Feb. 9, 2023

Exploring the Benefits of Media for Growth Funding with Diana Florescu

Diana Florescu is the founder of Media Growth. In this episode we learn about Diana's journey as an entrepreneur and her current project Media for Growth which involves exchanging equity for media assets. Plus, hear about the survival rate among companies that have raised media for growth funding and the insightful conversation on valuing time and self-reflection.

Show highlights:

1:23 – what is the weirdest food you have ever tried living/traveling abroad?

3:00 – do you prefer a window seat or an aisle seat?

6:35 – as a kid who did you want to be when you grew up?

9:05 – is there one thing that you do really well?

10:50 – are there any strategies you use before you deliver a presentation?

13:15 – what is media for equity?

15:35 – how many founders have taken advantage of this in Europe?

16:30 – how are founders finding out about media for growth funds?

20:45 – what was the highest stakes negotiation you have ever been in?

22:20 – before you run for President, you must destroy all evidence of _______

23:05 - _____________ blank is your biggest pet peeve

Do you wish to connect with our special guest?

Visit MediaforGrowth’s website: www.mediaforgrowth.co

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On LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ericmelchor/


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Past Guests:


Past guests on Innovators Can Laugh include Irina Obushtarova, Yannik Veys, Ovi Negrean, Arnaud Belinga, Csaba Zajdó, Dagobert Renouf, Andrei Zinkevich, Viktorija Cijunskyte, Lukas Kaminskis, Pija Indriunaite, Monika Paule, PhD, Vytautas Zabulis, Leon van der Laan, Ieva Vaitkevičiūtė.


Additional episod

Tune in to every conversation about exciting European Startups and Innovators on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Amazon! Leave a rating and review so we can keep making amazing interviews!

Listening on a desktop & can’t see the links? Just search for Innovators Can Laugh in your favorite podcast player.

Connect with Eric:
Visit his website: https://innovatorscanlaugh.com

For the Innovators Can Laugh newsletter in your inbox every week, subscribe at https://innovatorscanlaugh.substack.com

Past Guests:
Past guests on Innovators Can Laugh include Yannik Veys, Ovi Negrean, Arnaud Belinga, Csaba Zajdó, Dagobert Renouf, Andrei Zinkevich, Viktorija Cijunskyte, Lukas Kaminskis, Pija Indriunaite, Monika Paule, PhD, Vytautas Zabulis, Leon van der Laan, Ieva Vaitkevičiūtė.
Additional episodes you might enjoy:
#55 Yannik Veys - From creating the Uber for service professionals to growing Hypefury
#53 Tzvete Doncheva - Overcoming barriers to get into a VC with Tzvete Doncheva
#50 V...


Do you think you can scale a startup using the power of advertising?


Well, my guest today is Diana Florescu and she believes you can. Diana is the founder of Media for Growth, the first global network that aligns the interests of startups, investors, and experienced media professionals. They are focused on backing ambitious founders by helping them scale and grow through the power of advertising and media for growth funding.


Diana, welcome to Innovators Can Laugh.


Hi, Eric. Thanks for having me. And I really love how you pronounce my name. Very much spot on. Yeah.


Well, I have some practice because my wife, her name is Vladescu. And so I knew I would at least get your last name right. Yeah. Okay. So first question I have for you, Diana, is recently you've been traveling a lot. I think you were in Vienna for the Wolf Summit. You were in Lisbon for the Web Summit. And I think you've lived in six different countries over the past few years.


So my first question is, what is the weirdest food you've ever tried while living abroad or traveling?


That's a good one. Maybe I would say, so you're right, I lived in many different countries, for example, Middle East, Qatar, and then US, which probably there's a lot more kind of usual food that you'll find in the UK and Europe. But probably the most weird one I would say was in Scotland. So maybe some of the listeners might be aware of which it's a delicious food, to be honest.


It just doesn't sound really appealing. It was made out of, it's basically made out of like sheep intestines and yeah, all sorts of remains and cuts. So it's quite a heavy dish and it's like a winter dish, like quite a warm wintery dish. But it's weird, just it sounds weird, but it just, it tastes so nice. So I highly recommend it. Okay.


There are dishes that sound weird, like here in Romania, goulash. Goulash sounds really weird back home in the States, but the soup here is actually quite delicious.


In fact, I'm going to have it for lunch after this call because I'm craving it.


Yeah, although goulash, it's actually not a Romanian dish.


I guess you know that, right?


It's originally Hungarian. Yeah. Yeah. I thought at first it was Romanian. They said it's not. I thought Kurtoz was Romanian and they said, no, it's actually Hungarian. So I think all my favorite Romanian foods are actually Hungarian foods. Yeah. Yeah.


Well, I mean, we've got, we have, we travel in Romania, but in Transylvania, obviously you have a big minority of Hungarian people and probably that's where you find the best goulash in the country. Yeah.


Yeah, absolutely.


Okay, next question is actually a traveling question as well.


Do you prefer a window seat or an aisle seat, Diana?


I guess it depends where I'm going. If I'm traveling to, so I, I'm probably going to fly every, every month or so. So if I go to a place that I've ever, I've been so many different times, I really can't be bothered. Probably I would prefer an aisle seat because I can, yeah, I can probably just get out. At that point, all you want to do is just save time.


So you just want to be the first one out of the plane, but if I am on a long flight, oh, it's a very nice place that I, I've never been to.


Yeah, probably up for the window seat. Okay. Okay. Good. Good.


Do you have any funny or strange travel stories since you've been traveling so much all these years?


Travel stories.


I mean, I think it's, I'm not gonna say like probably unusual. I think a lot of people that are listening in, if you've been on a long flight, it's likely that you'll make friends.


So I was, at one point I lived in the States in Austin, Texas. So I was commuting quite a bit between London, Austin, Austin, London. Also when I was living in Qatar, these are like eight, nine hours flights.


So yeah, it happened that you just kind of like meet a bunch of people or go into the similar events, you exchange numbers and then a couple of days later you basically meet in a pub for a pint or something like that. So I don't know.


I don't know if you want to say, but it's, I guess if you are a quite like a grigorious sort of chatty person, you would make friends. Oh no. That's me. Yeah. Yeah. That's me. I didn't know you lived back in my home state. So I'm from Houston, but of course I knew Austin quite well.


Did you have a good experience in Austin?


I loved it. And I was about to say, but I was, I worked with a couple of partners there and your accent reminds me of someone that I used to work with quite a lot. And he was originally from Austin, Texas. So you do sound very much alike. I didn't know that about you. That's interesting. I loved Austin.


I haven't had the chance to travel a lot in Texas, but I think it's a quite unique place in the whole state. I just love the people. I love the culture.


I mean, obviously there's a huge kind of music culture there.


I mean, what is not to like the food?


If you are, I hope I wouldn't offend any vegetarians. I know. But I just, I love the steaks and barbecues.


And I think there is, have you ever been to, or have you heard of Terry's Black?


I think there's this massive barbecue place, which apparently the actual barbecue, the grill hasn't stopped for, I don't know, a couple of decades now. It was just, it was really good. So I loved it. And the out, if you are outdoorsy, the nature is lovely. I couldn't recommend it enough. Yeah. So Austin is great. Before I go back home, the first place I usually go to is a barbecue restaurant.


And then the second place is usually a Tex-Mex restaurant.


Yeah, well I think that I've had tacos is a thing. I'm not a breakfast person, I don't have breakfast. So my first meal in the day is basically lunch. But when I was there, I mean, when you think about tacos, that's something that probably you have for dinner or whenever it's a savory snack.


But having it for breakfast or queuing to get it from like a taco van, it's like, yeah, that was a bit of a culture shock, I guess, but quite interesting.


Oh God, they're so good. And it's really a Southwest thing. When I moved into New York, there was really no place selling breakfast tacos. Everybody was eating bagels. But you have different food for different regions of the country. It's such a huge country. But let's get back to you.


As a kid, who did you want to be when you grew up, Diana?


Did you always know you were going to be an entrepreneur from an early age?


No, I don't actually, I don't think I grew up with that mindset or idea. I didn't even know probably back then what it actually feels like to run a business. So I come from a pre, I guess, modest traditional background. My parents just have normal jobs, secure jobs. My mom works in marketing, advertising. My dad has more of a stay job. So I think I've been exposed to different projects.


I grew up in Romania. So I went to school there. I went to high school in Romania. I always had that idea that I just kind of want to do something on my own. I want to own some of the things that I'm creating.


And I guess it was when I moved to the UK and just being exposed to so many different people and cultures and opportunities, I realized that there is a possibility where you can actually start something and build something from the ground up, even though you didn't necessarily have a family business. Or I don't think there's something specific that can prepare you to be an entrepreneur or to run your own business.


I think it just requires a lot of resilience and courage. And I guess you just have to make some kind of pact with yourself that whatever you're trying to build, you really have to be passionate about that industry or space because you're going to be in that space for quite some time.


And if you don't mind some kind of uncertainty or long hours or sometimes struggling to have a bit of a work-life balance, then I think you should give it a try.


So for me, it kind of came out naturally out of uni. I already started my first business when I was in university. I had an opportunity at the time and that got me exposed to many other different projects and basically where I'm today. Yeah. I see that.


I mean, prior to media growth, you had a variety of experiences. You worked as a marketing exec for a mobile gaming studio. You co-founded a startup that was providing solutions to food waste. You were a global marketing manager for Startup Bootcamp. And you also had a marketing for a corporate innovation and venture development firm that had 12 offices throughout the world.


During your career journey here, what did you discover about yourself that you knew, hey, I'm really good at this specific function?


Is there like one thing that you knew that I do this really well?


Yeah, I think it's a good question.


I mean, I'm a marketeer by background. So everything that you just mentioned right now, all those different companies, my kind of general role with them was to be part of the marketing department in one way or another with some running it or with, for example, with Hodge Games, which is a very successful gaming studio based out of London.


That was one of my kind of first jobs I had when I started out. I think I'm more of a T-shaped kind of person or marketeer. And these days, I'm probably, I would say that I do so many different things that I wouldn't necessarily call myself a marketeer anymore.


But I've realized probably early on that I'm really good at kind of conveying the message in a digestible, visual, easy to understand way to the right audience. And I think especially us, in the times we live and there's so much fragmentation of media, there's so much messaging out there. Trying to reach the people you're trying to reach with the right message that speaks to them is really important.


So basically what I mean by that in practical terms, I've been really good at crafting presentations, proposals, sales presentations, and also my role from purely kind of a digital marketing or being marketing kind of person, pivoted and grew into more of a commercial sales customer facing role.


So I think that's what I'm pretty good at, creating those presentations, the communication plan, the messaging, if you like, when it comes to qualifying, converting prospects into actual leads and essentially customers later on.


When you're giving these live presentations in person or maybe over Zoom, is there any strategies that you use to just feel more comfortable, be more relaxed during the presentation?


I think you mentioned Zoom. So this is actually quite tough. I think during the pandemic, if you are in a sales role, if you are in a sales role, I think it's quite challenging, especially when you never met that person before, to try to kind of give a sales pitch. Because I think a lot is to do with the non-verbal communication and every culture is different.


So I mean, for example, in Middle East, you wouldn't probably start talking business even maybe after like a couple of meetings in, you get to know that person, you try to empathize with them and try to get to know them first on a personal level.


So when you just jump on a Zoom call for the first time and all you want to do is just talk about your business and how much money or value it can add to you, it's tough. So I think with Zoom, very often, in fact, I almost, in the beginning, I had probably no visual aid of any sort. I just wanted to get to know that person first.


And then if it adds value or if there is a right fit, then yeah, we can follow up. And most of the time I would even go like an extra mile and I would probably try to fly in and meet them.


So obviously it depends on every situation is different, but if it's an important client or important prospect, then I would actually make the effort to go and see them because it makes a huge difference. In real life, I think there's, well, this is funny because I actually had a chat, a similar chat with another friend of mine who did a podcast just about presentations.


So I don't want to turn this conversation into how to build presentations because there's one already out there. But I do have quite a blueprint, if you like, about what should go in that presentation.


I think, again, it has to do a lot with knowing your customer and what they like and talk about your business or what is it that you do after you hear the story. So after basically at the end. And I think a lot of people just start talking about me, me, me, me, me, and this is what we do.


And then you get to their part, which I just think that it doesn't do justice. It doesn't help them in any way because they have to be in a set of intention. And then it's better to listen.


Yeah, it's got to be. Yeah.


Yeah, absolutely. Listen. And it's got to be like a win-win situation. Now let's jump to something that you're excited about right now.


What are you working on right now, Diana?


What is media equity, Diana?


So media for growth or media for, I call it media for growth. And I think it's important that maybe I mention why, because it's not always just about exchanging equity. And I also feel that it's very transactional. And I think a lot of founders, they really need to understand what's the value they get out of these deals, which is not just the media assets.


But most of the time, these investors do take the time to help with the media planning, sometimes the creatives, which otherwise would cost a lot of money. So I call it media for growth. It's a relatively new investment type. So fairly similar to a traditional VC fund.


Some of these media funds either pertain to a media broadcaster, where they will invest their assets or they are independent funds like German Media Pool in Germany or Aggregate Media in the Nordics, where they have their own fund, they created an independent fund and they aggregate assets from different media providers, media publishers, from TV stations to radio, outdoor and digital.


So what we do at media for growth, this is the first association to say, look, there's a lot of different funds investing media capital in companies right now, primarily in Europe, but also we have large funds such as the Times Group of India, their venture arms, Cobre and Capital International, or we have emerging ones like Thame in Singapore.


But there is no actual kind of industry body association to represent the media for growth funds. You've got loads of industry bodies and associations in the VC space.


So I think we need a neutral organization to kind of give voice and educate both VCs as well as founders that this investment model exists, but also just to kind of advance conversations in terms of where this should go, what are maybe the possibilities of scaling this and using technology and making some of these investments perhaps a bit more lucrative and effective. So that's what we do at media for growth.


We have roughly 20 funds in the network, primarily Europe, but as I mentioned, as well, US, Latin America, Asia Pacific, and the ambition and the vision is to scale this further into a fund. But that's for another conversation and hopefully for in the upcoming year or so. That sounds so exciting.


Roughly how many founders have taken advantage of this and have exchange equity for advertising here in Europe?


Yeah, I mean, there's over a thousand of them. The numbers probably don't sound that high compared to all the millions of startups that raise investment from VCs or from angel investors. But I guess we just have to keep in mind that this only started in the early 2000s. So it's been basically it's been around for about two decades.


A lot of these investments, the number of deals have been actually driven by Brain Capital International, which is the venture arm of the Times of India. The fund has been extremely active in India, investing in over 900 companies. So I think overall, we're probably looking at about 1500 of companies that have raised media for growth funding over the past two decades. Wow.


So are founders becoming aware of this through accelerators and different programs?


I mean, I know you say you're trying to get the word out and educate a lot of founders about this.


How are you doing that?


Yeah, this is a great question. Unfortunately, I haven't actually seen an accelerator that would present the opportunity to founders this way. We do have, this is actually one of the things that we're doing. So you're spot on.


We have different partnerships with community partners, startup operators, as well as VCs, which allow us to present the opportunity to the founders, either graduating or maybe some of the portfolio companies, which are a bit more advanced. So the way we do it right now, so there's this couple of things.


Having thought leadership content in a form of, for example, the research report, which we just released last month in Vienna with Wolf Summit and Chris Sheldrake, which is the CEO of What3words. It's an amazing company that has raised multiple media for growth grounds because they understood also how it works and this type of investment really works for them as well.


So he was there and we had an extremely open conversation, which right now is also available both as a podcast, but there's an article available on our website as well. And he explained his experience as a founder. So what we're trying to do is to put other startup founders in the spotlight to share their experience, good or bad.


I think it's extremely important that we stay neutral and we don't necessarily push this investment as kind of the ultimate for your company to grow and raise brand awareness. If your company is in an extremely good place and you can pay millions of pounds for media and you don't think that you need the support and the expertise of these media broadcasters, then of course you can do it yourself.


I think there's a lot of opportunities and advantages of tapping into this model. So we normally let founders tell their stories. We also have the research, which basically looked at all the different investments that we talked about and how they're performing, what they're doing, how much funds they raised, where they are right now. And the stats look pretty impressive.


For example, the survival rate among the companies that have raised media for growth funding is absolutely shocking. So we're talking about more than 90% of these companies.


So about, I would say 1500 of them are still alive and growing, which is a very, very high number compared to traditional startups out there that haven't raised. But also- Yeah.


Are we looking at the first three, four, five years?


I mean, what kind of period are we looking at here?


So these are companies that have been founded after 2000 and they raised at least one round of media. Most of these companies have raised when they were at a speed or serious age stage and roughly 90% of them are still alive and growing. Some of them have actually been either acquired or they had an IPO, but majority of them are still active. And there's some- You said mostly between Seed and Series 8. Yeah. Okay.


Yeah. So this is, I mean, if you think about it, how this all started back in the early 2000 was that the actual capital available in the market at the time, I mean, if you remember the event, the dot-com bubble made a lot of the startups kind of scramble for cash and it was quite scarce.


And it was an opportunity for them to strike a partnership with media publishers, which also at the time they were looking to unlock new revenue streams. So it was quite normal that this happened at an earlier stage. Now I think as the model evolves, the European market has evolved as well. There's way more capital flowing in. We see that there's an obvious change towards more later stage companies.


And again, it's an obvious kind of transition evolution.


You also want to shorten that path to liquidity, right?


As an investor makes sense. So for example, we bring up to international, we are looking at the European market right now. So I work directly with the team in terms of scaling high growth stage companies. We're even looking at public listed companies. So just so you get an idea of how we later stage these companies could be to scale in India and raise a media for growth fund in India.


This is so fascinating. A couple of more questions here.


What was the highest stakes negotiation you've ever been in, Diane?


So high stakes negotiation you've ever been in?


Is this about media investment or in general?


Just in general.


I mean, so basically as a side note from, so media for growth is the company that I'm leading and that's obviously what I focus on a lot these days, but also you probably might have seen and it's quite public. And I've always made this quite visible to the public that I am a partner, a shareholder in Wolf Summit, which is a technology event, which is happening three times a year right now.


And as part of the summit for the past two years, I've been working on building innovation arm for the business. So here we're dealing with a lot of high profile, world leading brands.


Just earlier this year, I was leading a project with LG electronics, but also we were quite fortunate to be in a very good position to apply for funding from European commission to create and build new programs and new projects for centuries in European founders.


So I can't disclose the exact project, but it's very likely that we might have won a 20 million euro grant to build a very exciting project, which hopefully I'll be able to share more next year. That's so exciting. Yeah. Yeah. Okay. Okay.


Well, very cool. Okay. Last couple of questions just to get to get to know your personality a little bit better. And these are really meant to just to be funny. First question is before you run for prime minister or president, depending where you're at, you must destroy all evidence of your involvement with blank fill in the blank Diana. Oh God. This is a tough one.


I mean, I don't mean to sound boring and also I'm probably not the funniest person that you probably have a hat on this podcast, Eric. I don't think I've done anything that bad that I need to raise it. I did see my social media accounts. That's just in what kind of interest like okay, what kind of pictures maybe should be removed, but I actually don't think it's that bad. Okay. Okay.


Next question for you. This is another fill in the blank Diana. Yeah. Blank is your biggest pet peeve. Blank is your biggest pet peeve.


My biggest what?


Pet peeve is like something that annoys you. Annoying me. Wasting time.


So I, yeah, well, we kind of just met I guess, but if we have another couple more conversations in one of the things that I always say, let's just not waste time. Let's do it in a way.


Can this be done?


Can this be automated?


Can this be more effective?


How can we increase efficiency?


Yeah. So my friends, but also people that I work with. If there's one line that defines me, I think it's just not waste time. Yeah.


No, I am with you on that. I look for so many ways to buy time. It's not even funny. I've written posts about it before because time is the most valuable thing that we have.


And I think people, if people were to just have this outlook like, hey, even though I may not be working, but one hour is equivalent to maybe like $300 USD, then you would think differently how you spend your time. Yeah.


Very, very differently. But if you have this point of view or the way you look at it, you'll be surprised at how much you can get done. Absolutely. And I think you have to know how much you're worth and how much value basically you can provide for you to be able to, I guess, fully understand the implications of not using that time effectively.


And I think it really comes with a lot of self-reflection and understanding your net worth. Yeah. All right.


Diana, thank you so much for being on Innovators Can Laugh. It was a pleasure having you on the show. Pleasure. Everybody listening, I will, yeah, for everybody listening, I'll include links to Meteor for Growth as well as Diana's profile on LinkedIn. Thank you for listening. If you enjoyed it, tell others about it. That's how we grow. You can catch our show also on YouTube. Okay. I'll see you next week. Bye.