Nikhil Sethi is the Co-Founder of Adaptly, a social media advertising technology company. Adaptly was founded in 2010 and was incubated through DreamIt Ventures. We recently spoke with Nikhil about his role and company.
The Makegood: Nikhil, you co-founded Adaptly right after graduating college. Can you tell us the story behind why you decided to create the company and why it was the right time?
NS: As an electrical engineering major at Northwestern, I had always been fond of distribution and understanding how you can make things move faster, physically (trains, rockets) as well as digitally (content, media). After being an intern at HBO in the Emerging Technologies and Research group, it became apparent that the social world online was fragmenting extremely quickly. Because neither myself nor my co-founder, Garrett Ullom, had any previous experience in the advertising world, and realizing that social advertising was a disruptive shift in the traditional media buying model, we took a stab at it and built an end to end engine to allow our customers to seamlessly engage with media across social. After college, we moved to Philadelphia to attend DreamIt Ventures incubator program, which allowed us to focus for three months on execution. From there we raised a seed round and migrated to New York, the center of the ad world.
The Makegood: Adaptly can be described a as a platform that sits atop all of the social media and is leveraged by both buyers and sellers. Can you explain what that means?
NS: We noticed very quickly that all the consolidation and learnings of commoditizing inventory in the display standard (IAB standard units etc), was reversing itself in social, where you have very large audiences and custom consumer experiences across Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, StumbleUpon, YouTube and as a result each site developed a custom native advertising model specific to the way consumers used their platforms. From a brand perspective, you could no longer think of all social sites as equal (ad network). Each site needed a very specific strategy to really take advantage of that attention. Adaptly was born to provide technology to enable brands and agencies to very easily employ multiple strategies of media buying across multiple social systems.
The Makegood: You have said that social media seems to be most similar to digital, but it actually acts more like traditional media. How is this?
NS: Power has shifted back to supply in the social world. In this mentality Facebook and all can create custom rules of engagement to reflect the media model they wish to create. Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon all look, feel, and smell like digital platforms but follow a very different logic. The cookie based tracking model really served as version 1.0 of identity on the internet, and simply put Facebook provides a next generation version of identity. Thinking about buying media in this new light requires advertisers to think and attribute performance independently of all else to be successful.
The Makegood: In the buying and selling of social media, often times the supply side, for example Facebook, has more bargaining power. How can buyers get the best offering?
NS: The native advertising model is very powerful. Buyers should listen and understand why these types of buying opportunities are being presented rather than the traditional approach. The native ad model will persist not just in social, but conceivably across the internet as a whole.
The Makegood: Thanks, Nikhil.