Rene Rechtman: The highs and excitements of start-ups

Following the success of TradeDoubler - one of the first online advertisers - Rene Rechtman started Goviral, capitalising on the video-streaming craze. Now with AOL, where does the Danish entrepreneur see his next challenge?

It didn't take long for Rene Rechtman to realise that joining a private-equity firm was a mistake. After just 15 months, he decided to switch to a start-up. "The dotcom boom was taking off. Not to get involved in an internet start-up then would be like living in the 1960s and not smoking pot."

In 2000, a "Swedish banker connection" introduced him to the founders of a small internet advertising firm, TradeDoubler. The firm had developed an early version of click through' internet advertising that let customers click on an advertisement and pass through to an internet vendor's website. "It could track thousands of adverts and tell dotcom shops where their customers had come from.

At the time there was nothing like it." But while the founders had good software they didn't have much of a business. "Thousands of internet shops were setting up and more people were buying online. They wanted to build up fast." Rechtman promised to establish the firm in his native Denmark, in exchange for equity in the young firm.

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Back in Copenhagen "I had to do everything, from buying the furniture to setting up a team. It was great." He also began to establish a network of sites (owned by the likes of newspapers and price comparison websites) where he could place advertisers.

Rechtman was acting as a broker between consumers and online retailers such as eBay. "The internet was getting a lot of hype around 2000, but it wasn't till a few years later that internet advertising really took off." Suddenly he began gaining advertising money from print competitors. "My clients liked the accountability. They knew what they were getting for their money."

In 2004, with Copenhagen sales booming, Rechtman was called back to London and made director for all of TradeDoubler's advertising. In 2005, the group raised 350m Swedish kroner (about £25m at the time) by listing on the Stockholm Stock Exchange. But Rechtman began to enjoy his job less. "We were no longer the owners and I no longer felt like I was working for a dynamic start-up." By 2008 he had found a new project.

This time he linked up with a fellow Dane, Jimmy Maymann, who had set up a new firm, Goviral. Maymann had created an online video player to show firms' video advertisements. At the time, Goviral had a small network of publishing sites where it could place the video player and was generating about £1m in sales. Maymann wanted Rechtman to grow the business in return for a chunk of equity.

Rechtman was delighted: "it was clear to me then that social media and video were going to be massive". Goviral caught two waves: the increased investment in broadband infrastructure crucial to streaming videos and "consumers changing from wanting the cheapest internet deals to becoming social animals".

A cost-per view model ensured firms only paid for videos that had been watched. Sales grew at a rate of more than 100% per year almost every year until, in January last year, AOL bought the Danish firm for $97.4m (about £61m). As AOL's head of European advertising, the 41-year-old Dane is confident that he can help turn around the global web services company.

James graduated from Keele University with a BA (Hons) in English literature and history, and has a NCTJ certificate in journalism.


After working as a freelance journalist in various Latin American countries, and a spell at ITV, James wrote for Television Business International and covered the European equity markets for the London bureau. 


James has travelled extensively in emerging markets, reporting for international energy magazines such as Oil and Gas Investor, and institutional publications such as the Commonwealth Business Environment Report. 


He is currently the managing editor of LatAm INVESTOR, the UK's only Latin American finance magazine.