Introducing CMDTY

Brian O'Kelley
Sep 11, 2019 · 4 min read

In 2007, I started AppNexus in my apartment. Over the next 11 years, I poured myself into leading the company as we helped the largest advertisers and digital publishers take advantage of real-time bidding, a fundamental shift in the way ads were bought and sold. When I wasn’t diving deep on strategy or spending time with our customers, I competed in (and lost!) the annual talent show; hosted hundreds of “KidNexians” on take your kid to work day; and cheered for my colleagues at the Razzle Dazzle.

Brian wearing a daughter-mandated tie

In February, six months after we sold AppNexus to AT&T, I walked out of the AppNexus office for the last time, waving tearfully goodbye to over 1,000 colleagues who had shared the journey with me. Over the next few months I mentored underrepresented founders and invested in their companies. I testified in front of the Senate Judicial Committee about privacy and antitrust. I took my daughter to school every morning and even picked her up a few times. At the same time, the entrepreneur in me began to reawaken.

Ready to move on from advertising and digital media, I started to look for a market with similar scale, complexity, and impact where a diverse, global, values-driven team could make a transformative impact. I found physical commodities: a $4 trillion industry that provides the raw materials for the global economy and has not yet been disrupted by technology. Similar to advertising, physical commodities has a complex supply chain, deep entanglement with public policy, and structural inefficiencies that harm producers and consumers alike. Supply chain and logistics technologies are starting to fundamentally change the way that commodities are traded and transported, with significant potential for disruption due to autonomous vehicles, environmental policies, and changes to the global trade landscape.

Andrea

Through a mutual friend, I was introduced to Andrea Aranguren. Not only was Andrea the VP of Operations for Goldman’s physical commodities business, she was instrumental in the product development for an AI-based commodities document digitization and inventory reconciliation platform at IHS Markit. On top of having three young kids, she also led business development and supply chain optimization efforts for two successful startups. As she and I talked about the way that physical commodities businesses operate, we both started to get excited about the opportunity to bring a new perspective to the market, and she agreed to join me as a co-founder.

As we talked about our mission — to make physical commodities as efficient as possible — we thought to ourselves, why not start with the word ‘commodity’ itself? We shortened it to CMDTY (but still pronounce it like commodity!) and our company was born. Our mission is to use technology to streamline the physical commodities supply chain; help participants optimize their activities; and to find global efficiencies through data science and technology. Our first product, a trading and logistics platform, will help commodities companies streamline their operations and reduce their costs of execution.

While part of me wanted to self-fund CMDTY, I knew we could grow faster if we brought on great investors to help us. My first phone call was to Mike Tyrrell from Venrock, who had been our lead director at AppNexus. Mike is one of the few VCs that I’ve met that understands the emotional and operational journey of the entrepreneur. Mike and Venrock supported me as a risk-taker, funding us in key stages of our growth and standing behind fundamental initiatives like our decision to clean up the supply chain and our huge emphasis on diversity and inclusion. I am thrilled to have Mike join the board and to have Venrock as a lead investor in CMDTY.

At the same time, I talked to a handful of other firms about what we were doing and was overwhelmed and flattered by the interest about CMDTY we received. Marissa Campise and Wes Tang-Wymer from Rucker Park immediately impressed me. They got up to speed quickly, helped us expand our understanding of the commodities space, and even flew across the country to help us do some diligence. Over the decade I’ve known Marissa, I have been inspired by her intelligence, creativity, and work ethic. It’s my honor and pleasure to have Rucker Park as a key investor in CMDTY and to have Marissa joining our board.

Over the next few months, we’ll be building out the CMDTY team as well as our initial product. As I’ve learned over the past twenty-five years as an entrepreneur, the secret to success is two words: people matter. We have extensive networks in both technology and commodities and will bring together top talent from both industries to create an exceptional team. I’m excited to work with Andrea and our growing team to build something that matters — not just great products, but a great company that respects and includes people from different backgrounds, supports our lives and families outside work, and embodies our values in everything we do.

We’d love to share our story as we go. Sign up for the CMDTY mailing list!

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