What would it take to start a modest vertical ad network?
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Anyone who tells you that you first need to gain access to sites "so that you have something to sell" is simply wrong. You will not succeed as a one-man shop if you attempt to go that direction without deep capitalization. Find the advertiser first. Get a commitment. Then go find traffic you can sell to your advertiser at a price that leaves a profit margin for yourself after you've paid the publisher. Other advertisers and other publishers won't be hard to find when you have a happy first advertiser and a core of happy publishers. Find the advertiser first. Good luck to you.