Our Story

As a graduate student at Harvard, our founder observed increasing convergence between marketing services, media, and technology. Companies could control their own media message through blogs and social media. Search engines and review sites were giving customers more power. And media consumption habits were changing more quickly than marketing budgets.

Three Ships partners with marketers and business people to navigate the challenges and opportunities presented by this changing environment. Our name alludes to the 1492 voyage of Christopher Columbus and to our clients' need to navigate the new, still uncertain world of digital marketing.

Life at Three Ships

Our Purpose

We Create Remarkable Experiences

Work Experience. To empower each shipmate to fulfill his or her potential, and create an environment where each individual brings his or her whole self to work.

Digital Experience. To help companies efficiently connect with prospects and customers, enabling them to fulfill their missions.

Client Experience. To lead the industry in client service and quality, making each client feel like a hero and elevating the role of marketers in their organization.

& Always Sail to the Horizon

To disrupt and innovate, in a way that matters to clients, in a chaotic digital world.

To keep sight of True North — living our SAILOR values, making a positive difference in the world, and building for the long-term.

We Live By Six Core Values

Spirit of Service






Our Leadership

Zach Clayton Three Ships

Zach Clayton

Managing Director and CEO

Fearless leader and digital strategist

Zach Clayton is CEO & Managing Director of Three Ships, which he founded in 2009. He leads the strategic direction of the Three Ships team and his greatest joy is working with clients on digital media strategy. Zach is deeply engaged in developing the quantitative metrics utilized to assess client performance and identifying new innovations which can increase clients' marketing Return On Investment. 

Previously, Zach was CEO of New Media Campaigns, a web and mobile application development company he founded in 2006 as an undergraduate. The company has successfully grown every year since inception and Zach remains involved as a shareholder and director. Zach currently serves on the Board of Directors of Global Citizen Year, the Foundation Board at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s School of Media and Journalism, and the Board of Advisors for the Broughton Capital Foundation.

Zach has written for The Hotline, authored two books, published numerous articles on digital media, and appeared on CNN, MSNBC, and FOX News. Zach holds an MBA with high distinction from Harvard Business School, where he was a Baker Scholar, and a BA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he was a Morehead Scholar and elected to Phi Beta Kappa.

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Jeff Cooper Three Ships

Jeff Cooper


Driven domain expert and service innovator

Jeff Cooper is Managing Director of Three Ships. He is the General Manager of the 3S Media Unit, which optimizes the full funnel for clients' digital advertising investments. Under Jeff's leadership, 3S Media has overseen $60 million in programmatic advertising spend. The unit uses a highly differentiated portfolio management, adopted from Wall Street investment firms, to track the ROI of media investments. He constantly brings new ideas to clients that improve performance and increase measurement clarity.

Jeff is a passionate innovator and constant learner. Jeff joined Three Ships as an analyst and has played an important and hands-on leadership role in developing many of the Three Ships service and product offerings. As he was promoted through the business, he played key roles in building out the company's Digital Advertising, Organic Search, Analytics, and Conversion Optimization practices. Prior to assuming leadership of the 3S Media unit, he partnered with 3S founder Zach Clayton to create the proprietary Navigator search product. 

Jeff holds a BSE in biomedical engineering from Duke University's Pratt School of Engineering. 

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Jeff Kilman Three Ships

Jeff Kilman

Managing Director

Bold solution architect and client advocate

Jeff Kilman is Managing Director at Three Ships. He is the General Manager of the 3S Agency unit, which partners with clients to define their digital marketing strategy and execute campaigns that achieve their goals. Jeff's vision is for the 3S Agency to bring insight, imagination, and creativity to each client engagement. Under Jeff's leadership, the unit has established market-leading creative and analytics practices. The ROI of his team's work has been validated by numerous private equity-backed and public company CFOs. Jeff is passionate about understanding the business goals of new clients, aligning resources within Three Ships to help achieve those goals, and ensuring we make each client successful.

Previously, Jeff worked with Splash Media as their SVP of Digital Strategy where he helped the company win the three largest clients in their nine year history. Prior to joining Splash Media, Jeff has been a leader in omni-channel marketing, both owning his own multi-million dollar company partnering with Fortune 100 brands and in consulting on how to blend sales art with digital science. Jeff's sales management roots come from more than 15 years of executive leadership within sales organizations such as GE, Procter & Gamble, Pepsi North America, and running sales for The Daily Tar Heel while in college (still the hardest job he ever had). 

Jeff holds a BA in Journalism and Communications from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is a passionate little league baseball coach when not hard at work. 

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Justin Helmig Three Ships

Justin Helmig


Martech conqueror

Justin Helmig is Managing Director at Three Ships. He is the General Manager of the Organic Business Unit which helps our customers drive the most traffic and conversions from search engines. Our Organic solution consists of Navigator, a technology platform at the intersection of content marketing, data science, analytics and SEO as well as content marketing and search engine optimization teams to maximize the value our customers get from organic search.

Prior to Three Ships, he was Vice President of Data as a Service Products at Informatica which acquired StrikeIron in June 2014. He was responsible for leading development, product management, and operations with teams in the US and Germany. 

Prior to the acquisition, he was Executive Vice President of Products and Technology at StrikeIron, a venture backed web API company. He was responsible for leading the engineering, product management, operations, IT, support, and sales engineering teams. 

Previously at StrikeIron he was Vice President of Marketing and was responsible for the marketing organization including: product management, inbound demand generation (PPC, SEO, content, conversion optimization), tradeshows, and outbound lead creation.

Prior to joining StrikeIron, Justin was Vice President of Product Management at TapRoot Systems, a venture backed mobile software company. 

Before joining TapRoot, Justin was a member of Texas Instrument's Worldwide Strategy and Corporate Development group where he was responsible for alliances, mobile operator relationships, product strategy, M&A strategy, and corporate development for the wireless terminals business unit. 

Justin also held leadership positions in TI's sales organization where he was a key contributor in building the OMAP wireless processor business unit. 

Prior to joining TI, Justin held positions at General Instrument and Qualcomm.

Justin holds a BS in Computer Engineering from Clemson University and a MBA from Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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Our Advisory Board

Aarti Sura Three Ships

Aarti Sura


Strategy & Analytics at Catawba Valley Medical Center

Aarti Sura leads Strategy and Analytics for Catawba Valley Medical Center located in Hickory, North Carolina. Prior to her current role, Aarti joined Three Ships in its first year and spent five years with our organization.  Her work here included building out of our research services, digital services, and proprietary solutions as Managing Director and Chief Operating Officer.  

Previously Aarti worked in investment banking with McColl Partners, specializing in mergers and acquisitions, in brand management at General Mills, and as a Director at New Profit, a venture philanthropy firm.  

Aarti holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and a BS from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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Ben Lundin Three Ships

Ben Lundin


CEO of Pacify

Ben Lundin is CEO and co-founder of Pacify, a company that allows new parents to contact lactation consultants, nurses, and dietitians, 24/7 through mobile. Pacify is working to bring peace of mind to new parents. Currently, Pacify subscriptions are in a closed pilot but they will be available to the public soon. Previously Ben was a Consultant at McKinsey & Company where he worked primarily in corporate strategy and growth strategy for large hospital chains and academic medical centers.  

Ben served Fortune 500 clients on strategic issues, advising them on using innovation to thrive in an atmosphere that is increasingly tumultuous. Ben also served clients developing entrepreneurial ventures, including telemedicine and tech-enabled health care delivery. 

Ben holds an MBA from the University of Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar, and a BA from UNC Chapel Hill, where he was a Morehead Scholar. 

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Ed Cheely Three Ships

Ed Cheely


President of AppBuddy

Ed Cheely is President at AppBuddy, a SalesForce AppExchange partner whose flagship product, GridBuddy, has transformed data quality and user productivity within Salesforce for over 3,000 organizations. Previously, Ed was Sr. Director of Sales and Business Development for the Documents Cloud division of Citrix, which features ShareFile, a leader in the file sharing and syncing space.  Ed joined ShareFile in early 2010 and rapidly built a sales organization that helped lead to Citrix’s acquisition of ShareFile in late 2011. 

Ed scaled up the sales organization and established new vertical markets for Yext, the leader in the digital marketing local listings space.  He attributes much of his success to the mentorship he received from entrepreneur and author August Turak, whom he studied with throughout his 20’s.  The culture Ed has developed within Citrix reflects his values of intense honesty, continuous personal development, and self-transcendence through passionate service. 

Ed holds a BA from Duke University, where he majored in Economics and minored in German. 

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Jan Davis Three Ships

Jan Davis


Former CEO of Shoppertrak

Jan Davis is a board member and advisor of companies in software, analytics, direct and interactive marketing, and personal information, providing strategic direction, corporate oversight, CEO coaching and introductions to potential partners, customers, suppliers and investors. She is an investor in Triangle Angel Partners and was recently elected to its Executive Committee. 

She presently serves on the board of directors of ShowingTime.com, where she chairs the Audit Committee, and on the boards of advisors for BiddRocket, Buzz Referrals, Gift Boogle, LiPi, Market Vue Partners, and Three Ships Media. These enterprises sell products and services to the retail, real estate, marketing services, and information industries as well as to consumers.

As CEO of ShopperTrak RCT Corporation, the global leader in pedestrian traffic counting, from 2004 to 2008, Davis led the company to profitability. Revenues doubled, and the number of managed counting devices increased by 136%. ShopperTrak also expanded its international footprint significantly, including the formation of a wholly-foreign owned subsidiary in China. Today, the company monitors counting devices in retail stores, malls and casinos in 65 countries.

Before joining ShopperTrak, Davis spent more than fifteen years in direct and interactive marketing, including eight years with TransUnion LLC, the international credit reporting giant. She led TransUnion’s online consumer division as president, overseeing the acquisition and integration of TrueLink, an early-stage company with products in the interactive, direct-to-consumer space. Previously, she oversaw TransUnion’s PerformanceData and Insurance divisions, providing marketing data to a broad range of direct marketing companies and marketing lists, scoring models and underwriting data to the property and casualty insurance industry.

From 1991 to 1996, Davis was a marketing consultant in Boston, MA and Warsaw, Poland, working with American, multi-national and Polish enterprises. During this period she served for two years as vice president/new ventures for Customer Development Corporation, a database marketing agency.

In the late 1980s, she cofounded SmartNames, a database marketing information, analysis and services company. In that role, she participated in raising $15 million in venture capital and acquiring four other companies.

Davis has served on the boards of directors of Truelink, RCT Analytics Ltd., ShopperTrak, the Illinois Technology Association, and the Chicago Finance Exchange and on the Alumni Council at UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School. She’s served on the advisory boards of RetelTechnologies (purchased by ShopperTrak), GeeYee and Ribstone. She holds BA and MBA degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and relocated from the Chicago area to Cary NC in 2010.

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Jed Carlson Three Ships

Jed Carlson


CEO of AdWerx

Jed Carlson is chief executive officer of AdWerx, where digital marketing for real estate is brilliantly simple. Jed believes real estate agents should get the same tools as rock stars, literally. That's because Jed is co-founder and former president of ReverbNation, the leading digital marketing platform for over 4 million independent musicians and bands around the globe.

It was inside of ReverbNation that AdWerx was conceived and incubated, being spun out in December of 2014 with Jed at the helm. Under Jed's leadership, ReverbNation earned numerous awards such as Inc Magazine's Fastest Growing Privately Held Companies, and Triangle Business Journal's Best Places to Work. 

Before earning his MBA from Duke University, Jed was a successful entrepreneur in Minneapolis with a focus on technology and marketing. His past ventures include The Carlson Print Group, a commercial printing and packaging company, and SmartPrint, a division of AmericDisc Inc. 

Jed continues to be obsessed with taking on the digital challenges that face small businesses, and building scalable, simple and affordable products to solve them. He is also an active angel investor, mentor and advisor to over ten tech startups. And he's a frequent speaker and panelist at conferences on technology and digital marketing. 

Jed's commitment to leveling the playing field for small businesses is equal only to his devotion to guiding other entrepreneurs to success. 

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Jeff Giesea  Three Ships

Jeff Giesea


Founder of FierceMarkets

Jeff Giesea is the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Three Ships and an investor in the company.  Jeff helps guide the strategic direction of the company, supports the management team, and participates in corporate development activities. Early in the life of the company, he worked with Zach Clayton to shape the values and purpose of the business.

Jeff is a private investor and entrepreneur focused on supporting high-growth start-ups in the media and marketing services industries. In 2011, Jeff founded BestVendor, a company that helps startups and small businesses make faster, smarter purchasing decisions through social recommendations. As CEO, Jeff raised capital from RRE Ventures, SoftBank, and Peter Thiel, launched the product successfully and sold the company to DocStoc. Previously, Jeff was Founder & CEO of FierceMarkets, a leading online B2B media and lead-generation company. Jeff founded the company and led it through its acquisition by Questex Media and the Audax Group in 2008.

Jeff holds an MA and BA from Stanford University.

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Kent Geer Three Ships

Kent Geer


Chairman of PowerSecure International

Kent Geer is a highly experienced former Ernst & Young audit partner with an extensive track record in serving numerous public and private companies in a variety of industries. His background includes extensive SEC reporting and compliance experience, extensive Audit Committee interaction and leadership, heavy transactional experience, and working closely on IPOs, other public and private financing transactions, and other projects with Senior Management, Boards of Directors and Audit Committees.

Mr. Geer spent his entire career of over 34 years in Ernst & Young’s audit practice. He served as lead audit partner for a large number of public and private companies in different industries including semiconductors, telecommunications, software (including software as a service), biotechnology, pharmaceuticals and other life sciences, distribution and various other product and services companies.  He served a number of well-recognized, rapidly growing public companies in North Carolina including Cree Inc., Business Telecomm, SpectraSite, POZEN, Inc., Salix Pharmaceuticals, RF Micro Devices and Madison River Communications, among others. 

Mr. Geer worked with clients on a large number of transactions (more than $3 billion in value) including IPOs, follow-on offerings, debt offerings, private placements and M&A transactions.  He specialized in working with entrepreneurial companies including numerous venture-backed, private equity backed and mid and small cap public companies.   Mr. Geer also served a number of companies with substantial international operations including significant operations in Europe, Asia, North America, South America and Africa.

In addition to sitting on the Three Ships board, Mr. Geer is Chairman of the Board of Directors of PowerSecure International Inc. (a NASDAQ-listed company) where he serves as Chairman of the Audit Committee.

Mr. Geer holds a BS in Business Administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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Rye Barcott Three Ships

Rye Barcott


Managing Partner of Double Time Capital

Rye Barcott is CEO of Double Time Capital, a private equity firm focused on clean energy investing. Previously he worked in the Office of the Chairman and CEO at Duke Energy. Previously, Rye worked with McColl Partners, a middle-market investment bank in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Amyris Biotechnologies, a Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield, & Byers advanced biofuels company in Emeryville, CA. 

He also served five years as a Marine. While an undergraduate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2001, Rye co-founded Carolina For Kibera in Kenya. Named a Time Magazine and Gates Foundation “Hero of Global Health,” Carolina For Kibera fights poverty and promotes ethnic and religious reconciliation through a unique model of participatory development.

While serving on active duty as a Marine in Iraq, Bosnia, and the Horn of Africa, he and his Kenyan co-founders, Salim Mohamed and Tabitha Festo, built an organization that today creates opportunities for thousands of talented young people born into abject poverty.

Rye serves on the Carolina For Kibera Board of Directors, the IDB Board of Directors, and the World Learning Board of Trustees. He is a TED University Speaker and TED Fellow. His first book, It Happened On The Way to War: A Marine’s Path to Peace, was released by Bloomsbury in March 2011.

Rye holds a MPA and MBA from Harvard University, where he was a Reynolds Social Entrepreneurship Fellow, George Leadership Fellow, and member of the Harvard endowment’s Advisory Committee on Shareholder Responsibility. He holds a BA in Peace, War, and Defense from UNC-Chapel Hill.

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