC-based TripleLift makes a move into Waterloo

What brought adtech innovator TripleLift to Waterloo? We asked Jaison Zachariah, the company's VP of Technology, in this short Q&A.

In 2020, mere weeks before COVID-19 shut the world down, TripleLift landed an expansion in Waterloo.

A company that builds technology that makes advertising better for the open web, TripleLift has become a programmatic ad marketplace of buyers and sellers. They work with all 100 of AdAge’s top global advertisers and 80% of comScore’s top publishers. They’ve recently set their sights on integrated advertising in Connected Television (CTV) – think computer vision-driven product placement in your favourite streaming apps.

Growth is the order of the day – they already have 350 employees at their New York headquarters and in markets around the world – which leads us back to Waterloo, where the company has been very active despite the barriers that come along with a global pandemic.

We asked Jaison Zachariah, SVP of Technology at TripleLift, to give us the story behind the company’s decision to come to Waterloo and tell us what their future holds.

Q: First and foremost, what makes a company from NYC look at a smaller community like Waterloo in the first place? How’d you find out about us?

ZACHARIAH: It’s hard to keep a good thing a secret. TripleLift heard about Waterloo through another advertising technology company that had recently established a footprint here and had good success. We were already looking to expand our engineering talent pool beyond NYC and Waterloo was a perfect fit.

Q: What drove your decision to come to Waterloo?

ZACHARIAH: As a rapidly growing company we realized we needed to scale our engineering team beyond a single geographic location. We did a survey of various technology hotspots in North America and found Waterloo ticked all the boxes for us.

For starters, it boasts an incredible technology community. It was also important that it’s geographically close to our New York headquarters and aligns with that time zone. As we explored further, we found that the entrepreneurial nature of the talent pool in Waterloo matched our own company values really well.

We are making a long-term commitment to the region, so the proximity to one of the best technology institutions in the University of Waterloo and the general long-term growth trajectory of the region made Waterloo extremely compelling. As we began to hire the initial team, we found that the talent in Waterloo is among the best we’ve ever seen at TripleLift. Overall, the entire experience has exceeded our expectations in every way.

Q: International expansion comes with uncertainty. The speed at which you can grow your new office depends on a ton of external factors. From what I’ve heard, TripleLift didn’t just hit its growth goals – it hired twice as many people in Waterloo than it originally planned. How’d that happen?

ZACHARIAH: It took a little time for us to adjust to having our engineering team located in multiple locations. We have always had big plans for regional expansion, but we wanted to do it right, so we took our time and grew the team organically.

Then the pandemic hit and we were forced to put our growth plans on hold until we could take stock of the true impact of the pandemic. Fortunately for us, TripleLift has built an incredibly resilient business that adds real value to our partners. We saw our economic situation rebound very quickly.

The pandemic only served to reinforce our belief that engineering teams can work effectively when remote – when they aren’t located at our HQ – so it gave us an even greater conviction that expanding aggressively into Waterloo was the right thing to do. We are taking a cautious approach toward our return to office plans but notionally we are excited about the prospect of having physical space in Waterloo when it is safe to do so.

Q: What sort of work are you doing in here?

ZACHARIAH: Our initial entry strategy to this market was to build out a completely new engineering team that would be working on a brand new product line. We had been doing product discovery for several years on another product and we were ready to make the investment in an engineering team. It made sense to start with a co-located team here in Waterloo. We expanded that work to a new product line focused on Connected TV. As we gained more experience with remote engineering teams, facilitated by the pandemic, we came to realize that we could be more liberal in hiring practices by allowing any of our engineering roles to be located in any of our engineering hubs. As such, we have pretty good representation across most of our engineering teams here in Waterloo.

Q: Is this a significant operation in the grand scheme?

ZACHARIAH: Absolutely. We aim to increase the investment in Waterloo; in fact, we predict ~50%+ of our technology staff will be based in Canada by 2023. Right now, we have about 10 people working here in Waterloo, but that’s changing very quickly.

Q: A majority stake in TripleLift was recently acquired by Vista Equity Partners in one of the largest transactions in the history of adtech. Can you tell me a bit about it and what it means for your company’s future growth plans?

ZACHARIAH: The acquisition by Vista was strong validation of our business strategy and the company as a whole. The Vista acquisition is adding fuel to this fire, by helping us accelerate our CTV business as well as our international expansion. We are still a founder-led company and our values and methodologies have not changed, but we are really gearing up for the next stage of rapid growth. It’s very exciting to be a part of.

Q: How’d Waterloo EDC help your company expand to our community? Are we still helping?

ZACHARIAH: Waterloo EDC has been a partner of ours since quite literally Day 1 of our expansion into Waterloo. You have been an incredible resource to help equip us for this expansion. Our incentives are mutually aligned: TripleLift wants to expand our engineering capabilities through long-term commitment in a booming region and Waterloo EDC’s mission is to help make these great high-tech jobs a reality. It is really comforting to know that when we get stuck, we know who to call.

Q: Finally, if you could tell business leaders anything about Waterloo, what would you say?

ZACHARIAH: Waterloo should be considered one of the top technology superclusters in North America. Beyond having an incredibly talented and entrepreneurial labour pool, Waterloo has all the resources in-house to help tech companies be successful.

Want to learn more about the unique Waterloo advantage for tech companies?