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.

Chasse_a_courre

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.

793px-Romania_EU.svg

 

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.

FullSizeRender

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.

popcorn-time-netflix

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.

How to copy/duplicate a page or a post in WordPress – 7 easy steps

One of my hobbies is to fiddle with WordPress in my spare time, as it’s a CMS I have been working with for the past 7 years. Usually, I work with the template files to replicate design and layout, but recently, with the growing popularity of page builders, I found myself to want to duplicate pages I had already build, but without saving a new layout. I needed several signup/error pages for The Extra Dish site and needed to duplicate pages. WordPress does not make it easy for people like me. There is no default way to do it, but there are several plugins to help us.

I used WP Bulk Post Duplicator and followed these steps:

  1. Install the plugin and activate it
  2. Go to the Pages/Posts category and mark the page/post you are trying to duplicate as Pending Review
  3. Make sure that this is the only page/post you want to duplicate
  4. Go to Settings > WP Bulk Post Duplicator and select Page/Post
  5. Choose post status as Pending Review
  6. Click duplicate and you are done
  7. View duplicated posts or pages in the respective categories and continue editing

Please share this post if you find it helpful.

Affiliate Marketing – Your Alternative eCommerce and Digital Monetisation Strategy

Authors:
Emin Can Turan
Titus Capilnean

At the heart of digital marketing are the connections between brands and consumers. Affiliate marketing takes these connections to the next level and involves companies of all sizes, whether they are a start-up, SME or a big brand. It is cost-effective, highly targeted and data driven. Yet, the majority of tech-savvy-business-casual-nonchalant-scarf-wearing digital marketers are more or less unfamiliar with the concept and its benefits.

So, how can affiliate marketing help digital marketers reach their consumer base more efficiently? How can affiliate networks in turn do more in reaching out to those digital marketers of the future? Here are some points of wisdom for both marketers as well as affiliate networks to better connect to each other and in turn provide more value to the online ecosystem.

Affiliate marketing today while promising, is still in its infancy. The capacity to accurately target the right customers online merely scratches the surface of its potential. As yet, the concept is hardly utilised by many digital marketers or is simply unfamiliar.

Affiliate marketing, like the listening skills of men, is hardly used or the concept is simply unfamiliar.

Simplified, affiliate marketing is selling your products or services via publishers and in return, giving back a commission on a sale or when a certain target is met. The concept is built upon a win-win-win monetising model, where all parties (i.e. advertisers, publishers and consumers) get to be happy. Brands and agencies reach the right customer segment, publishers get their well-deserved commissions and customers get relevant ads.

affiliate marketing - how it works

Source

Making this possible, are amongst others, affiliate networks. However, most of these data-savvy service providers are currently unsatisfied with the small marketing budgets big companies set aside for affiliate marketing. This is quite surprising considering it is currently one of the most cost-effective way to accurately target the right customer segment with the right content. Especially now, when the performance marketing industry is undergoing rapid changes, keeping up with the latest technological developments in affiliate marketing becomes more important. To make things even more pressing, other trends show that consumer purchase journeys become more fragmented, the online ecosystem more complex and user-attention spans shorter – not to mention the constant fluctuations in user behaviour.

User behaviour is changing more often than a schizophrenic on shrooms acting out a full episode of Game of Thrones

As new actors come into the digital ecosystem, social media, programmatic display and retargeting feature increasingly more in the user’s journey. Attribution models must both reflect and keep pace with these changes. This is exactly where affiliate marketing turns this potential threat into a huge opportunity in sustaining profitable growth. Affiliate marketing will eventually become an essential part of any company’s digital marketing practice, whether it’s a start-up, SME or a big brand.

As the ecosystem becomes more complex, content providers capture increasingly more niches, showing that the playing ground for affiliate marketing is growing and becoming increasingly more targeted. The concept already proves to be a more cost-effective alternative to traditional, less targeted, Display, CPM, PPC and Text ad-units methods provided by, for example, Google AdSense.

Truth in advertising

Moreover, the affiliate marketing business model does not only have to cater to big media publishers, price comparison sites, subject expert websites and loyalty websites, as seen today, but it can also cater for the niche blogger. Independent studies show that shoppers coming via affiliate sites are often more affluent, spend more on average, but also shop more frequently. It follows that the lifetime value of an affiliate channel customer is much higher.

PwC affiliate marketing

Source: IAB / PwC Online Performance Marketing Study, 2014

Tracking the true influence of a website on the purchase decision (i.e. the customer journey experience) is immensely important for a marketer. Whether it is a multi-device multi-browser or device agnostic, social related tracking cookie, code/cash-back or just a regular coupon/discount, it is important for the affiliates to be credited and for marketers to find out exactly which channels perform and which do not – and why!

That way, brands and agencies (i.e. the advertisers) can add more value by applying this acquired knowledge in better-targeted content and select more relevant IABs to promote their products and services. In turn, customers get less annoyed with inappropriate ads and waste less time on irrelevant deals.

Digital advertising: the end of traditional marketing and your old marketing professor’s career

All of the above combined with more competitive technologies to track customer sales funnels will ensure a consistent use by brands and agencies of affiliate marketing for years to come.

Points of Wisdom for Affiliate Networks

In the future, affiliate marketing will have a bigger voice in the advertiser’s budget, but only if affiliate networks concentrate more on product development (i.e. existing markets, new products or services), concept promotion, market development (i.e. new markets, existing products or services) and better alignment between publisher and the account management teams.

Affiliate Marketing

Source

Let’s start with product development and promotion of the affiliate marketing concept. It is crucial for affiliate networks to be technologically competitive and build upon the brand awareness of the affiliate concept.

Here are some tips to do exactly that:

  • Education and account penetration: informing existing advertisers and publishers of the financial and technical benefits of affiliate marketing is key. There is still little known about affiliate marketing, even though it is built upon a strong win-win-win monetising model.

“Hands up if you really understand how affiliate marketing works. Now keep your hands up if you understand whether or not it’s right for your business. My guess is that there aren’t too many hands left up at this point.” – The Guardian

  • Marketing communications: this ties in with the previous point. Affiliate networks need to create more brand awareness and promote concept recognition to a wider audience via social media, newsletter articles (PR) and at business conferences.

“It is no secret that in this day and age, online presence = brand awareness. In fact, most marketing experts agree that how you present your brand online is the 21st century equivalent of your first meeting with a potential customer.” – The Huffington Post

  • Marketing tools: the affiliate channel is already well-known as being an expert at pushing sales, but less known for the role it plays in driving brand awareness and brand value. Introducing marketing tools for both publishers and advertisers that can measure the affect of different (experimental) campaigns on their brand awareness and brand value will create a whole new level of adding value to both advertisers and publishers alike.

“Companies are buying thousands of search terms across their lines of business, and new agencies keep popping up to serve marketers’ increasingly keen desire for innovative content, user tools, or social experimentation.” – McKinsey & Company

  • Mobile: inform, train and reward publishers that want to create mobile-friendly websites or apps that support mobile advertising. As most of you know, online purchasing is dramatically shifting from desktop to mobile; both publishers and advertisers alike need to be ahead of the game.

“Millennials are changing the mobile landscape. The group is projected to have a purchasing power of $2.45 trillion by 2015 and prefers mobile as their number-one way to be reached and interact.” – Mashable

Mobile strategy board room

Besides nurturing existing advertiser markets, such as, FMCG, online retail and travel, affiliate networks will also have to play a role being the dominant digital marketing tool in new markets with existing products or services (i.e. market development). We suggested two, which ties in well with the previously mentioned points of wisdom.

  • The start-up and young enterprise market: affiliate marketing makes perfect sense for start-ups and young enterprises as they are mostly on a strict budget, always want to see direct value for money, growth hack everything and are always looking to present valuable data to potential investors. Furthermore, consumer journey learning from insightful data can dictate lean strategy and budget allocation. It gives businesses the opportunity to be quick on their feet in decision-making and shifting priorities.

The nature of sharing best practices through WoM in incubations and shared workplaces, such as, Google Campus and IDEA Shoreditch, will organically increase the exposure of the affiliate marketing concept and its affiliate networks. Moreover, the ease of becoming a member of an affiliate network and partnering up with publishers fits in well with the fast-paced environment start-ups and young enterprises reside in.

Expected market value in 2017: $87.5 Billion

  • The gaming market: the gaming industry is one of the fastest growing industries. Gaming companies, such as, Battle.net and Ubisoft, provide most of their games online, which aligns perfectly with the affiliate marketing concept. Also, gamers are a very unique customer segment. They have more tendencies to follow up on a sale after clicking a banner, than say, a customer looking to book a holiday to Istanbul.

The vast quantity of big and small competing gaming companies make it a very appealing market, especially since the click-acquisition ratio is much more favourable to both advertisers as well as publishers. Moreover, the huge customer base of gamers and the availability of a large amount of relating publishers make it even more appealing for an affiliate network to make this arena part if its company strategy.

Expected market value in 2017: $102.9 Billion

marketing and growth hacking

Finally, in order to compete with other affiliate networks, an affiliate network must build streamlined cross-departmental processes that encourage teamwork between the publisher and the account management teams. A continuous exchange of information is a big part of that in order to provide long-lasting value to advertisers.

The publisher team should first and foremost know its affiliates, segment them, make sure that it receives all the right data in terms of network intelligence, such as, traffic, user profiles, conversion data, suitability per product/category/industry and future development plans in terms of content. They should also keep a clear record of who was on board when and what results they generated for each client, industry and product category. This enables better decision making when recruiting new affiliates or assigning new campaigns to current ones.

The account management team, on the other hand, must be aware of the available data and the tracking capabilities of the publisher team, involve them in the client’s strategy formulation and assign the right marketing mix for each individual client, product or service group. It is also their responsibility to clearly understand the client’s KPIs and is ready to deliver on them. Lastly, in terms of adding value to top advertisers, the account management team must offer exclusive consultations to top advertisers by offering solutions complementary to affiliate marketing, such as, tracking data on customer behaviour and re-targeting via e-mail campaigns or social media.

target market

Conclusion

There is significant room to grow in the digital marketing arena, and within that, affiliate marketing can play a significant role in providing the right marketing mix, as long as teams, processes and technologies integrate to create the most value for clients and their customers. Ultimately, the objective is to make money and in order to make money, you have to target the right product to the right customer segment with the right content. The days of the traditional outward-bound marketing model of casting the message wide and hoping to catch a few interested customers is over.

Tutor @ The Alchemy Diploma of Digital Marketing – April 2015

Proud again to announce something cool that I am going to do this year in London. I’m going to put my Digital Marketing, MBA and Entrepreneurship skills & experience to good use mixed with the seasoned methodologies of the Digital Marketing Institute to create the space for Londoners to take the first steps in the digital world. Here’s the blog post I wrote for the class earlier in the week. Please feel free to share 🙂 And use the EARLY BIRD code when registering.

Update 6/3/2015: Supersaver code expired, please use Saver 🙂

Update: 24/3/2015: The Saver code is gone now!

alchemyclass

We believe in giving before taking, so here are our 10 key digital marketing tips that will help you build amazing campaigns using the best digital mix.

1. Be helpful, honest and open – the rise of the internet & mobile connections have brought people closer together & closer to brands. It’s now more important than ever to stand out with a helpful message. Give before you ask.

2. Write for your customers, not for Google – too much we have focused on keywords and link-building for search engine optimization and forgot about the power of digital PR, organic mentions and fresh content.

3. The click is just the beginning of the journey – use today’s wide variety of pay per click networks, but don’t forget to track your customer all the way from the banner/link ad to your thank you page. You will learn a lot.

4. Email is king – if used correctly, email is still a very powerful tool, even with the rise of social media. Gets people clicking and gets people buying. What would you do without all those travel deals, Timeout offers or cool discounts that you get every day?

5. Display advertising enriches brands – pictures are worth 1000 words, especially in display advertising. Show what’s great about your product of service, make people smile, laugh or go “aha” with that design and copy. Clicking isn’t everything here.

6. Use that mobile connection wisely – our (smart)phone is the most intimate communication tool of them all. We carry it around with us every day and use it regularly. Do everyone a favour and don’t be intrusive. Connect with a purpose and add value.

7. Measure everything – the internet was a big leap forward from the TV or print ads because we now can track each and every marketing tactic. So we know what works and what doesn’t and focus just on the stuff that works. Analytics tools have to be part of every digital mix, no matter how small.

8. Social media is about being social – Don’t just start a social media channel to broadcast, use it to connect and engage with your customers, answer their questions, post useful content and entertain them. Oh, and use photos and videos a lot, it works.

9. Not all social networks are useful for your business – or for yourself for that matter. Learn how to choose from the wide range of networks and go where you can best provide added value and reach your customers at the same time. I know, a tricky one.

10. The strategy pulls it all together – the mix of tools is not a campaign unless we make strategic choices and establish a clear path, a tone of voice, narrative, approach, network mix and a set of indicators that will tell if we are successful or not. Never start a digital marketing effort without a strategy. You’ll never know if you are successful.

This is just a 5 minute taster of a 10 module Professional Diploma in Digital Marketing, an accredited course we are running this spring in London. Just to give you an idea of its scale, over 9,000 professionals from 36 countries have graduated and taken enhanced digital knowledge back to their businesses. So why not join them in April?

We have two types of classes, both full time and part time, run by two experienced tutors, Mike and myself.

The Extra Dish on Wall-Street.ro: Delicious business in the UK: A Unicorn start-up for food lovers

Needless to say how happy I am that The Extra Dish has had such amazing feedback and is now featured on one of the biggest news & business websites in my home country. I’ve translated the article below and plan to make it the first of many. Thanks Wall-Street.ro & Alex Goaga for letting me put it up here, too!

Titus, 27, is at his fourth attempt in the world of startups. This time, along with two other partners, he chose a field full of flavor – a platform that connects people who cook at home dishes that are more more or less conventional and those who want to order home-cooked meals. The network is called TheExtraDish.com.

Meet the founders of The Extra Dish

The Extra Dish founders, Kate Wolfenden, Roberto Lucci and Titus Capilnean met in the Executive MBA program at the Hult International Business School where they worked together on several projects. After graduating, they kept a close relationship and the three are now working together for The Extra Dish.

Kate, 34, spent the past few years in the charitable sector and in the past had a business that combines pubs and street festivals in London. Kate is now working on WWF and will serve as a Non-executive Director for The Extra Dish.

Roberto Lucci, 46, is the one who came up with the idea in the first place. He helped build a tourism business focused on luxury villas, business that has achieved multi-million turnover and where he is now working to automate the processes using digital tools.

Titus, 27, has worked in the online industry in Romania from 2008 to 2014 on NGO campaigns, in agencies and in the corporate sector, when he decided to move to London. It’s the 4th attempt in the world of startups, having tried to build two agencies and a foursquare for websites on which he worked in various stages and in different positions.

The team is now expanding with Alex Nicolaica, who recently moved to London and will bring his expertise in marketing and digital built in the IT&C & FMCG sectors, and Aishlyn Angill, a Londoner who loves meeting new people and is excited by the big challenges behind such a business like The Extra Dish, where she can put her amazing sales skills to good use. Alex takes care of marketing strategy and Aishlyin of the operations and relationships with the home cooks.

Why The Extra Dish?

In Romania, such a platform would be a niche of a niche, as it would cover a still very small, only emerging market. However, only in the UK, convenience and take-out food markets exceeded 60 billion pounds in 2014. This includes all fast-food delivery, restaurant delivery services and convenience food sales in stores like Tesco, Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury’s.

“Roberto, a lover of good food tired of restaurants or traditional takeout, came up with the idea when he tried to order something from a local cook. He couldn’t find a solution to solve the problem and knowing that there are other people with the same needs, started working on the project with me and Kate, “says Titus.

The first iteration of the idea consisted of a Business Model Canvas, a few platform specifications & user journeys, a business plan and lots of enthusiasm. These were validated at Startcelerate London, Seedcamp Office Hours in Paris and LCIF London and also helped to attract about 50 people potential cooks who love doing this at home and to whom they will facilitate the connection with “foodies” in London.

The Extra Dish Startcelerate Pitch

“Looking ahead, our vision is that everyone who is a talented home cook should be able to use their talent through The Extra Dish. That translates into global infrastructure (directly or through partners) and a brand at least the size of Airbnb and Uber”, said Titus Capilnean.

What is the business model?

“The business model is simple and transparent – we create a link between people who cook at home and those who want to order home-cooked meals and we charge a percentage for brokering the deal (the order will have a set minimum value adding the delivery fees on top). We try to close the circle when it comes to take-out, as we have learned from all other food startups that we have studied while defining the concept of The Extra Dish. Our ambition is to create an ecosystem that will connect people passionate about cooking with those who want to order food cooked with love and care, and that means we need to cover all stages of the transaction – presentation, packaging, transportation, payment, so the only concern of the cooks is what to cook next and for those who order to benefit from an experience at least as good as ordering from a restaurant delivery service“ notes the young Romanian.

Currently, the team have been in touch with dozens of home cooks who have shown interest in being included in the platform and estimate that in the next 12 months, they will have about 500 active home cooks.

“From the marketing point of view, we are looking at a two sided approach, with the cooks group being our beachhead. The tactics and channels are somewhat different then for the foodies. For the home cooks we use recruitment events and cooking groups, cooking schools and generally we are targeting the information providers and learning platforms that they visit, like forums and cooking magazines. The initial focus will be on the cooking schools, as there we have the security of having a qualified audience of willing and skilled home cooks or future chefs.”

The other side of the market is that of users who want to order home-cooked food. Here we’re talking about standard channels: performance marketing, social networks, cooking blogs, but beyond acquisition campaigns, the entrepreneurs will work on retention and loyalty campaigns for users. They will also leverage platform usage data and personal preferences to generate the best recommendations.

Looking for investors

For the last few months months the three have been working at both the testing and modelling concept and presentations, pitches and individual meetings and are in discussions with a number of investors. “We want to enter in a partnership with one or more investors who understand the business and want to contribute actively to the its development, bringing on board their experience, network and ideas, not just the money. We’re a super strong team, enthusiastic and full of energy and will put all our “brain power” to good use to achieve fantastic results!“, says Titus.

They aim to fully launch platform in the coming months, with own resources and use the capital injection to ensure a consistent impact and strong growth. “In the coming weeks we are preparing to launch a crowdfunding campaign where we would love to see contributions from everyone who believes in our vision and ability to go global. Of course, if wall-street.ro readers (or my blog readers for that matter) are interested in our business, we are open to any investment proposal (just say hello (at) theextradish.com) “.

For the first 18 months, the focus is on the London market, given that the main goal is to become sustainable before the next step into new markets. Most of the team is already there, the market is very large and very dynamic. “We want to cover about 50% of the London until next year and then to replicate the model and learning onto other markets. We’re looking at the US, especially the west coast, but the list includes 2-3 cities in Europe, too “.

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The initial investment

So far, the founders have invested some thousand pounds in project and expected that they will continue to fuel it’s setup, “but our time was the main resource to date and consisted of tens of hours per week invested in documents, meetings and presentations. So the 6 months of dedication would amount to a total of £60-70,000” according to their own estimations.

“But back to the discussion about investment, we need at least £50,000 to launch and then a total of £600,000 pounds during the first 12 months to be sure that we can scale the business at the desired pace” set out by the “blue sky” scenario. The recovery time of such an investment is about 3 years.”

“In the world of startups, we would call our company a Unicorn, which requires a bigger initial investment, as it’s profitable only at volume. Investments in this type of companies support the fixed costs and the expansion, but when the business becomes profitable, the results are usually extraordinary. The other type is the Pony, meaning that the company produces enough income from the beginning and the only cash it needs is that which it helps it to grow faster, but the growth & gain rate is not as staggering. The Pony is a more common type of tech startups, easier to launch, but usually they don’t scale as much as a Unicorn,” concluded Titus Capilnean.

An extra dish of lokshen kugel

e39f24718bd53bddf7383cbd5f7840b9I moved out of my home country this year and I had previously left home for college 7 years ago, so home cooking was something I used to get just on public holidays, when I would travel home and my mum would cook for me. But somehow, with all these years past, I still longed for a piece of lokshen kugel (sweet noodle pudding for those who don’t know what I’m talking about).

I couldn’t find it anywhere in Bucharest, where I had lived prior to coming to London, and even here you could only get it in certain Israeli restaurants, but never as good as my grandma used to make it. You know what I am talking about, we all have our lokshen kugel even if yours is called differently. It’s that dish that your elders used to cook for you with everything in the right place, perfectly cooked and with that extra sprinkle of home cooking to make it taste right. No restaurant or takeaway or convenience dish can match that. It’s just something you have to make in your own home.

The why

This September, myself and two great friends decided to work together towards something that we think could revolutionize the way we order take-out food. We call it The Extra Dish.Just a few months later and we are ready to tell the world about it; and this is where we need your help. We know you have a great community of passionate home cooks and we’re sure that some of them are based in London and would surely benefit from our project.

So what is The Extra Dish?

It’s a food sharing platform. But instead of connecting restaurants, professional chefs or takeaways, we connect hungry commuters with talented home cooks in their neighborhood. Imagine getting an amazing Brazilian stew from the woman that knows it best, or maybe that secret-recipe curry or proper Yorkshire roast dinner like you remember your mum making back home. That’s the food we will be sharing — The food restaurants just can’t do. Now, what if we had all of that and we promised that every meal bought on the platform also bought an emergency meal for someone, somewhere else in the world that needs it most?

Scouting for talented home-cooks

Right now we are on the scout for talented home cooks that would want to make a bit of extra income from home by doing what they love the most — cooking! All they would need to do is make the food and we would take care of the rest — even the delivery! Plus ordering, advertising and money transfer is all handled safely and securely online (soon enough, we’re still in pre-launch phase). So the cook earns the money and the food-lover gets fed a great home-cooked meal. This is why we would very much appreciate your thoughts on The Extra Dish and, if you really like it and want to empower talented home cooking, we’re recruiting in London, Zones 1 or 2 for our initial launch.