Nicholas Seet

November 07, 2011

Adobe Systems has acquired Auditude, a firm started by UCLA Anderson alumnus Nicholas Seet ('05). Sources familiar with the deal put the value of the acquisition at about $120 million. Seet says he is thrilled to have the validation this exit brings and to have Adobe as a partner going forward.

Seet came to UCLA Anderson intent on being an entrepreneur. Inspired by his entrepreneurial uncles who started a company that revolutionized an industry, Seet was also drawn to the Internet where he saw opportunities to enhance the technologies used to organize and deliver content.

He was thrilled to discover that UCLA Anderson is a rich environment for entrepreneurs. "You can interact with like-minded individuals and experiment with start-up ideas in a setting that is as real as it could possibly get," said Seet. "I learned to give a perfect elevator pitch, which is essentially presenting complex business and technology concepts in a way that anybody can understand."

After enrolling in Professor Bob Foster's business plan class, he enlisted classmates Johanna Wright and Eric Haus to help create a new company called Auditude. "We came up with the concept of tracking ads on radio and TV," he recalled. "As it turned out, this was not something that was highly monitored. We wanted to bring the accountability that you get from online media - literally how many people look at content or click on it -- to TV and radio advertising."

Team Auditude presented their plan in the 2005 Knapp Venture Competition and won the $10,000 first prize. They also won Rice University's Business Plan Competition, which brought cash and prizes of over $100,000. In addition, the "GOOSE" group of angel investors associated with the competition committed an additional $1,000,000.

After graduation, Seet began to build Auditude full time. The firm created a network of listening posts around the country that monitored radio and TV advertising to create what Seet calls "fingerprints." "A fingerprint is a digital representation of a piece of media," he explained. "It extracts frequency characteristics that uniquely identify an ad - much like a human fingerprint."

Auditude's business model was original and effective, but radio and TV advertisers didn't respond to the fingerprints as Seet had hoped. "The radio and TV industry was not ready to track its advertising," he said.

So the firm faced a considerable challenge. "We decided to change our business model," said Seet. "The lesson there is you've got to be flexible and, if necessary, change your focus to keep up with the business reality."

Auditude developed a new direction through discussions among the firm's employees, advisory board and customers. "We decided to give up the offline world of radio and TV and move online," said Seet. "Online video was just coming of age and people were beginning to migrate from TV to online video."

"I was very lucky that one of my early customers was Adam Cahan who was executive vice president of MTV Networks," Seet said. "He looked at the problem from the customer's perspective and told us that his real concern was placing advertising on online video." Cahan is now Auditude's CEO.

Seet said that throughout his business endeavors, the UCLA Anderson Alumni Network has been, and remains, invaluable. "Whenever I have a business question or need a contact, I just send out a message to the alumni list and, inevitably, I get five or ten responses back within days. I don't know of any other venue where you can get this kind of trusted advice."

Today, Auditude offers the only complete solution for placing ads on online video. "That's a real breakthrough," said Seet, "because content owners can now publish and monetize a video with one click."

Auditude uses a lightweight media player to serve videos and ads. In addition, the player tracks and reports the metrics needed by content owners, advertisers and rights holders. "That process is extremely complex," said Seet. "So we simplified it. We are really trying to unlock the value in online video."

By monetizing online video, Seet feels users will get access to increasing amounts of content. "Online video is rapidly growing from a consumption perspective and what is really needed is for the business opportunity and economics to follow," he said. "With those elements in place, the floodgates of content to the Internet will open wide."

On the Auditude Web site, Seet now holds the title of Founder. "I just grease the wheels and keep everything running," he said. The company is based in Palo Alto with offices in New York and Los Angeles. "There's very little I need to do on a daily basis," he continued. "I just try and see if anything slips through the cracks and help out where I can."

"You're essentially fighting a battle from day to day," he said. "You've got a great team and a great arsenal of technology and you just go out and do the best you can. That's the exciting part about being an entrepreneur - trying to change the world as best you can. That's a rare opportunity. I would say to anybody who asks - try and get into that kind of a scenario."

Seet says that his career has been a family endeavor. "A lot of people, not just myself, made sacrifices so I could attend Anderson and then start this company," said Seet. "But it was all worthwhile. You need a supportive team whether it's your spouse, your family, employees or partners. You can't do it alone. This is a prerequisite not only to being an MBA student, but also an entrepreneur."

Seet now divides his time between Palo Alto and his home in New Mexico where his wife is a physicist at the Los Alamos Lab. While launching Auditude, the Seets also started a family. It may have been bold to start a family while starting a business but, according to Seet, "as any Anderson student will tell you, it's a juggling act regardless. What's another ball?"

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