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Josh Rosen is the President of Hotspex Media, a digital advertising agency ranked the #1 Media Buying and Planning Agency on Clutch. He oversees a team of VPs and Directors focused on ad operations, revenue operations, product, and customer success. With an ever-evolving digital ecosystem and changing client demands, Josh played a pivotal role in developing a unique product offering, Reticle AI, designed to be a self-serve tool for media planning and buying teams. He previously served as the President of Wave Digital Media, an independent trading desk for real-time digital media buys that was acquired by Hotspex.

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Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • [03:42] Josh Rosen introduces Hotspex Media and the services it offers
  • [04:21] The original idea behind Wave Digital Media
  • [07:46] How Hotspex acquired its initial clients and how they charged them
  • [10:08] How to manage expenses and mistakes when growing a small business
  • [19:44] Hotspex’s business model
  • [21:32] Structuring business partnerships
  • [26:13] Hotspex’s customer success stories
  • [28:48] Platform recommendations for digital marketing
  • [32:29] Josh shares how to hire, retain, and motivate in-office and remote employees
  • [38:12] Managing the relationship between “yin and yang” co-founders
  • [41:46] The Wave Digital Media acquisition by Hotspex
  • [45:46] The genesis of Reticle AI and what it does

In this episode…

The business world is more competitive than ever, and staying ahead of the curve requires a comprehensive digital marketing strategy. Unfortunately, many brands don’t have the expertise to navigate the complexities of the digital ecosystem effectively. That’s where a digital marketing agency comes in.

With a dedicated team of experts to help with media planning and buying, businesses can take advantage of the latest digital marketing tools and techniques to reach their target audience and drive growth. Marketing expert Josh Rosen says that in today’s digital landscape, these professionals can help businesses develop customized marketing strategies tailored to their specific needs and goals. He shares their journey running a digital advertising agency to make digital marketing better.

In this episode of the Inspired Insider Podcast, Dr. Jeremy Weisz chats with Josh Rosen, President of Hotspex Media, to discuss how they are helping companies thrive through digital advertising. Josh introduces the services Hotspex offers, the original idea behind Wave Digital Media before its acquisition by Hotspex, its business model, platform recommendations for digital marketing, and Reticle AI.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

Special Mention(s):

Related episode(s):

Quotable Moments:

  • “Celebrate the highs, learn from the lows, but don’t get caught up in them.”
  • “Stay true to who you are.”
  • “People buy from people.”
  • “Don’t judge us in the good times, judge us when something goes wrong.”

Sponsor for this episode

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Episode Transcript

Intro 0:01

You are listening to Inspired Insider with your host, Dr. Jeremy Weisz.

Jeremy Weisz 0:22

Dr. Jeremy Weisz here, founder of, where I talk with inspirational entrepreneurs and leaders today is no different. I have Josh Rosen of Hotspex Media and Reticle AI. And Josh, before I formally introduce you, I always like to point out other episodes, people should check out of the podcast and some other good ones Jason Swenk, I had on he built his agency up to over eight figures and sold it and then he actually started a group to help agency owners and he has a separate company, they’ve been buying up agencies and in the agency space was really interesting on this, the evolution and the valuations and everything like that. And also, Todd Taskey, head on who’s got the Second Bite Podcast, he also helps kind of pair private equity with agencies and helps them sell. And sometimes they make more on the second bite than they do on the first and we’ll get into some of these things too, because Josh has a journey that relates to some of these topics as well. And before we get into it, this episode is brought to you by Rise25. At Rise25, we help businesses give to and connect to their dream 100 relationships. And how do we do that we actually help you run your podcasts. We’re an easy button for a company to launch and run a podcast we do the accountability, the strategy, the full execution. Josh, we call ourselves the magic elves that run in the background and make it look easy for the hosts in the company. So they can create great content and develop amazing relationships. For me, the number one thing is relationships. I’m always looking at ways to give to my best relationships. And I’ve found no better way over the past decade to profile the people and companies I most admire and share with the world what they’re working on. So if you’ve thought about podcasting, you should if you have questions, you can go to been doing it for over a decade. Josh, I’m excited to Josh Rosen, he’s co-founder and president at Hotspex Media, he oversees VPs, directors that are focused on ad operations, revenue operations, product customer success, actually, he grew the company from his origin from three to over 40. And then we’ll talk about the merging with Hotspex. And Josh is also the co-founder of Reticle AI, which was born out of the Hotspex Media and his experience there that he helped create a self-serve tool for media planning and buying teams is just called Reticle AI. And they created it to make advertising better. And this element made Hotspex Media, one of the top growth companies also they’re ranked by Deloitte and Ad Age, best places to work in 2023. And Reticle continues to build a reputation with the industry recognition from, which is the best buy-side innovation, right? And there’s so much more, which we’ll dig into. And he does this all while balancing family life with wife and three kids. So Josh, thanks for joining me.

Josh Rosen 3:18

Thank you very much for having me. I sound very impressive when you say it.

Jeremy Weisz 3:22

You we got to have you overtake YouTube, the other Josh Rosen from football. So talk about Hotspex Media and what you do.

Josh Rosen 3:31

I thought you’re gonna ask me to talk about football and how I plan on winning a Heisman trophy.

Jeremy Weisz 3:38

I don’t know anything about that.

Josh Rosen 3:42

Yeah, absolutely. So Hotspex Media is a programmatic trading desk, we worked with agencies and brands directly helped develop strategy, and then actually implementing buying, and then reporting which has become one of our biggest investment components of our business over the last couple of years. So that we’re able to help brands really recognize the value and the investment and working with us.

Jeremy Weisz 4:10

You started Wave Digital Media, which I said, then merged with Hotspex. But what was the original idea with Wave Digital Media?

Josh Rosen 4:21

Yeah, great question. So we started Wave Digital Media in 2014. It was actually born out of a dorm room with the idea of being an affiliate marketer through a cousin of mine, who was selling diet pills and E cigarettes online. That was like a killer combination. Yes, killer combination, not as interesting as like Wozniak and Jobs Out of the garage and California. But the idea was, hey, the power of the Internet and Internet advertising was growing at the time, it was called real-time bidding. The notion of programmatic was nowhere near what we know it to be today. And we really took this idea with Wave Digital, say, hey, how can we be a shepherd to the various industries and brands that were trying, or have just started to dip their toe into this thing called digital and experiment with real-time bidding. We didn’t think that we could build better technology at the time that was already out there with the likes of Facebook, and Google and Twitter at the time. So I like to talk in analogies a lot. I equate it to being a racecar driver, saying, we didn’t design the track, we didn’t build the car. But we certainly are very good at driving and getting around the track faster than anybody else. And that was the guiding principle in what we were setting out to do, how do we help advertisers navigate the complexities of real-time bidding in the most meaningful way possible.

Jeremy Weisz 5:57

So was the original idea you are going to do this for yourself through affiliate, so you would basically find a product and you would basically advertise that product as an affiliate and make the spread.

Josh Rosen 6:11

That’s how it started. And then as the self-serve tools became more available, and the idea of a DSP started to emerge, it was like, okay, we can take this and we can become this agency, where we are working with more legitimate are top tier brands and agencies directly to help them. Like I said, get into the space that there wasn’t a lot of knowledge. And it’s very interesting, because there was no real veterans of it. At the time, the closest you had was anybody who was in, SEO or SEM space. And the affiliate game, as far as hands-on keyboard people were concerned. And those were some of our early hires. We didn’t have time, and we didn’t even understand ourselves as founders, really? How to the nuance around the specific industry. So we really relied on people that had been in it for a few three-four years. Like you said, on the affiliate side, and then say, okay, how do we apply it to what is now programmatic?

Jeremy Weisz 7:19

Yeah, because I’ve had people on and Josh, that they stayed in that space, and they became more of a direct, like, that’s what they just continue to do from an affiliate perspective and just drive tons of traffic, and make a lot of money that way. You took a different route, you want to basically help a lot different clients. And who was the first pivotal client, if you can’t say their name, just what industry were they in? And how that come about?

Josh Rosen 7:46

Yeah, it was an auto group out of Quebec, that was our first pivotal client. That was our first real client, to be honest, that wasn’t an aunt, or a father of one of the founders, or cousin or a good friend who was spending a couple $100 a month with us, and we weren’t able to really track anything or do anything. Yeah, they were our first real client that we were able to prospect and then close.

Jeremy Weisz 8:18

And what were you doing for them at the time?

Josh Rosen 8:24

We were running their digital media campaigns for the entire Auto Group and the various brands that fell under the group. I can’t remember the stats off top of my head, because it was like seven years ago.

Jeremy Weisz 8:40

I mean, what platforms were you? At that point, they were probably not doing any online advertising right.

Josh Rosen 8:46

They’re doing a little bit. It was mostly through display and search. I don’t recall if social was anywhere even near the realm of where it is now back then. Yeah. So maybe we’re dipping our toe into it a little bit?

Jeremy Weisz 9:03

And then how did you decide early on how to charge?

Josh Rosen 9:09

What were you charging at the time, you’re assuming that I still know that I have figured it out.

Jeremy Weisz 9:14

I’m making more an assumption that you maybe have a better idea.

Josh Rosen 9:18

We have a better idea. We kind of let that lead by the client. Hey, how are you charging for this before? Does this feel comfortable to you? We had a rough idea, obviously, of what our hardware costs were at the time in terms of our miniscule salaries, and then our tiny office rent that we had, and then what our Starbucks Bill was on a weekly basis. And that was basically what we just want to ensure we had covered.

Jeremy Weisz 9:52

How do you just survive early on you mentioned when you have a company, you what you kill? Right and there are expenses. And for both you and your co-founder have personal expenses. How did you manage that, while starting a business?

Josh Rosen 10:08

It was hard. There was leaning lean times. And I’m grateful for it. Because it really shaped us. And I truly believe that the success that we’ve experienced over the last decade can be directly attributed to those lean times. I don’t think we have ever forgotten that. And I feel that we continue to operate as if it’s all going to go away tomorrow. We’ve never taken any outside investment. Everything is very measured on a shoestring budget, if you will. We continue to operate very, very methodically. And with the idea that we have a fiduciary responsibility not only to ourselves, but to our staff that we don’t overextend, we don’t over-invest. So that we’re not laying off, we have an attrition rate that is significantly below the industry standard, well below 4%, on both a client side, and on an individual staff side, we’re one of the few firms especially in Canada, it’s continuing to grow, both in revenue and through staff, even during the pandemic as well.

Jeremy Weisz 11:30

We’ll get to Josh best places to work and some of the things you do as a culture. But I wanted to talk about some of the milestones like, their lean years, early on, you said you grew from three to over 40, what were some of the milestones along the way that allowed for that growth?

Josh Rosen 11:50

Revenue. It was really about from me and my co-founder and employees and wanting to understanding our roles and our functions within the company. And there is no ego, there’s nowhere to hide when there’s four or five, six of you. So if someone’s not pulling their weight and willing to roll up their sleeves, then, you were exposed very quickly. We had some good advisors around us, that really helped us put in process and rigor from our financial practices and reporting to biz-dev and relationship building that made us operate as if we were larger than what we were. So even though the numbers coming in were small in comparison, we had very strong visibility and transparency into, what our profit was, what our gross margin was, what revenue we’re trailing towards being able to look back and be like, hey, q1 is great for us, q2 starts to taper off q3 Is dismal, q4 is great. And once you start to have some of that history, you’re able to then plan accordingly and really deploy a strategic vision to be like, hey, we need to put some major effort in q4 to set us up for success for q1, which will then carry over into two to offset a down in three, and rinse repeat. And it was kind of at every year that we had and were able to demonstrate more and more success that we looked back at it and said, okay, where’s the room for improvement, we never really rested on our laurels in that capacity. We always want to do better and believe that we could do better.

Jeremy Weisz 13:49

Who are some of those? You mentioned visors, who are some of the key mentors and advisors and maybe a piece of advice they gave you.

Josh Rosen 13:55

So they were various family members, people that had run large, successful businesses, some of them were involved directly in the industry, where we license some of the technology from or had been partners of ours along the way. I think the best advice that we ever got was, stay neutral, celebrate the highs, learn from the lows, but don’t get caught up in them. Come back to center and know that there’s a job to do. And stay true to who we are. People buy from people. And we knew our place in the ecosystem as far as we weren’t developing anything at the time. That was groundbreaking technology. So why us and we always went to market with the idea that we were like investment bankers, right that we were taking money and you needed to see a return. And you are entrusting us with that. And we took that very seriously. And we weren’t spending it frivolously inflating results. And even today, I say to prospective partners, I say, don’t judge us in the good times, that’s easy. Just when something goes wrong, when there’s an underspend or an overspend, or a tracker falls off, and we’re not able to attribute return on ad spend to you, if we miss a report, like there’s going to be things that go wrong, how we respond to that is where I want you to measure because that’s the true measure of the partnership.

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