At the 7th annual Montgomery Techconference there's a lot of talk about which company might be "the next Google."
But the truth is the startups here don't want to compete with Google in the search ad space, they want to go after all the other online ad categories that Google doesn't dominate. The President of AdKnowledge Brett Brewer put it very simply: "people only spend five percent of their time online searching, we want to serve ads to them the 95 percent of the time they're not searching."
AdKnowledge, which focuses on delivering ads to social networks and gaming, is one of the most talked-about companies at the Montgomery Tech. It's profitable, it's been doubling its revenue every year for the past few years, and it's on track for $300 million in revenue in 2010. AdKnowledge competes with Google's AdSense but it specializes in putting ads in the types of content that don't have a lot of keywords, like search does.
People are spending more and more time online gaming or checking status updates, and this is going after that market. A number people have told me AdKnowledge's technology is better than Google's when it comes to (here comes some jargon) "keyword-light" content. It's such a well-established company that people are telling me it could go public or be acquired in the next year.
FreeWheel is another company acquisition buzz -- it distributes some two billion video ads per month, using an algorithm to pair appropriate ads with the content. Google's YouTube partnered with FreeWheel to deliver video ads to the site, a major deal that speaks to the sophistication of FreeWheel's technology. FreeWheel advertising customers include big names like Turner, Warner Music and CBS.
I've also heard a lot about BlueKai, which tracks your web activity and delivers ads and custom deals based on how you've been spending your time online. The sense here is that competing with Google is futile, so these companies are looking to get a foothold where Google has yet to tread.
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