A Startup Disrupting the Digital Ad Industry

By Christina Scotti
Published January 31, 2014

They are high-tech Mad Men focused on the digital ad industry of the future.

Victor Wong, Roger Lee and Victor Cheng are the three co-founders behind PaperG, an ad startup that is trying to make it easier for small businesses to advertise online.

“We really want to democratize online advertising and make it accessible to any advertiser, big or small,” said Lee.

By searching the Internet for related content, like images from the a business’ website and reviews from Yelp, the company uses a complex algorithm to build any company an online ad -- within minutes.

“Our engine goes out there and finds all the related content for an advertiser, and we are able to then design an ad automatically with that content,” said Wong. “Traditionally, it would take much longer to design an ad.”

Started in 2008, PaperG is growing rapidly: Within the last year, the San-Francisco based startup has doubled in size to roughly 60 employees and has brought in over $10 million in revenues in 2013 alone.

“Google built its entire business around finding relevant content for a search and other companies like Adobe have built their business around the best design tools for editing,” explained Wong. “We basically put those both together.”

Today, the company doesn't sell its services to businesses directly. Instead, it partners with around 100 publishers including Hearst, which then offer the service to companies that advertise with them. PaperG's services vary in price, generally starting at several hundred dollars per month for the smallest partners and increasing depending on the size of the company. 

“Our plan is to be a disruption in the industry,” said Wong. “Everything we do is about rethinking how previously highly manual and very difficult, time-consuming processes work and trying to reimagine them if technology were available to make it a simple, magical experience.”


Q&A with Co-founders Victor Wong and Roger Lee

What is your favorite quote and why?

Wong: "Everything around you that you call life was made up by people no smarter than you … Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.” - Steve Jobs

Lee: "It ain't over til it's over." - Yogi Berra

Who is your biggest inspiration?

Wong: Michael Bloomberg

Lee: Bill Gates

What is the best piece of advice you've ever gotten?

Wong: Create more value than you capture. Everyone is wealthier and happier from it.

Lee: You should learn how to make a website -- it could be useful someday.

What has been the biggest challenge in starting PaperG? 

Lee: PaperG started right at the beginning of the recession and our success was dependent on whether we could build a valuable product and get paying customers. It was hard to raise money, and many businesses were going under. We worked hard to create an ad design software that helped small businesses, and that media companies were willing to pay for. This helped us overcome the difficult economy and achieve profitability in the last couple of years.

What are three things you can't live without?

Wong: Internet, coffee, passport.

Lee: Water, air, Internet

What is the future for PaperG?

Wong: To make good design accessible to any advertiser

Any plans to sell?

Wong and Lee: No