Yesterday, I had the latest in a long and continuing series of “Please-Tell-Me-Everything-You-Know” meetings. This connection, like with our web designer Annie, I owe to my kids. Adrian Dernell’s son goes to the Paris nursery school where my daughter went last year. Again my blabbing about this project to another (probably uninterested) parent is what generated the connection. LESSON: talk to everybody (everybody!) about what you are doing, and make sure they understand at least enough to know what sector you are talking about, and that you need help…without begging for it!?
These meetings, even if the person on paper might not seem to have anything concrete (money, skills, time) to offer beyond the meeting itself, always feel precious. Occasionally they’ll lead to the next meeting, sometimes they’ll offer direct advice about my project, but usually its just a way to collect the experiences and knowledge of others and apply them to the very specific conditions of the project I am trying to launch. The question of whether their vibe and/or analysis offers encouragement or discouragement is a wild card, and most be taken with a grain of salt either way. But just about any live conversation with someone is always worth you time.
This latest encounter came on a cold and raw Tuesday morning at the tiny Café Antoine on Rue La Fontaine. Adrian is a Franco-American former Bloomberg TV journalist who eight years ago had an idea for a startup, EuroBusiness Media (like mine, simple enough to explain on the back of a business card) and was ready to make the jump to upstart entrepreneurship. Unlike mine, his leap was also out of journalism and into PR (though as he and I discussed, technology and economics are blurring that line more every day). Still his product is delivered – like everything these days, except the kitchen sink – digitally. And he too had to start from scratch. He recounted the early days back in 2002, which he still remembers down to the smallest detail: launching without a roster of clients already set up, mistakes he committed (not presenting to early potential clients that they would in fact be christening the thing, with benefit and risk as such), connections he capitalized on, luck he made. Also the eureka moment: when someone in one of the many exploratory conversations he was having told him he just needed to flip his biz model: revenue should come from clients (PR-driven) rather than audience/adverts (journalism-driven). And he was collecting that revenue—and then profits—pretty damn quick.
He also talked more generally about how some relationships end that you didn’t think would, and others endure against the odds, as well as investors (people want to see that you have figured out how to produce your product), and pitching (have an answer for everything). Like others, he warned of the pitfalls of taking my project to established news companies, which often lack the direct and single-(profit)-minded corporate “processes” that other companies rely upon. “Another company might not necessarily be faster, they’ll tell you that the decision needs to go before the board next September. But at least you know when and what they will be deciding…”
The core of his business is to produce video interviews with Europe-based CEOs that get delivered like PRnewswire, typically timed together with earnings reports. The profiled companies pay for his services. We agreed that print media has no business model right now. But you can’t say that to investors, he told me. You have to say that YOU have found the model! Adrian thinks that the content that my startup would offer is unique and attractive, and he was generally encouraging and good morning company. Still, the first thing he did after ordering his orange juice was to suggest that I might find some interesting job opportunities in PR.