It’s official! AdTonos has now been around for 5 years and today, we provide the best solution for audio ads used in the largest, most recognisable audio publishers like podcasts, audiobooks, gaming, music and radio streams across Europe, the United States, Asia, Africa and the LATAM.
The growing need for accessibility of audio ads means we need to perform faster and better than others. That is why we are successfully running a platform that handles:
1.3 billion + HTTP requests per month (~250/S)
272 million + unique listeners per month
1.3 billion+ AMQP messages per month (~150/S)
13 billion + DB operations per month (~1.5K/S)
1.3 TB+ DB size
65 TB+ upload, 1TB+ download per month.
Thanks to our robust technology, today brands have at their fingertips, an easy-to-reach audience of more than 272 million unique online audio listeners from not the UK but worldwide as well and the potential of at least 3 billion ad playouts a month.
Wojciech Lichota, CTO and Co-Founder of AdTonos, devoted a tremendous amount of time and work to build the AdTonos platform, which he and his team are continually developing and maintaining today.
For Wojciech, the story began over 3 years ago when he joined AdTonos and now we are asking him about how it all started and what it’s like to develop such a large project.
Wojciech, how did your AdTonos journey start? How did the adventure begin for you?
I replied to a job advertisement posted by AdTonos, interestingly not for the CTO position, but for the role of ‘Head of Engineering’. What made me decide to join AdTonos? In Poland, most startups, that are looking for people, are simple mobile applications or CRUD dashboards. AdTonos, however, stood out in its technical complexity. It was and still is a non-trivial project with interesting things to work on. So I responded to the job listing and met with Michal, CEO & Founder of AdTonos, and we talked for over 2 hours. During the meeting, Michal surprised me when he told me that the CTO position is available and asked me to consider joining as Co-Founder. And that’s how I am here now.
What were the beginnings of the project like? What did you think you needed to do to get started with the project?
The Minimum Viable Product (MVP) was created by a software house before I joined but it never went into production. The first client already waited to start so my first task was to add the “finishing touches” and start broadcasting Polish Radio London through our platform. The deadline was very short, I had a month to get to know the system and prepare the first production release. However, even though the MVP was ready, it was never tested on a real radio station and real listeners. It was a challenge to make it on time. But, fortunately, it was ready on time. We started to stream to the first listeners on October 16, 2018. Unfortunately, this publisher decided to not continue after a few weeks of tests because he couldn’t use other tools to measure the audience. But the test was successful for us. We proved that the main functionality works and we can serve the first ads.
What are the most significant milestones in the development of technology at AdTonos, in your opinion?
The next planned implementation was RMF, the largest Polish radio station, with enormous traffic and a significant number of listeners. To handle this deployment, I decided to rebuild the system architecture and rewrite the monolithic app into microservices. To get access to more advertisements, we started the integration with Triton Digital and AdForm, DSP platforms, which allowed us to enter the open market in programmatic. Having microservices significantly reduced the time to integrate with DSP platforms.
The next milestone in our tech was opening up to VAST. I wrote a server that could handle VAST requests. This allowed us to put our ads in all audio formats not only on radios. In this way, our equipment grew by leaps and bounds. And that’s all within my first year of joining AdTonos.
In September 2019, the first developers joined my team. We started working on the Aquaier role and the Drumbeat module to integrate streaming providers and thousands of radio stations at the same time. We have also started work on the Yours Truly technology – interactive audio ads for smart speakers like Alexa and Google Assistant.
In just 2021, the platform grew by over 5 times and reached 272 million unique listeners per month, enabling the playouts of nearly 3 billion advertisements.
During these three years, what was the most difficult time for the business and for you personally? What was the biggest challenge?
The most difficult thing to do is to find the balance between time to market and doing something right, the way you want to. It would be nice to have more time for engineering and have a nearly perfect solution, but we would be in the market later. So you have to balance when to enter the market and focus on scaling later. And also when is the right moment to scale up to avoid performance issues.
This is the problem that I am concerned with all the time, from the beginning to the present day. You have to think about it and balance it all the time. On the one hand, we have the needs of the business team, and on the other hand, the developers want to do something that works properly and that the cost of scaling is not higher than doing it from the beginning.
Personally, the biggest challenge with such a large platform is the amount of work. You can’t only work 8 hours a day. There is no such thing as nine-to-five in a startup, especially when you are a Co-Founder, you could work 24hrs. Also, finding time for the family, to rest, not to mention finding time for a hobby is a great challenge.
What brings you the most satisfaction in this project?
There is huge satisfaction because it is definitely the biggest project I’ve worked on in my career. And I have been working for several years, I have run many large projects for large corporations. But this one is definitely the biggest one, and most of the stuff on this project was either written by me or by the team that I lead. I created this project and I can sign it with pride.
Wojciech, tell us a little about yourself. What do you like to do when you take a break from work? Do you have any hobbies you’re passionate about?
I like to spend my free time with my family. As for my hobbies, I like electronics and I like to play with the soldering iron, creating new things. For example, I made some smart home sensors myself. We also run a YouTube channel with my sons about programming for children, which is a lot of fun for me and my sons.
How do I rest? My wife and I watch TV series in order to forget about work for a moment. My favourites are “Castle”, “CSI” and “The Big Bang Theory”. I also like listening to music. For work, it’s vocal trance and electronic music, and when it comes to concerts, Polish rock performers: HappySad, Perfect and others. The energy is great, I have fun with this kind of music.
Let’s look to the future. How do you think the company and the project will change in the next five years?
We are sure to face another major architectural change in the system, i.e. the introduction of an OLAP database and event stream-processing, which will change the approach to architecture. We will also definitely increase the R&D team and expand the Development Centre. This will be a big change that will have a significant impact on the project. I also want to expand the team with new roles that we don’t have yet. We will be moving towards team specialisation as the project is already big enough. We want to hire a Voice Interaction UX Designer or SRE.
How do you think the audio advertising technology will change in the coming years?
It will definitely be easier. Looking back a dozen or so years, and how you had to try to listen to music or digital audio, I remember cassette tapes, then the mp3, but you had to download them to your iPod. It’s getting easier to consume audio every year. This trend will continue and it will be easier and easier to consume audio over time. One button, one voice command and I will get what I want to listen to, without searching, without installing anything extra. When you want to listen, you’ll have it ready right away. And if so, there will be more and more space for us to launch AdTonos technology and insert an advertisement.
What is your dream for AdTonos? What would you like to achieve in the future?
I wish that AdTonos becomes the best project for developers and that there is always something technologically cool, challenging and allowing developers to develop their skills. I wish to maintain the great atmosphere in the team and not to lose it even after growing the team further.
We believe that Wojciech’s predictions and dreams will come true in the coming years, our project will continue to develop and grow beyond our imaginations. The next 5 years will be a great adventure in the world of audio advertising for our entire team.