Looking for the new Romanian Country Manager for TransferGo

I’m heading off to the San Francisco Bay Area in less than 2 months and it’s time to find a capable, passionate and smart person to replace me at TransferGo for the Romanian Country Manager role.

For the past year, we’ve worked towards gaining traction in the Romanian diaspora for TransferGo and switching as many migrant workers from old, expensive cash to digital money transfers and help them save money for their families.

We’ve achieved a lot, I personally learned many great things from the people I found and worked with at TransferGo and there’s a great opportunity to capture the market in the next few years, as more and more Romanians abroad join the Digital Diaspora and get familiar with online financial services. TransferGo is a great place to apply marketing, management, planning and business development skills. It’s also a great place to be intrapreneurial, as the corridor teams that are run by Country Managers are pretty autonomous.

It’s not a place for a corporate manager, nor is it a junior position. If you are experienced enough and with an entrepreneurial spirit and would thrive in a flexible environment where you would build not only your team, but challenge your goals and strategies every day, then apply here and we’ll let you know if we want to talk more.

I’m here to answer any questions to the best of my abilities.

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Secret Sauce #GrowthHacking book – the review of a preview

I recently got my hands on the free chapter of the Secret Sauce Growth Hacking guide. You can get it too here – secretsaucenow.com. In a nutshell, it’s a 14 pages walkthrough on how to get free press, whether you’re a startup or a more established company, but struggling to get your foot in the door with the media reps & journalists.

The chapter is well written and uses good examples and step-by-step sections where one can easily take the learning and apply it right away. Hell, I’m going to try it next week to see what happens, how fast I can get those couple of dozen media articles. I even have the right campaign in mind to do it. I bet you have one of those ideas, too, right now. But like me, you may be lacking the tools or the knowledge about the order or the approach which you need to take on to get noticed and published.

Even with my 10 years of digital marketing, growth hacking and PR experience in corporate, startup and agency environment, I was impressed with the big promise it starts with – the 1000s of journalists you can reach out to in a scalable way without risking to be a robot.

What you need to do to achieve this is to build that list of 1000s of websites (pay attention here, it’s websites, not contacts). Use the Chrome Scraper add-on for speed – it gets you directories. Cool, right? Ok, then once you have the list, then go to Buzzstream.com and push that list to get the contact details (magic!) and you are only left with the email and press kit to put together. Then you start mailing and replying to the ones interested.

Download the free chapter to find out exactly how to pitch and what to include in the press kit and please come back and tell me if it was worth your time.

Featured image source

Did Azimo follow the copyright rules in this blog post?

Later edit: No, they did not follow the rules, see the Twitter replies.

Today I stumbled upon this article on one of our competitor’s blogs. Azimo tries to capture more Romanian market share with 6 images that capture the country’s beauty. Ok, that’s a great thing, I’m Romanian and I love it when someone talks highly of my homeland.

The problem is that I’m not sure if they actually asked permission to use those photos they embedded via Twitter. The rules of online copyright say that if you use images for commercial purposes (as they clearly do), you must purchase/transfer the rights in some form from the user before posting the images online.

If the images are marked as Creative Commons, then you must showcase the license and type of rights the image holder has granted.

If a company / consultant does neither and they use those images on a commercially beneficial property, like a company blog, they are in breach of copyright laws. It’s 2016 and these rules have been around for some time so you’d expect every company that’s out there to know before they click publish.

So @HistoryTime_, @cliveyquack, @Itasha75, @sysgenic, @swedeninromania (instagram), @ancientorigins, did you give Azimo the right to use your images on their blog?

I wouldn’t want to hear an answer that’s not Yes in this case. Here’s a 5 year old article to back up my claims.

p.s. see the featured image to find out how to search for commercially usable images online with Google Search

SEO doesn’t work without branding

Even though TechCrunch now has gone tabloid, they still nail it from time to time. This week, I was reading an article on how the digital marketers decided to skip school, reinvent the wheel and discount all strategic management tools to go directly to instant gratification tactics and/or hacks.

My fight to pick right now is with the SEO. It doesn’t matter if you have a good SEO ranking if you are an unknown brand. As a corollary, SEO strategies are not effective in building brands if they focus solely on the SEO factor and not on the mix of PR & branding impact.

Just look at the A(wareness) I(nterest) D(esire) A(ction) model, a simple tool from the corporate marketing world. I, as a potential customer for your product, need to be first aware of it, then be interested in it, then desire it, in order to click and buy. If I’m not quite there, then what I will do is click to see if I’m interested, if I desire and then maybe buy. But the SEO article has to deliver, in this case, interest and desire, which, sadly, not many of them do. This is because the SEO people rarely work together with the PR people and they just run bland content, which doesn’t incite much interest, let alone desire. They focus more on action and on the link juice and that’s where they lose points.

The right way to do it is to link the PR, content marketing & overall branding strategy with the SEO by placing articles that are engaging, interesting, exciting and brand aligned on SEO properties to generate conversations, shares, social proof alongside the ranking increase. Hey, in the end, all those social signals end up actually boosting SEO.

So stop being boring, work with PR people and look beyond the DA/PA/other metrics you might be using.

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Photo taken from the Relevance Agency website

What’s missing from Ebay Argos drop-off in the UK

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I recently sold something via eBay and had to deliver it to Glasgow. It was a rather large package so regular post would have costed me in the range of double digits. That’s why I chose the eBay drop-off service via Argos, which I though would ease the process and make it cheaper. How wrong I was, you’ll soon find out. There are three episodes to this, all proving that the drop-off system needs a lot more work – both on communications & on operations.

Sunday

As I said, it was a rather large package, so I spent the morning searching for something to use as packaging, as the eBay section did say that I have to do it on my own. Argos does not provide packaging, nor do they sell it, which is poor judgement, from my point of view. Anyway, I went out to ship it via the Old Street Argos, most convenient option for me, and, when I got there, the lady at the counter did not only charge me before checking if the package can be accepted, but then refused to offer me a solution other than a refund and instructions to go to the post office to get “proper packaging”. When I asked what that was and how should I have known what “proper packaging” is, she called the manager who simply said: The eBay pickup guy will not take it. She also quoted me, charged and refunded me for a “medium package”, a thing that would alter my decision making process.

Tried to get packaging at Ryman, but they only had it with the DHL delivery, which was quoted at £17, an amount I would regret to not have take later on.

Time wasted: 2 hours
Money wasted: £5 for getting there and back

Monday

On Monday, I went to the post office and got “proper packaging” for £4. Okay, over my budget, but that’s a learning point. Tried to deliver it directly via the post, but they would have charged me £16 on top of the £4 already paid. SO I decided to go to Argos at Old Street once again. Big mistake. This time the machine was not working and there was no one to fix it at the time I went to drop off the package, so I went home.

Time wasted: 30 minutes
Money wasted: £2.5 for the extra trip

Tuesday

Finally, on Tuesday morning, I decided to change the Argos and went for the one in Camden Town. Even though the other Argos had quoted and charged me for the “medium package”, this Argos rep decided that my package is actually large, so I had to pay £2 extra for the delivery. What’s more, even though the store opens at 9am, there were people standing outside of the store up to 15 past, since they were waiting for someone to open the door. And I’m not even going to mention how long it took me to wait for the package to be handled.

Time wasted: 30 minutes
Money wasted: £2.5 for the trip, £2 for the extra charge

All in all, eBay drop-off seemed like a good idea, but it’s so poorly designed and executed that it took me three days, more money and many hours wasted, whereas I could have just sent it via Ryman’s DHL, that included packaging with £17. It wasted me a total of £12 and 4 hours, plus the frustration. Good job Argos & eBay.

Image source: Wikipedia

You can’t capture micro-moments just like that

Recently read about Google’s VP of Marketing saying that the advertising game is “no longer about reach and frequency”, but about capturing micro-moments. While the micro-moment focus is not news coming from Google, they’ve been at it for a while, the real deal here is the fact that a VP of Marketing is suggesting to drop demographics and identity to focus on immediacy and intent.

The author citing the Google rep tries to steer away from just micro-moments, suggesting to match customer data with context, but that’s still not enough. Let’s think about a use case:

Imagine you are searching for something you need, like money transfers or a sim card company for calling abroad.

Is it enough to stumble onto an ad?

What if that keyword group or market is saturated by competition and you see 10-15 different ads in a search result page?

How do you make up your mind which ones to click?

Then how do you make up your mind which ones to buy?

The short answer is that we don’t know for sure. But experience, past results and methodologies show that one person buying a product or service will go through several stages until they purchase. That’s AIDA (Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action), in this example. A customer is unlikely to take action if they aren’t aware, interested or desire your product or service and to desire, they must first be interested and to be interested they must first become aware. While you can short-circuit the model with Adwords, you can do it only if the perceived risk is lower than the promised reward and that’s difficult to assess if there is no awareness of your brand, product or service.

To build that awareness -> interest -> desire flow of customers, you want to look at demographics, reach and frequency of interaction with your multichannel touch points – that’s PR, events, offline branding, content marketing, emails, search ads, display ads, social media, endorsers, referrals, reviews. This mix becomes critical when you have a trust barrier to overcome, like in financial services or healthcare, for example, where the lack of delivery is financially or physically painful. In that case, Adwords alone cannot do the job. I like to compare its impact to that of the weapons in the case of the hunter and the hounds.

The hunter can only shoot the prey which is her weapon range, so she has to spend a lot of energy going out and finding the herds of deer. There are others out there too, so she might find herself heading to the pack and shoot or scare the prey. So her best bet is to bring in hounds to find and steer the prey in her direction. That way, she doesn’t have to waste time and energy going towards packs or shooting from afar, with little chance of success, but rather have deers come to her, cased by the hounds, and making single sure shots.

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Image credits: wikimedia.org

But what are the right hounds (channels) to go for? How do you choose them? That’s where the narrative, strategy, product USPs and experiments come in.

Those who want the EU to fall apart are idiots

I have travelled in almost all the European Union countries and have worked so far in 2 of them. Either for pleasure or for business, every trip was natural and easy to do, borders are open to us with a simple passport or national ID card. It’s fast and it’s cheap to do it.

Romania, my home country, only acceded as a member on January 1st 2007, after a long and arduous journey, missed deadlines, disappointment and defeat. I was the unlucky local generation, the last to graduate from high school without being able to travel freely in Europe. We had no idea and no means to think about studying abroad and for travels you’d have had to deal with embassies and consulates, pay visa fees and queue at the other travellers gates. It made vacationing abroad a rare exception, reserved for the wealthy few – some economic criminals, them and their entire families – as it was to be proven in the next 7-8 years.

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photo credits: Wikimedia.com

For each country that acceded, the EU brought three things: a foreseeable end for corruption, economic growth via aid – EU funding on strategic verticals and horizontals and foreign direct investment. What’s more, at least now, from empiric observations, I can see that we do not hate each other as much as we did after WWII (understandable, as you were expected to kill or be killed).

It’s now easier than ever to roam around the continent, do business and relocate altogether in other countries, a mix of opportunities that only broaden ones perspectives and make them inevitably more tolerant, open, progressive and kind. You simply cannot wage war against a country where you have friends and you can collute with them once your ruling regimes become antagonizing in order to stop them (street protests, social media, advocacy, lobby, activism).

The EU is the best mechanism found so far to keep countries like Germany, France, Britain or the nordics from trying to claim power with the use of force. Sure, they now play the economic and social game, but that’s at least without bloodshed. Just imagine how easy it would be to conquer or influence easter countries to fall under Soviet rule again or under any kind of promise of a belonging without the EU. Imagine trade with permits and taxes and hurdles that add 30-50% to the prices, what that would do to inflation, to standards of living. Maybe inflation is the endgame for some, but i consider them irresponsible, throwing an entire continent into a death-spin to align their charts and forecasts.

We are living the european dream right now and more and more countries, starting with the UK and their irresponsible politicians, are threatening to wake us up in the most brutal manner: by dismantling what our grandparents fought for – peace and unity.

TransferGo

I have an announcement to make. Starting this week, I joined the London team of the international fintech startup TransferGo as the Romanian Country Manager.

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TransferGo is a London-based (Level39) fintech startup founded by migrant entrepreneurs, which has transformed lives of tens of thousands of migrants in the UK. In only two years TransferGo has grown their customer base to over 73,000 users and has quickly become the leading international money transfer service for CEE migrants, enabling them to make transfers across 33 countries within Europe with same-day settlement for only 99p.

I’m very excited to pursue extraordinary challenge, because it allows me to combine the two fields I’m most passionate about: management and business development on the one hand, and the advantages provided by digital solutions on the other, in an industry that is changing the rules on the international financial markets for the good.

With this link, the first money transfer is free of charge, so why not join?

The tables have turned: VC Pitches @ Money Talks #IFweek

Big turnout today at the Innovate Finance event at Level39, where entrepreneurs, FinTech enthusiasts, interested parties have come to see who and why is channeling money into finance innovation projects.

Of all the intros, I found Gerard Grech’s (Tech City UK) to be the most noteworthy, with him presenting the UK VC funding landscape: 20x increase since 2010, high growth segment on AIM.LSE, 42% of EU unicorns are in the UK, two 500 million + exits – Deepmind, Naturalmotion Games – to Google & Zynga. And that the Future Fifty program raised 22 rounds and 675 million in 16 months. Pretty impressive achievements given its relative short lifespan.

5 minute VC pitches

After the intro sessions, we moved on to the 5 minute pitch sessions by VC representatives, which was sort of a ‘turn the tables on the investors’ endeavor. The organizers made it very difficult for them by keeping a strict time check with personalized (and somewhat ridiculous) music that was turned on at the end of each pitch. Many entrepreneurs who participated in pitch events were happy to see their judges going through the same things as they did. Long story short, here’s a summary of what I deemed worthy of mentioning from each of the pitches:

Zach Tan at InfoComm (State-run Singapore initiative)

  • He’s here to promote the opportunities in SE Asia – middle class (consumer class) growth and wealth expansion
  • They are privatizing former public sector legacy service and infrastructure providers & expanding the e-commerce sector
  • UK has a natural mind-set advantage in SE Asia, thinking beyond the homeland
  • “American companies are like aircraft carriers, EU start-ups are like speedboats”, the waters may not be suitable for the first ones

Nicolas Sharp at Passion Capital (early stage tech VC)

  • Announced a 45 million fund, strategy similar with the first fund – small seed investments (invested 124 million in 42 companies at a valuation of over 400 million)
  • Invested in 10 companies last year out of 3000 they see
  • They claim to treat people really well and want to help
  • All numbers are public, the term sheet is one page plain English and used in 5 MBA classes

Michael Treskow at Accel Partners

  • 300+ investments, 30+ years’ experience
  • Invested all over the world (25 countries)
  • They focus on increasing the percentage of NON-US companies in the fin-tech sector

Mariano Belinky at Santander InnoVentures

  • They released a Fintech 2.0 paper with some key trends:
    • Smart data
    • Friction-less processes
    • Internet of Things in banking
    • Distributed Ledger (blockchain)
  • Entrepreneurs shouldn’t struggle with compliance and ma banking quirks
  • Santander’s OpenBank – .8 million customers, 5.5 billion in balance

Rob Moffat at Balderton Capital

  • YOOX and Betfair IPOs
  • European focused VC
  • Former Goldman Sachs and Google employees, a couple of entrepreneurs
  • Invested 4 million in Crowdcube

After all the pitches were over, we witnessed a feedback committee Q&A, withBill Simmons at Crowdcube – CFO, Nezahat Gultekin at Atlantic Bridge Capital (Senior adviser), Russ Shaw at Tech London Advocates (Founder), Louise Beaumont at GLI Finance (PA and Marketing), Alain Falys at Yoyo Wallet (Founder). This was a bit less structured and the VCs received further grilling from the Q&A guests. Again, I captured what I deemed worthy to remember.

  • VCs don’t see themselves as in competition, but in collaboration especially at early stage – seed / series A. More competition can be found at series B or larger rounds, when your graph goes hockey stick.
  • The entrepreneur needs to do the work, the VC needs to be the part time psychologist, mentor and financial stake provider, you want to partner with someone that has been in your field
  • The Chairperson that manages board relationships is crucial so that entrepreneurs can work together with investors
  • Risk & how VCs manage it: is this team right for now, 1 year time and 5 years’ time, cofounders and why they have chosen them, credibility of the founders
  • Metrics are crucial for Series B, preIPO stage
  • Check for the first questions that VCs ask, check for the personality fit, investment strategy, follow-up rounds, business understanding
  • Entrepreneurs need to ask more questions, grill the VCs more
  • Don’t build growth on high CPAs, but on technology investment focus and competitive CPAs to drive growth

Last but not least, what is an industry event without some predictions? Here’s a take at the opportunity in FinTech from the VC representatives:

  • Asia – payment, block chain
  • “Plumbing” – SaaS, IaaS – allow other companies to build on what you build
  • Frictionless data, IoT banking, Smart data (yes, that’s Santander)
  • Selling to financial institutions themselves
  • Insurance

Is the world purposely allowing piracy for a greater good?

Yesterday I was listening to the Quartz authored podcast called Actuality (it’s amazing, you have to listen to it!). The topic I had hit was piracy, Popcorn Time and movie industry disruption. For those who don’t know yet, Popcorn Time is a torrent based streaming app that allows you to see torrented movies like they would stream via Netflix or Amazon Prime. They were talking about how this is similar to the software piracy explosion in the 90s, to the music piracy explosion in the 00s and how both waves sparked an overhaul of their respective industries’ business models. And how companies & governments have stopped pursuing the individual.

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Maybe corporations were becoming too strong and they needed a competitor, maybe music producers had too much power over what artists sell, where, how and for how much. Needless to say, now both industries have pivoted into different pricing models, different revenue streams (SaaS, cloud, consulting for the software industry, concerts, merchandising, special events for the music industry) and new businesses continued to emerge in both fields. The same is planned for the movie industry. Too long have we been fed the same Time-Warner, 20th century Fox, MGM, (insert corporation here) content and we have seen too little mainstream independent content (well, Europe is an exception, we like them independent ones here, thanks to Cannes, TIFF and other film festivals out there).

Or perhaps there is a greater good behind this, too. Imagine a world freshly liberated from communism (Central and Eastern Europe) or transitioning from military / religious dictatorships to more open societies (Asia, Africa) where there was an insurmountable wealth gap between the people there and the ones in Western Europe, North America, Australia. How could these people get close to the culture of the western world? How could these people connect themselves to the up and coming digital economy that’s based on software? How could they unite the world youth under transcontinental hits?

One word: access.

And by access I mean piracy. Today’s millennials (yeah, I hate this word too) are the result of two decades of free access to Windows, Adobe, Office, Internet Explorer, countless games, music and movies that helped them develop a global mindset, skills and attitudes that makes it easier for them to work together regardless of nationality, race, gender that their older peers.

At first it was Kazaa, eMule and software download sites that were full of viruses, then there was the torrent revolution (Bittorrent, The Pirate Bay, Kickass Torrents etc), now there’s Popcorn Time with all its clones. Also, anons all over the world now have access to TOR, a hidden service that helps them protect their privacy when fighting against systems, governments and other entities.

What’s next? Which industry will go down? My bet is on the financial sector, with fin-tech and crypto-currency on the rise.