Nikhil Arun, a Redmond-raised tech entrepreneur, recently sold his company, In-Video Impressions, to San Francisco-based genomic science company Vitagene.
Vitagene relies on computational biology and big data to assess one’s genetics and create a personalized health and nutrition plan. Arun’s company will help Vitagene better target potential consumers across various media.
At its core, In-Video Impressions is a digital ad-targeting company that collects packages of data and sells them to interested companies.
“People who create videos are creating audiences that are not well utilized, and there’s a way to target those audiences and sell them to advertisers in a way that’s privacy compliant,” Arun said.
For example, if a vlogger gains popularity for their yoga content, In-Video may strike a deal with that vlogger to track their audience. Then In-Video will sell that data to a company that makes yoga mats. The inherent challenge of In-Video, Arun said, was leveraging an audience’s digital habits without violating the privacy of individuals constituting that audience.
In-Video set out to find the most restrictive compilation of laws surrounding digital privacy and ensure their tech abided by it. Arun claimed that by designing the tech around the European Union’s notoriously strict General Data Protection Regulation laws, In-Video would be compliant with about 90 percent of digital privacy laws worldwide.
At the start, Arun said many potential clients were deterred by the fact that In-Video wasn’t selling the detailed information of individuals.
“I’m not going to be able to go give the Internet address of these people, I can tell you you’ve targeted these individuals, but I can’t pass their information along,” Arun said.
Arun said he bet on the fact that companies would ultimately realize the privacy restrictions were necessary. Last year’s hearing in Washington, D.C. with Mark Zuckerberg during which Congress scrutinized the privacy policies of Facebook, showed Arun it was a bet well placed.
“We had many people who initially turned us down come back and tell us that after following that hearing, they want our services after all,” he said.
Arun, who had lived in Redmond since age 3, said he began noticing the business opportunities flourishing in the area when was a teenager.
“I think growing up in Redmond did kind of shape me a bit. I think that does make a difference to just be able to think about starting a business as a sort of a normal thing I could,” Arun said.
Arun had worked at Microsoft in Redmond as a program manager for almost five years before starting In-Video in 2017. Before Microsoft, he was a hip-hop dancer who had earned a decent following. In 2011, Arun was one of a handful of dancers from the Western hemisphere selected for the focus piece of the 26th Universiades in Shenzhen, China.
While Arun first began performing hip-hop-infused Bollywood dances at Redmond High School functions, he said his entrepreneurial spirit was fed by school’s DECA club. A nationwide organization focused on building young adults’ marketing and business skills, DECA allowed Arun to draft mock pitches and compete at state competitions.
In his senior year, he created a business plan for a cricket league in India. Six months later, the Indian Premier League, based on a similar plan, was actually formed there by the Board of Control for Cricket in India. According to Arun, the plans were so similar that his dad asked him whether he had given his model away to someone.
“I think it was an interesting moment for me, because it made me realize that an idea that I had come up with was a good idea,” he said. “Even though I wasn’t old enough to execute the idea and I didn’t have the connections to make it happen, it really validated that idea.”
Arun will continue overseeing In-Video’s tech as head of growth for Vitagene.