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Silicon Valley veteran joins Tampa digital advertising startup

Brian Hartz

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Silicon Valley veteran Shama Keskar has joined Tampa-based Nickelytics as chief technology officer and co-founder.

Google. Amazon. LinkedIn. Shama Keskar has held leadership roles at some of the biggest names in tech, and now she’s headed to Tampa to join Nickelytics, a startup that aims to disrupt the out-of-home advertising industry with a unique approach to collecting and analyzing data that can demonstrate an advertiser’s return on investments in signage on vehicles.

Keskar, a 14-year veteran of the tech sector, is not physically coming to Tampa — she’ll work remotely from Seattle for family reasons — but she told the Catalyst that the region’s rising prominence as a tech hub “definitely” played a role in her decision to accept an offer to become a co-founder and chief technology officer at Nickelytics.

Nickelytics co-founder and CEO Judah Longgrear.

Judah Longgrear, the co-founder and CEO of Nickelytics, said Keskar “checked all the boxes” for what he was looking for in a CTO when he began to put out feelers via Angel.co, a recruiting website for tech professionals. What started out initially as a consulting engagement, he said, quickly turned into “a good long-term fit.”

He added, “At first, we were looking for more of an official CTO type of role, but as we got further along in our discussions and started to understand all the value Shama could bring, it became a no-brainer to add her to the co-founding team.”

Keskar started her career in ad sales for Google, the company, along with Facebook, that completely and fundamentally altered the world of online advertising. So she knows a thing or two about disruptive technologies.

“Outdoor advertising is a space that not many tech companies have explored, in terms of innovation,” she said, “so there is room to grow. We want to look at how we can make out-of-home advertising a more streamlined experience for advertisers as well as drivers. Measuring is very critical because we want to enable data-driven decisions. That’s definitely something I’m going to be looking into.”

Nickelytics evolved from The Nickel Ride, a ride-share company that Longgrear founded. The Nickel Ride no longer exists, but Nickelytics has retained its predecessor’s emphasis on vehicle-based advertising; however, instead of providing its own transportation, the company partners with drivers for Lyft and Uber — two other tech companies that upended an entire industry.

Keskar said she sees some of the same innovative DNA in Nickelytics, and she’s excited to be getting in on the ground floor with another startup.

“I am excited to join Nickelytics as co-founder and CTO as I see a massive opportunity for disruption in the OOH space,” she said. “My background and experience with Google’s large complex ad systems position me to innovate in the out-of-home [advertising] space and take it to the next level.”

Although Keskar’s resume states that she’s worked for some bona fide tech titans, they weren’t always so big. In fact, when she left Google in 2009 to join LinkedIn, the latter was still considered a startup. She also boasts M&A experience, having served as CTO of SpringSeattle, a company that merged with ThinkSpace.

“Shama’s leadership, vision, and execution skills are critical for our next phase of growth,” Longgrear stated in a news release about the hiring of Keskar. “Shama’s deep experience building large, scalable solutions for some of the largest brands in the tech world coupled with her successful entrepreneurial endeavors is essential for our company’s evolution in the marketplace.”

Throughout her career, however, Keskar said she has faced some challenging situations as a female executive in an industry whose leaders are often white males. According to Zippia.com, a workplace research firm that analyzes U.S. Census Bureau data, just 7 percent of CTOs are women.

“When you’re speaking, somebody might just cut you off,” she said. “That has happened to me. And then I had to let that person know that they should let me finish. I found my voice and got to know my voice … and my managers and bosses have always been very supportive.”

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