Conversations: Colm Dolan, Publift

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Google alumnus Colm Dolan has traversed the highs and lows of both startup and employ worlds before taking the plunge into the competitive space of ad tech, specifically; digital publisher monetization with Publift. Today, with a team of experts and innovative technology at its core, Publift optimises ad revenue for websites and enables them to focus on delivering high-quality content.

Tell us about Publift and its audience.

Publift is a team of digital publisher monetisation experts, founded and based in Sydney. We provide cutting edge technology solutions to online publishers. Our client base is websites that generate revenue through advertising.

What were you doing when the idea about Publift came to you?
I was working for a startup called Rollup Media. The company failed to win a series B funding round, which meant they were shutting down the Australian operations. As I was the sole director of the company, I had to sell assets and liquate the business. After that, I interviewed for many companies but was overlooked every time. I was low on confidence, which came across in every interview! I had thought about setting up a consultancy business previously but never acted on it.
At this stage, I thought I might as well give it a go. I was at my lowest ebb with absolutely nothing to lose!

With many established competitors in ad tech, what challenges did you face entering this space?
The biggest challenge was getting our name out there and winning the trust of publishers. I was lucky to get some great clients over the first three months with whom I still work. I used them as case studies straight away. The first six months were tough. I had a good story because of my experience with Google, and was lucky, as there were no partner-agnostic consultancy businesses. Our core USP is that we will work with any partner, and focus on increasing revenue for our clients.

 What is your vision for Publift?
Publift’s vision is to help online publishers increase their revenue so they can reinvest more resources to create great content and improved design with relevant, engaging ads. This attracts more users and creates a great user experience. I want Publift to be the industry leader providing cutting edge technology and market leading expertise.

I believe in creating a fantastic working environment, building excellent products and providing exceptional customer service. I want team members to enjoy coming to work, feel energised by working in their area of strength and passionate about new products and efficiencies we are creating.

What is the toughest decision you have made, and how did you handle it?
Saying “no”. We have moved to a product-based business in the last six months. Often, we can take on new clients that will generate large amounts of money in the short term. I’ve had to say no on several occasions because our resources are building new technology. As a startup when cash flow is a regular issue, it’s hard to say no, but these decisions have to be made for the greater good of the business. I hate saying no though!

While juggling work and personal commitments, how do you find time for yourself?
I’ve gotten better at finding time for myself – I used to take work home with me. Not only continue doing work but also thinking and worrying about it 24×7. Are we going down the right path? Is our strategy sound? Since we have gone down the tech/product route, I’ve been able to sleep at night.

It’s hard to find time for myself, especially with a nine-month-old boy! I now follow a strict routine as I only work from 9 to 5 and spend more time with my son Kian and wife Becky. I play football, so we have a game on Sundays and training on Wednesdays. At lunchtime, I usually go to the gym and listen to sports or business podcasts on the way. I also try to meditate regularly, which is a great way to unwind.

What three pieces of advice would you give to anyone who wants to take the entrepreneurial path?
1. Take risks and make mistakes: I’ve read lots of self-help books and business podcasts explaining how best to run your business. These are great, but nothing beats making mistakes and giving things a go. You learn a lot about yourself.
2. Recruitment: Spend time in picking your team. Make sure to hire to accommodate your weaknesses. Personality tests, such as DISC profiles, help you identify the right fit for your team.
3. Time Management: Ask yourself every hour and day, is what I’m doing right now the best use of my time? Is this growing the business?

Do you have a quote or life mantra that motivates you?
Work smarter, not harder!


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