In less than a decade, Millennial Media has become a titan, if an obscure one, of the mobile advertising industry.
The Canton-based, Baltimore-born startup is generally considered one of the top three mobile advertising companies along with Google and Apple. It went public in spring 2012. In 2013 it acquired two smaller companies as it looks to compete with Google in a mobile ad industry that’s expected to top $40 billion in 2018. Millennial employs 200 people at its Canton headquarters, recently doubled the size of its Baltimore office, “is focused on deepening its roots in Baltimore” — and just parted ways with its 43-year-old cofounder Paul Palmieri.
As of Jan. 25, Palmieri stepped down from Millennial’s board of directors and as CEO of the company he helped build. He left for a position as venture adviser withNew Enterprise Associates (NEA), a venture capital firm with international reach and offices in Chevy Chase, Md., that has invested in Millennial Media. (Patrick Kerins, a partner with NEA, is chairman of the board at Millennial.)
“It’s a little bit like a parent sending their child off to college,” Palmieri said in an interview with Technical.ly Baltimore. “On one hand you’re very proud of the outcome of raising a kid and at the same time very, very excited for the next journey.”
In a statement Palmieri said the move to NEA was motivated by his desire to work with “early-stage entrepreneurs.” Although his ties to Millennial are not completely cut. He remains the largest independent shareholder of Millennial Media stock, and for at least another year, he’s staying on as an adviser to Millennial’s board and to Michael Barrett, the former Yahoo! chief revenue officer selected to replace Palmieri at CEO.
Barrett, 51, has said he’s not interested in selling Millennial Media, but he inherits a tall task. Since Millennial’s IPO its share price has lagged. Net losses through the first nine months of 2013 stood at $11.4 million. Although revenue projections for Q4 of 2013 — between $106 and $109 million — exceed the company’s expectations, Millennial Media has an accumulated deficit of $61.5 million as of September 2013. (In the company’s recent S-3 filing, one line reads: “We do not know when or if we will ever achieve profitability.”)
Palmieri is undeterred. “I cherish my ownership. I’m incredibly optimistic about the future,” he said. “This is a company that’s incredibly strong and incredibly focused on growing as the market grows.”
In late January, Technical.ly Baltimore spoke more with Palmieri about his predictions for Millennial’s future, his motivations for leaving the company he cofounded and what he’s expecting next in his new role at New Enterprise Associates.