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This 23-Year-Old’s Startup Is Generating $10 Million This Year

By on October 16, 2011

Nikhil Sethi is 23 years old. He met his 22-year-old cofounder, Garret Ullom, at Northwestern University in a Probability of Statistics of Random Signals class.

Ullom was a computer science major; Sethi was studying electrical engineering and law.

Sethi’s father had tried his hand at entrepreneurship, and Sethi began dabbling in it at an early age. He interned at True Ventures and HBO and, during his sophomore year, he tried to raise $80 million for a logistics company.

Naturally, investors told him he was crazy, so he went back to the drawing board, this time with Ullom.

The two began working on a side project which would become Adaptly, a social media ad server and analytics platform.

Adaptly uses social media advertising APIs, like Twitter, Foursquare, Facebook and StumbleUpon, and allows brands to schedule campaigns across all of the networks at once. Media buyers no longer have to call up every site separately to spend their client’s social media advertising dollars. Instead, they can put the entire budget in Adaptly, and Sethi’s team will divvy it up accordingly.

Come graduation, Sethi had an offer to work for Microsoft, but he wanted to be a full-time entrepreneur. He  applied Adaptly to startup incubators without telling Ullom.

When an acceptance letter came from DreamIt Ventures’ Philadelphia program, Sethi convinced Ullom to drop out of school and join him.

They presented at Demo Day in August 2010; Adaptly secured a $700,000 seed round led by First Round Capital 15 days later. Sethi says they immediately had hundreds of advertisers inquiring about the platform.

With money and clients, Sethi and Ullom moved to New York, the advertising capital of the world.

“People told me it would be difficult to find an apartment in New York,” Sethi tells us. “So I decided to sign the first apartment lease I found.” Sethi says there was one room available in a midtown building; he took it, sight unseen.

He and Ullom moved in, and it became Adaptly’s office for several months. Board meetings were even held in the living room, among three desks that still stand there today.

In December, Adaptly received a fresh $2 million cash infusion from First Round Capital and angel investors like Gary Vaynerchuk. It relaunched, moved out of the apartment and into an office on 23rd and 6th. The company grew from six people to 22 in two and a half weeks.

When we asked how he found talent so quickly, Sethi says, “It wasn’t hard to convince people to move to New York.” Five of his college and home friends work at Adaptly too.

Today, Sethi says Adaptly has run 3,000 campaigns from hundreds of clients. Some are 6-figure buys of which Adaptly takes a large cut — Sethi tells us it’s greater than 10%.

He tells us business is going so well that the 9-month-old company is on track to generate $10 million top-line (gross) revenue this year.

With revenue like that, Adaptly isn’t thinking about another round of financing yet. Instead, Sethi says they’ll double down and focus on building an even better product.