VOLUME 26 #1

Current cover


Photo of Star and Nagaswami in front of a car
Photo by Evan Krape
Greg Star (left) and Mac Nagaswami are shaking up the ad business.

Up-and-coming Wrap Stars

ALUMNI | You could call them a millennial success story, but the word would leave them uneasy. Success is elusive. The second you claim it is the second you start slipping.

Perhaps, then, it’s better to begin by describing what they’re not. They’re not formal or pretentious or intimidated by the unknown. They’re not working for a company run by someone else. They’re not quite out of their twenties. And they’re not even close to slowing down.

When Mac Nagaswami, BE14, and Greg Star, BE13, launched Carvertise as students in 2012, they already had a laser-like vision of what their business could be. In the grandest scale, it was Uber meets Times Square—regular folk turning their vehicles into mobile billboards for brands eager to find a marketing edge. Today, Carvertise has 160,000 drivers, more than two dozen national advertising campaigns and a 2018 earnings projection of $2.5 million, with 40 percent reached in January alone.

“We’re writing the playbook as we play,” says CEO Nagaswami. “There’s no rulebook, no franchise, no formula on how to successfully, sustainably create this media format.”

But there has been some help. During the company’s earliest years, UD’s Horn Entrepreneurship provided insight, expertise and office space, with faculty and staff on hand to help the budding entrepreneurs find investors and clients. In fact, Nagaswami’s ambitious journey into advertising really began in ECON350: Economics of Entrepreneurship. Taught by James O’Neill, the class featured guest lectures from successful entrepreneurs. It was when Nagaswami realized, “Oh, you don’t have to go work for a company.”

Shortly after, he decided to attend school part-time and devote more energy to Carvertise. When he returned to ECON350 the following semester to share this idea—of drivers getting paid to market businesses while giving companies an alternative way of standing out—Star, then a junior economics major, took notes from the front row. Now company COO, Star says, “You know something’s good when you think, ‘How is this not a thing yet?’”

Together, they would work part-time jobs while attending classes, and devote “every remaining waking moment to building this thing out.” With college-kid swagger and bold ambition, their big break came in 2014, when they secured the carvertise.com website and $200,000 in seed funding.

Today, they have one of only two car-wrap businesses in the country, with 12 full-time employees and a vision for continued growth. As Star puts it, “not quitting goes a long way.”

Each year, the University’s 17&43 Awards recognize the 17 most promising new alumni ventures (such as Carvertise) and 43 fastest growing alumni companies. UD is currently accepting nominations for this award until May 31, 2018 at www.udel.edu/17and43.

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