Ankit Oberoi of AdPushup: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times

Jason Hartman
Authority Magazine
Published in
9 min readSep 21, 2020


The best way to lead effectively during such times would be to be empathetic, take bold and proactive decisions, channel effective communication, form real and meaningful goals, and look for new opportunities.

As part of my series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ankit Oberoi.

Ankit is the CEO and Co-Founder of AdPushup, a technology company that helps web publishers accelerate their revenue growth. He has led the product development, market strategy, and business development efforts, which has allowed the company to scale to 4 billion+ monthly impressions for over 300 publishers worldwide.

Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are really occupied. But we wanted to have you here for our readers who would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

First off, thank you so much for having me here. It’s a pleasure.

So I started my business journey a bit early. I was 14 when I set up my first business: a web hosting service, it wasn’t called cloud back then. I wanted to set up an e-commerce website but the process of buying a domain, running and setting up a web server was so interesting that being the geek that I was, I decided to just do that.

After a while it got a little boring, I had just entered college and one of my web servers faced a security incident which had me learning and reading about information security a lot, and I was so fascinated that I ended up dropping out of college and starting my first full-time info-sec business called Innobuzz, where I grew our base from a two-room office to a multi-national information security brand. At Innobuzz, our largest marketing channel was SEM and we would do a lot of A/B testing to fine-tune our lead acquisition cost.

The early team also had experience with the monetization of content via Google AdSense and my third startup AdPushup was born with the cross-pollination of these ideas, A/B testing for ad placement, something which didn’t exist back in the day. So, it struck us one day and immediately became a weekend project. Within the next few weeks, we came up with a basic JavaScript code and tested it out with 3–4 publishers and the results were very exciting. These websites were making 50–90% more revenue because of our testing.

And that’s how AdPushup was born in 2014.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

Our story is filled with mistakes, I’m sure we’re still making many! I recall a funny instance, not a mistake per se, we were raising our angel round and Jeremie Berrebi back then was managing Kima Ventures, the LP in the fund is Xavier Niel, a French billionaire businessman. We didn’t know any angel investors and our only hope was cold email, so this is the email we sent Jeremie to stand out:

A lot of other people we sent the sample template too, didn’t receive it too well, a bit immature on our part but Jeremie ended up investing and we wrote more about the whole story here.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I would say there’s not just one person but many people I have worked with and I am working with right now who have helped AdPushup grow. Our early team put in day and night to build our first version, very hard-working people — wish I could have done more for them than I did. However, in particular, one incident that I recall is with Ravi Srivastava, our board member. Sometime in 2015, we were very close to shutting down the company, in hindsight, it was just a few bad things which happened together, but back then our product had serious obstacles, our growth was slower than expected, some of our investors were losing faith and we were developing interpersonal issues, it was back then, when Ravi did I don’t know how many 3–4 hour-long calls with us and helped us pass the time and I think the company wouldn’t have existed if he wasn’t there.

Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?

Absolutely! When we started AdPushup, we realised that no one was tackling the issue of revenue optimisation for web publishers as compared to extensive optimisation tools for marketers, however, the true purpose which we discovered was something else.

While working with our first 3–4 publishers, while it was all just a weekend project, we saw when our publishers made more money using our tool, we saw a trajectory change in their businesses, they started hiring more people, investing more into their business — this was very inspirational to see the result and impact of our work — more than that, personally, I’m a college dropout, majority of my learning has been online, so I realized how we are helping so many people by enabling publishers to provide free access to information. This helped us develop our purpose.

Soon afterward, our mission became (which is the same till the date) to help keep the world’s information freely accessible by enabling web publishers.

Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?

I believe this is the best time to answer this question. I think when you are leading a team or a company, you have to first realise that there is a crisis and then work on the solution instead of sulking. What I’ve learned about challenges and difficulties is that there’s always a hidden opportunity. In fact, constraints are what drives innovation and creativity, plenty of examples out there. The most recent case because of COVID-19, when everyone was fearing the uncertainty, we realigned the team to work remotely pretty quickly, changed out GTM strategy, and Q2 2020, was the fastest-growing quarter in our history.

Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?

Thankfully, I haven’t had that thought. Yes, there are times when you feel a little demotivated or there is an unclear path ahead but then, I tend to sit back and rethink the situation in front of me and look at the big picture. I always try to look at challenges as an opportunity instead of a problem.

What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?

There is a lot to learn about leadership from animals and social psychology. You’d be surprised that the expectations of a team are not very different, human beings are after all social animals. I think the most critical role of a leader during challenges is to maintain peace, console people, give them confidence and encouragement with clear direction, while confirming safety and stability.

When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate and engage their team?

The best way to boost team morale would be to communicate. And that should not be just business. I believe as a leader you have to make your team put their faith in you and empower them.

What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?

The best way I know is, to be honest, and polite. I believe in giving constructive feedback within the team. As for customers, there is no other way than speaking the truth and facts.

How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?

There are always leading indicators and signs. However, the quality of a good plan is not how right or correct it is, but how flexible and adaptable the plan can become.

Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?

The only principle is to keep going and keep learning. We must learn our lessons from the dips and rise above them.

Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during difficult times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?

I have seen businesses suffering in difficult times because of two major things: resistance to change and lack of strategic decision making.

To avoid getting into trouble, leaders and businesses must accept the changes and seek feedback and opinions positively. This will eventually help in coming up with a better business strategy, resulting in better results.

Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?

AdPushup recently made it to the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing US companies for the year 2020. More specifically, we ranked 154 on the list with a three-year growth rate of 2518%.

These numbers are a testimony to the fact that we stayed true to our purpose of generating advanced revenue optimization solutions for the media and publishing industry, which in turn helped them free up their resources and focus on their core business of providing quality content.

We have always focussed on building software to solve problems. The recent innovations include a first-party data processing engine to empower publishers in a cookie-less world and Prebid server offering via a PaaS (platform as a service) model, allowing developers to integrate server-side header bidding with a single line of code. We also built a free tool to help publishers visually manage their ads.txt files using an easy drag-and-drop interface and a single admin panel.

Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example for each.

The best way to lead effectively during such times would be to be empathetic, take bold and proactive decisions, channel effective communication, form real and meaningful goals, and look for new opportunities.

It made a lot of sense to me when Ratan Tata (Chairman of Tata Group) said that laying off in masses was a knee-jerk reaction, instead, companies must also look out for their employees. When this lockdown happened, we knew that the next few months will be a huge challenge. People started withdrawing themselves from business, we on the other hand started mapping out the opportunities we could bank on and laid our plans accordingly. All of this happened only because we have an awesome team that puts in all the efforts.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.

- Albert Einstein

We have failed multiple times, and it happens all the time. The real deal is to learn from your mistakes, and keep moving forward.

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Jason Hartman
Authority Magazine

Author | Speaker | Financial Guru | Podcast Rockstar