I’m most inspired by the entrepreneurs that sit beside me at Wharton. Nitish Aitharaju (WG ’16) and Sedrick Dongmo (WG ’16) created Mobspire, a cloud-based online platform that enables advertisers to create, deploy, and manage highly engaging rich media ad units across mobile platforms and devices. In 2012, Mobspire was acquired by Aarki.
Curious about the origins of Mobspire and the process of getting acquired, I asked Nitish a few questions.
Can you provide some more details about Mobspire for us?
You can think about Mobspire like an Adobe Flash or Microsoft PowerPoint for mobile advertising. At the time, advertisers had to develop each ad unit by writing lots of code, a process which was not scalable and highly error prone. We built a simple drag-and-drop interface where advertisers could simply import their content to build these units that were guaranteed to work on any mobile device.
How did you come with the idea for Mobspire?
Early in 2011, I was chatting with a good friend of mine about how smartphones were becoming pervasive. Lots of people were buying smartphones and spent much more time on their phones than on their computers. My friend shared with me his thesis on mobile advertising and how it would evolve very similar to the online advertising ecosystem.
He showed me what he was working on and wanted to see if I would be interested in helping him with his venture. I was a bit hesitant at first since I was more interested in the online storage space at the time and I was hoping he would help me with my idea instead. I thought about it for a while, figured that his idea might fail quickly and through the process I could convince him to work with me on my online storage idea. Turns out, that day never came and I haven’t looked back since.
Why did you decide to sell your company?
Although both my co-founder and I had experience building internet products in the past, we never really knew how to run a business. Most of the time we were dabbling with uncertainty and took forever to make concrete decisions. We had a great product that was pretty competitive in the market, but felt that we might be able to scale and grow faster with the resources of a much bigger company than ours. So when that opportunity arrived, it was a pretty logical decision for us.
What was the most difficult part about becoming acquired?
Honestly, the most difficult part was the uncertainty that came with the acquisition process. This was the first time we had ever gone through the process and we didn’t know what it entailed. We didn’t know what to negotiate for, what terms were good, what terms were bad, and how to value our business. We had to do a lot of research during the process to try to learn how this process works very quickly and source competitive bids. There was very little literature we could find on the process and we did not want to spend a lot of money hiring expensive lawyers or bankers for something that might or might not work out.
Why did you decide to come to business school?
I was never formally educated in business. Although I picked up the basics of running a business pretty quickly, I recognized there was a limit to my knowledge. So I wanted to time reflecting on my experience, learning from the best minds, and equipping myself with the knowledge that I wish I had while running Mobspire.
What advice do you have for future entrepreneurs?
Entrepreneurship is about taking calculated risks than simply taking risks. Starting a business is highly risky. There are many factors that can sink a business. In my experience, successful entrepreneurs are those that painstakingly recognize all possible sources of risk and eliminate as many of them as they possibly can (or at the very least reducing their impact on the business).
Who do you give thanks to for your success?
Without a doubt, I would thank my family and closest friends! Without their support and encouragement, none of this would’ve been possible. I once read that success is a compounding of successful failures. However, it is not easy to sustain many failures and continue to push through without some kind of external support.