Digital Dealmakers

Doug Knopper and Jon Heller, co-founders of Freewheel

The players: Doug Knopper and Jon Heller, co-CEOs and co-founders of Freewheel, based in Palo Alto, Calif.

The play: Freewheel manages online advertising campaigns for Web video publishers and content owners, including Next New Networks. “Let’s say you were watching ‘Zaproot’ on Joost and you hit play and start watching an episode. Our software will look at monetization rights and what the business arrangement is between Next New Networks and Joost and others, and if it’s Next New’s turn to serve a video or Joost’s, for instance,” Mr. Heller said.

The pitch: is designed to help Web content providers manage their ads across multiple Web sites and keep track of which site or provider is in line to serve which ads at any given moment. “We make it so multiple parties can sell and distribute content and ads online and maintain the ads,” Mr. Knopper said.

In the mix: Freewheel’s software brings into one system some of the functionality of a DoubleClick, but specifically for video ads and across a range of distributors. Freewheel has three customers, including Next New Networks, Joost and Jumpstart Automotive. Freewheel expects to announce additional customers in the next few months.

The backstory: Mr. Knopper and Mr. Heller began working together in February 2007 and launched the company at the end of last year.

The money guys: Freewheel has received an undisclosed amount of venture funding from Battery Ventures in two rounds. Freewheel makes money via a license fee and a fee for ads served.

The pros: Online video ad spending should hit $1.4 billion this year, according to eMarketer.

The cons: Like any new company, Freewheel needs to market its services and grow its customer base.

Background: Mr. Heller was born and raised in Providence, R.I. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the Wharton School and an MBA from the University of Chicago. He spent six years as an executive at DoubleClick and also worked at Visible World and Yahoo. He is 42 and lives in San Francisco. Mr. Knopper was born outside of Detroit and grew up in Michigan. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan and an MBA from Georgetown. He has held executive posts at DoubleClick and digital commerce firm Bitpass and also worked at various ad agencies. He lives in Palo Alto with his wife and son.

Who knew? Mr. Knopper owns two convertibles, a Mini Cooper and a Volkswagen Karmann Ghia. Mr. Heller likes to play classic rock on one of the four electric guitars he owns.


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