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Millennial Media alum Matt Gillis joins Clean Creative as CEO

The startup, which was founded by a team combining adtech and cybersecurity talent, recently moved into Spaces in Federal Hill.

Updated at 9:40 p.m., 2/12/19.

In leading roles with publishers and Baltimore adtech firms including Millennial Media and AOL/Oath, Matt Gillis said, he was working with folks who were affected by malvertising.

In a new role, Gillis is leading a team providing tools to publishers and platforms for protection from the ads that can spread malware: In January, Gillis joined Clean Creative as CEO.

Founded in 2017, the startup grew its team and customer base in the final months of 2018 after a full commercial release of its platform and now has an office at Spaces‘ Stadium Square location in Federal Hill.

“We’re excited and passionate to go out and fix this in the industry,” Gillis said.

Like Gillis, the former president of Millennial Media’s platform business and executive VP in that role at AOL/Oath following the 2015 acquisition, the Clean Creative team has knowledge of the problem they’re seeking to solve for customers.

The founding team includes former AOL/Verizon executives Seth Dempsey and Jay Crystal, adtech entrepreneur Doug Stupay, entrepreneur Geoff Stupay and Alexey Stoletny, a technologist with experience in software development and information security. Former Millennial Media and AOL executive Kathy Knott also recently joined as VP of operations. The company also brought on a team of 15 engineers.

They’re looking to stop malicious advertisers from buying up advertising on legitimate networks for the sake of spreading malware. To users, that activity can take the form of “auto-redirects” that take over screens and try to entice participation with a reward of some sort. Gillis said the problem for publishers occurs at the intersection of user experience and monetization, as revenue can be lost to “bad ads” as well as engagement with a site.

Clean Creative seeks to to make the malvertising unprofitable for the bad actors. It works in real time to stop the malicious advertising from appearing, whether it’s on a web or mobile platform.

“We let the creative render,” Gillis said. “What we prevent is the bad actions from happening after the creative renders.” When they don’t see engagement on a site, the bad actors will stop buying.

So far, Gillis said they’ve been growing paid customers without a dedicated business development team member. He said the company will seek to continue growing the team of 20 people in 2019, drawing on adtech and cybersecurity talent in the area.

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