Cameron Yuill: How I stayed afloat as the dotcom tide turned

Cameron Yuill's online advertising business hit hard times when the financial crisis hit. So he turned to social media and within a year his company was turning over £4m.

The thing Cameron Yuill enjoyed most about being a corporate lawyer "was the moment I quit".

After practising law for five years in Australia, the 44-year-old "was desperate to do something more exciting". Following a string of advertising ventures he became involved in Viator, a travel website. "The idea was to create a one-stop-shop handling bookings, reviews and everything else. Back in 1997 it was a novel concept." With US venture capital funding secured, Yuill moved to Silicon Valley. "It was a great place to be in the years leading up to 2000. There was so much enthusiasm for anything internet." And although the "dotcom tide went out", Viator managed to stay afloat. Yet by 2002 Yuill wanted to leave. "The company had grown and changed it didn't need an entrepreneur like me anymore." He quit and then spent time at a string of internet firms "like all entrepreneurs I get bored very quickly".

But in 2007 Yuill spotted a new opportunity. While perusing Australian websites, it suddenly struck him as odd "seeing adverts aimed at Australians when I was sitting in California". Yuill realised that advertisers were not "making the most out of the international nature of the web" and that millions of internet users were looking at "irrelevant" advertisements. "It was crazy because the technology to change advertisements, depending on who was viewing them, already existed."

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He decided to create a firm that would work as an international middleman between websites and advertisers. AdGent007 got off to a "flying start". Yuill found it "easy" to persuade websites to let his firm sell their advertising space to foreign markets. "After all most of them hadn't even thought about international audiences before." As he built up a network of influential websites, (such as The Huffington Post), it became easier to convince advertisers that they could find their market on his sites.

"It was a win-win situation. We were finding new international advertising money for websites and a new way for advertisers to reach their target."

Yet after six months Yuill realised that AdGent007 had started "at the worst possible time". By mid-2008 internet advertising spending started to "fall off a cliff" as the financial crisis hit. With clients looking to spend far less, Yuill latched onto "the phenomenon of social media". His idea was to "make programs that can help businesses get the most out of it". One example is a customised box that allows companies to post new website information via Twitter. This means firms can "update their site without paying a web developer". "Tweetology", on the other hand, is a customised box that pulls in live Twitter comments. Warner Bros uses the service to encourage fans of a particular TV show to debate plot and characters. "The end result is that more people spend more time on a website."

By 2009 AdGent007's sales reached more than £4m the company is on target to "double or even triple that in 2010". After three years at his latest venture, Yuill is still hooked: "social media moves so quickly that if we relax we become irrelevant we always need to develop new products. That keeps me interested".

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.