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May 18, 2015 10 TO WATCH

Venkat Kolluri - CEO, Chitika Inc. and Cidewalk Inc.

Venkat Kolluri, CEO of Internet advertising companies Chitika Inc. in Westborough and Cidewalk Inc. in Southborough, describes himself in simple terms.

“I'm probably about the most hard-core geek you would ever run into,” said Kolluri, a native of India who moved to Boston in the late 1990s to work for search engine company Lycos. An engineer with a degree from the University of Pittsburgh, Kolluri said the job “opened his eyes” to the power of the web in making connections between advertisers and consumers.

And so, despite the fact that Kolluri lacks what he calls a “typical advertising background,” he saw an opportunity to use his engineering mind to apply that technology to make those connections happen.

Kolluri launched Chitika in 2003 with his business partner, Alden DoRosario, the company's chief technology officer. “Chitika” means “with a snap of the fingers” in Telugu, a language predominant in certain regions of India. And it's fitting, according to Kolluri, because what the company essentially does is enable clicks on online advertisements. As the “connection agent” between advertisers and consumers, Kolluri likened the work they do to matchmaking.

With 35 employees in Westborough, Chitika serves about four billion online ads per month. The company is known for its innovative work environment, offering catered lunches and laundry service to employees, among other perks. “We cannot rely on the old structured workplace environment,” Kolluri said.

Meanwhile, Kolluri has shifted attention to the company's new mobile advertising spinoff, Cidewalk Inc., over the last year. Cidewalk started as a segment of Chitika that focused on delivering targeted mobile advertising for small-business owners. But in March, Chitika announced that Cidewalk would become its own company under the Chitika umbrella. With headquarters in Southborough, Cidewalk now employs 15 people.

The company leverages the smartphone, which provides advertisers with precise location information on their targeted customers, in delivering targeted mobile ads, Kolluri said.

Back in March, Cidewalk also announced it would partner with Yahoo Small Business, which would offer the Cidewalk platform to its customers. But the company has also taken a grassroots approach to promoting Cidewalk to small-business users by partnering with local chambers of commerce and the Westborough Economic Development Corp. to offer training and certain freebies to local businesses on the service.

“If we can empower the local businesses to grow,” Kolluri said, “all of us will succeed in this ecosystem.”


10 to Watch 2015 - Venkat Kolluri, Chitika Inc. and Cidewalk Inc.

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