From High-School Troublemaker to Successful Startup Founder

Many people have heard the chapter in Gerard Adams’ story where he and a couple of other Co-Founders sold Elite Daily to Daily Mail for about $50,000,000 in 2015.

However, only few have heard about the moments and scars leading up to the sale of that company.

As part of my next book and in an interview we recorded for a new YouTube-based series called “Stories From The 3 Billion Under 30”, Gerard spent some time with me at his old apartment in New York City to walk me through some of the untold moments from his journey.


For those who aren’t familiar yet with Gerard Adams today, he’s a co-founder of Elite Daily, which is one of the largest Millennial-geared online publications in history, as well as an angel investor. He also recently began FOWNDERS, a non-profit incubator in Newark, New Jersey, and has his own YouTube series called Leaders Create Leaders.

However, he wasn’t always a successful startup founder. As a kid, he often got in fights and came home with less than stellar grades despite hopes from his family that he’d one day attend an Ivy League school. Sometimes, he’d go so far as to drag race on the streets with friends or run “side hustles” (as he called them) so he could have pocket change to buy nice clothes and feel independent of his parents who wouldn’t cave into giving him money, especially if his grades weren’t on point.

This helped him build a charismatic personality that, while occasionally getting him into uncertain or possibly dangerous scenarios, ultimately allowed him to drop out of community college and begin a business for himself. His first venture was an online forum for advice on investing, which he started in order to essentially crowdsource best practices on winning in the stock market.

Soon, his venture had over 10,000 traders communicating online and received attention from various entrepreneurs, one of which whom would become a mentor to Gerard. A couple of years of hard work later, Gerard found himself in a room with Wall Street’s elite traders, banks, and press members, all for an event he had suggested to his mentor and planned upon getting approval. The event was called for in order to showcase new battery technology his mentor’s company had created, and with a successful demo, the company stood on the brink of skyrocketing in the public markets, making everyone involved in the company extremely successful and leading to, potentially, one of the largest breakthroughs ever in this type of hardware-based technology.

Instead, the demo bombed because the technical team at the company hadn’t tested their showcase before the crowd had assembled, and the company tanked after all of Wall Street trashed it with the poor showing. Devastated, Gerard almost walked out of the room he had amassed defeated and destined for the land of college dropouts who work at minimum wage or face more college even after running away once.

To his surprise, many of the firms in the room at his event actually hired Gerard to help them market their companies in similar fashion, and soon he had a new business in marketing consulting and research. This time, the company swelled to eight figures in revenue and life was looking good! Gerard bought all the fancy watches, cars, clothes, and more and let his ego off the leash as his firm grew. That wouldn’t be the end of the story, of course.

2008 happened and suddenly no one on Wall Street wanted to pay anyone for help, so Gerard’s business was forced to shut down, and Gerard was left running massive trades in the coming years, some of which did extremely well, and some of which leveled him. He also made various documentaries about issues like higher education’s proposed value to students and had his content banned from major media outlets and YouTube after a couple television appearances and millions of views. Apparently, his work was too controversial for a post-crash university system that had little wiggle room in the business of bringing in new students at six-figure degree prices.

As he saw his career, ego, and sense of purpose rise and fall from high school until this point in his journey, Gerard finally saw a light at the end of the tunnel when an opportunity arose to mentor someone else. David Arabov, whose father is the well-known and controversial NYC-based jeweler dubbed Jacob the Jeweler, needed some guidance as per his mother’s request, and Gerard fell in love with David’s hustle when it came to selling custom G-Shock watches. After bringing him into work for a few months, Gerard got a proverbial wake-up call when David came to him with an idea to start a media website for Millennials that eventually became Elite Daily.

Along with a third friend and Co-Founder, the now-trio built the company over a couple short years to the size it reached in 2015 when it was sold to Daily Mail for around $50,000,000, and in the final stages of selling the company, Gerard and his partners had various quarrels about whether or not selling would be the right decision for them. Ultimately, the transaction went through, and now Gerard is able to share these ups-and-downs more publicly via his web series, as a public speaker, and as a newly-minted angel investor in various companies ranging from tech and media to fashion.

While I first met Gerard late last year, and questioned what he would do next with his career, one thing is certain. In his own unique way, he’s ready to lead the charge of giving back to fellow entrepreneurs and providing the same mentorship and opportunities he received when he was fresh out of college and making his movie-like transition from being jumped in school parking lots to signing off on eight-figure deals in corporate boardrooms.

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