One Elite Daily Sale: Gerard discussed his journey to success as co-founder of the popular digital content platform, Elite Daily. He shared how he overcame adversity to establish multiple successful businesses, including one of the most influential content sites for millennials. Gerard also offered insights about the uncertainties and risks of selling a business in today’s content-driven market.
Speech by Gerard Adams | Co-founder, Elite Daily
Gerard Adams Speech Transcript
This is f*cking awesome. I’m so excited to be here in Thailand. Who is excited about being in Thailand right now? I want some energy.
It took 24 hours for me to get here. One of the most exciting flights, even though it’s one of the longest flights ever. And actually, I took it on the same day of getting back from Cuba which was really exciting too.
I got to speak there in a place where they don’t even have the opportunities that we have everywhere around the world, you know.
They don’t even have technology. And it was just super interesting to kinda go there. And, talk to them about all the possibilities.
I don’t know if you guys saw Ryan Holiday’s speech yesterday which is super inspiring. Shout out to Ry!
But I kind of loved his opening, when he was just like, “If you guys can’t keep up, that’s on you.”
Because I just spoke to a bunch of people that were in jail. I just spoke to a whole bunch of people in Cuba that don’t even know anything about what’s going on at technology.
So, hope you guys can keep up.
And shout out to my assistant and team who last night, basically, kind of reminded me, like hangover. They showed up with like a tattoo on their faces when I walked in this morning, completely hangover.
I’m looking forward to hopefully having some fun tonight.
Who Is Gerard Adams
So, tell you a little bit about myself before I kinda get into my latest venture, Elite Daily, which is what this is all about.
Which I was blessed to say that we were able to have an exit earlier this year even though it was somewhat bittersweet.
I’ve been an entrepreneur for the past 12 years. Basically, when I was raised, I was told, you know, “Got to go to college, get a college degree. That was the road to success.”
Boom In Technology
And obviously, I was part of this whole internet boom in technology. Boom that happened early in my life where I was like, I looked at college when I first got in and I was saying to myself, “This is just a really big business. And I’m not gonna fall for this.”
I really feel like this is the time to become an entrepreneur and take a risk even though it really wasn’t the cool thing to do back then.
But I knew I can use the internet as a tool to really learn about marketing and learn how to start a business. So, I did just that. I dropped out my first semester.
And, I did what I think any great entrepreneur really does.
I looked at kind of, what was I looking for? What is that problem that I’m looking to solve from my first idea that I can really create, in which something that can be passionate about.
And it’s kinda relatable to you guys. First of all, I wanna thank AWA. I mean, this is awesome. So many amazing people in one room.
Marketers, they come together and just great creative minds which is just fantastic.
I’m sure you guys can relate. When I first started my first business, it was really, around understanding how to find a market demand and for specifically something around stock market.
I have wanted to learn about how I can learn about trading stocks.
How can I find information about stocks, how can I find an undervalued in companies and in investments?
I mean, that was the first idea that I really had.
And I noticed quickly that, everything was done in a very traditional means back then as far as investor relations in finding a lot of information about how to trade stocks.
It was very little communities online. So, my first idea was to build a community and partner with a coder who can build a forum that had a rating system similar to eBay.
Learned How To Drive Traffic
And I quickly had to learn how to really be able to drive traffic to this forum. I learn about PPC and SEO and SEM and video ads.
And, when I did that, it was pretty interesting because I was pioneering something back, it was part of pioneering using digital media as a way to get exposure for small-cap publicly traded companies.
I was extremely passionate about it.
I ended up using my expertise to start building different newsletters and understanding how to write copy.
And actually, find these great content and great companies, and great information to present to other people who, obviously, were looking at how to learn about trading stocks.
And then, people who are learning, they want to learn about interesting companies.
That was the first real idea I had.
And, I really was able to not only, master my craft of learning how to research these companies and learn how to build out my newsletters and build my own data, but I also learned how to build a huge network of other people that were also doing a lot of lead gen and building different newsletters within stocks.
I was a teenager at that time. It was amazing to me because I was able to quickly learn how to be my own boss.
Internet As An Amazing Tool
And, learn how to really use the internet as an amazing tool for me to learn how to invest myself.
But also, test out so many different cool, unique marketing strategies. And, how to really convert people like myself that wanted to learn.
And by the age of 24, I had built out an agency and a lot of small-cap companies came to me.
I was very sought after. They called me like a quarterback. I was one of the top guys.
They would come to me and give me a budget. I would basically be able to write about these small-cap undervalued companies. And put them out to my different newsletters, helping these companies get exposure.
But also reaching out to all of my network who also had the same type of databases. An email list and help them to get the exposure for these companies.
That was like the first time that I really became an entrepreneur, had an idea, and started really learning about how to be able to market to the investment community.
And bring value to my clients which were these small-cap companies that wanted to get exposure to those specific people.
And I was lucky enough to master that and build it up to doing millions of dollars by the time I was 24.
But I kinda knew quickly that it wasn’t sustainable. That’s when I really decided, I also noticed that the stock market crash is coming.
It was coming towards 2008 where I kind of foresaw that the market crash was gonna come. And I wasn’t gonna be able to sustain my business.
I decided to start doing research online. And I realized quickly that nobody was talking about inflation or talking about the true economics of the country in the United States.
And we were in a major debt crisis.
So, I ended up buying a domain name inflation.us and becoming populated. Yes yow, as the number one site on Google under for inflation at the time.
And I just started to use my passion for writing and investing in content to start actually making documentaries.
I made about 6 documentaries.
My last documentary, teaching economics. The last one was about actually college conspiracy going back towards when I first dropped out of college and talking about the student loan debt crisis.
And how the government was playing such a big role in that. That’s why tuition prices was going through the roof. All my friends are graduating in 2008. They couldn’t get jobs.
And that is the type of documentaries I did were very much by style. I was getting millions of views on YouTube, building out my databases.
And then, being able to monetize that through informational type products.
This was when I realized, you know, I continue to want to diversify. I was continuing to build different newsletters, invest in different products, use the same strategies to kinda market those products.
And, I loved it, again, because I was my own boss. I was making a ton of money, I was young but I just strived for something more.
And that’s when I said to myself, “I feel like I can’t. I don’t have real equity in these things.”
I’m making a lot of cash, being able to sell any informational products and eventually ended up in getting involved in patenting an electric wheelchair that weighed only 50 pounds and is collapsible.
And I marketed that. Built an amazing affiliate network for that.
But still I was striving. I felt that I really wasn’t building something that eventually could have been sold and I had real equity.
And it was really just me. It’s like a one man team and a small team around me that helped me facilitate it.
So, I feel like, first off, the lesson I learned from this was like, diversification for me is really, is key.
And I feel like for any great marketer, we all have so many skills. We learned so much, we’re always looking for new offerings to get behind.
But never stop trying to look for something else that you can really own equity in and can take to the next level. And that continue to wanna always strive to find something that can become bigger.
The Company: Elite Daily
I guess that’s what really, eventually, gave me the inspiration to start this company, Elite Daily. Where, at the time, I was in my mid-20s, I had an intern who’s like an apprentice to me named, David Arabov.
He came to me and he had an idea that he wanted to start a millennial website. And we were looking at the landscape of content and how it was evolving.
How us as Millennials, the way that we read content and the way that we engage with content is, completely changing, especially with this ADD Generation.
And we then, we start looking at all the publications that were out there. New York Times, The Huffington Post, and all these other big publications that were kinda handed down to our generation.
And weren’t really, speaking to our generation. They weren’t for us, they’re biased.
A lot of the Millennial, we felt that a lot of the millennial sites that were out there around content were more niche-based.
They were more talking about sports, a lot about College or gossip, entertainment. But there’s nothing that was like mass market hitting every vertical for the Generation Y.
Gap That We Can Close
We decided this is a gap that we can close. This is something that we’re passionate about.
I took David, we co-founded it. We brought on another partner of ours, Jonathan San Pedro. One of the hardest-working individuals that I’ve ever had a chance to work with. He was a little bit more tech-savvy.
I was the first president of the company, more high-level strategic marketing.
David be put in a position for a CEO as really had the same qualities that I saw myself when I was 19. His ambition, his hunger, his drive, his tenacity.
And also, I believed that he really understood that the content of millennials as well, maybe even younger than me.
So, we started it. We boot shot it. We started it in my apartment.
And at first, to be honest with you, we weren’t too sure. We were like, “We gotta test out.”
And we understand that we feel that there’s a market demand for it because this stuff, this is what we’re looking for a publication like this.
But we really have to test out what is really gonna get.
Our generation, what kind of content is really gonna work. We understood it was gonna take time to really master the art of what would get people really engage.
And I feel like, with that, whatever business you’re in, in our marketing right now, I mean, it really is a numbers game in some capacity.
Understanding the analytics, understanding your cost per acquisition and mastering the different ways to build traffic and convert that traffic.
But for us, it was even a step further than that. I think that it’s key that we remember, that behind all of that data in this data-driven economy that it’s about people.
And for us, it was how can we make sure that we’re creating the content that is gonna connect people and create an emotion that’s gonna get them to engage.
And eventually, get them to share because that’s our product. Eventually, that’s basically how we were going to monetize.
And we really just focused, initially, we didn’t really focus on monetization. We really just focused on mastering our brand identity, understanding what the values were behind our company.
And understanding, mastering the content that was gonna get our target audience, Millennials, to really wanna engage with it to whatever their opinion was.
I think one key thing for us was being completely raw and authentic.
In order for us to do that, we had to build our own affiliate network so to speak but we called it an ambassador network.
And what we did was, we started getting in touch with every major university, both nationwide, abroad. Figuring out how we can get in touch with certain ambassadors that we’re able to recruit to help us recruit writers.
And people that we wanted, that had a voice. That were Millennials that had a story. We all have a story.
And wanted the ability to be able to take the topics that we had in the verticals and be able to tell their story through it and create conversation while giving them the guidance and the principles that we learned. What was getting people to really engage?
What was those titles really looking like and where are we gonna really distribute it to get them to share it.
Built The Network Successfully
And, we built out that network successfully.
We ended up getting over 2500 ambassadors and contributors to write for us. And we ended up then building such an amazing team.
I think I owe it all to around me that basically helped execute.
Because at the end of the day, Elite Daily was just an idea. But it was really about the execution that made it successful.
And I was blessed to be able to have such an amazing team that helped us build this out and execute both. We built a culture inside of our office in New York City.
Then, we were able to also take that same culture and be able to build it in something. And build a platform that gave everyone to be able to have a voice, to be able to share through our platform worldwide.
And we were able to master that up. So we hit about 80 million unique visitors. And basically, it was an unbelievable journey for us.
For me, it was also, in order to get to a point where we never thought that we were gonna sell.
For us, it was just something that we’re passionate about. We wanna master our content then we had to master monetization.
And we really, we’re at the point where we didn’t really believe in programmatic or remnant advertising. We really wanted to start going into the direction of native.
It was really hard for us because we knew that that was the direction that advertising was starting to go to.
We knew that that was the only way that our audience would really engage with our content and with the brands that we wanted to represent.
But it was still a long way out. Brands we’re still trying to get used to understanding native. And they also wanted to maybe make sure that we were still, there are only 3 years that we built Elite Daily.
So, we still had to really kinda get our notoriety.
It’s really tough for us to monetize. And that’s when, for me, it was extremely important to continue to build my network.
For us to, as a team, to seek out who is experienced that we can also bring on as a strategic partner.
Right Advisers, Right Partners
And, I think that, as a takeaway for any building any major companies, it’s just so important to continue to surround yourself and seek out the right advisers and the right board and the right partners.
We quickly had some great advisers. But we quickly realized that there’s one person in particular that we can learn from.
And that was Jon Steinberg.
Bringing Jon Steinberg On
We said to ourselves, “We have to do anything and everything to kinda get to Jon Steinberg.”
He was just left BuzzFeed. We can learn a lot from him. We knew that we had to kind of build out our advisory board and bring him on.
So, we did everything we could knock down doors to get in front of him. And we were lucky enough to be able to get Jon on our advisory board.
Little did I know that spending time with him, and him diving into our team and our culture and what we have done in our traffic and realizing how much we were able to really become the largest millennial publication in the United States, fastest-growing.
And that our traffic was not just bought traffic. We really understood what was getting people to engage with it.
And, like our ambassador network, we knew that we had to get 80 to 100 articles per day. That was like a key component for us.
Understanding how to really use Facebook as a big tool to be able to get our articles to go viral.
And after, he really was able to work with us and help us in such a short period of time. Jon said, “This is a perfect partnership to bring into Daily Mail.”
And when we knew that he was going to Daily Mail. We wanted to position ourselves for an acquisition at some point. We knew Daily Mail was a great acquire for us.
But, I couldn’t lie to you and say, we knew that was gonna happen so fast.
In months’ time, Daily Mail had made an acquisition.
We started seeing Facebook changing their algorithms and a lot of variables that kind of, we had to make a big decision if this was the right partnership for us.
Where Elite Daily can live on bigger than any one of us but can continue to really scale and can really give us the infrastructure to be able to grow, to be able to protect.
At that time, we had 70 people working for us in our office.
Eventually, had over, now, we’ve doubled that, over 125 people.
And blessed to say that after a ton of longboard meetings and going through that process, it was a huge learning experience for me and for our whole team.
They basically stuck a catheter up our ass and just really looked at every nook and cranny.
I mean they pulled random employees, they looked at our traffic inside and out. What was tough was they kind of looked at us and build our evaluation a lot off of revenue.
Where I felt we really wanted to, again, we put monetization off in the early, first year and half to really master the content in our product.
Make sure that we’re bringing value to our audience. And really building a brand that was recognizable in an ADD Generation that is very hard for them to be loyal to any one brand.
So, and then at the same time, looking to help pioneer the direction where native advertising was going. So, it was really an amazing experience to go through that acquisition.
And yes, earlier this year we got acquired.
And you know, through it all, I thought I had a short period of time here.
I really learned, throughout my whole career, I’ve continued to diversify, really continue to look at how I can look for great other opportunities all around us.
I feel we’re in an unprecedented time where, it’s an amazing time to be an apprentice, start a company.
And, not just continuously just look for the next offer but also look for ways that we can all partner together.
Look at how build an organization, build a team that we can sink our teeth into and own equity in that and continue to be a part of this huge huge evolution in tech.
And I feel, you know, it’s an unprecedented moment right now.
I’ve continued to be a person who is an avid, always wanting to build my network.
I look forward to really meeting many of you and continue to just build up my network looking for, continuously looking for new opportunities.
And I think that’s why we’re all here. And that’s why AWA really brought us. Definitely thankful that we can all come here from all around the world to be in this room.
And really discuss different opportunities. And look forward to meeting all of you.
Never Stop To Push Your Boundaries
Also, there’s one last thing I would like to say, it’s just that, the opportunities that we have that are in front of us are limitless.
And never stop trying to push your boundaries. Never stop trying to take risk in a world where we’re constantly trying different marketing strategies.
I mean, never stopped taking risk and trying to just push your boundaries. The opportunities out there are just really limitless.
I’ve always looked at it to just seize opportunity in my life.
Thank you, guys. I look forward to meeting you.
I have a podcast. I’m getting ready to launch now, the acquisition looking to kinda get out more, speak more, and build a podcast that would be on gerardadams.com.
Feel free to email me as well at [email protected].
And look forward to meeting all of you.