#MediaSnack Meets

24 - Fred Schonenberg, VentureFuel

January 14, 2019 Episode 24
#MediaSnack Meets
24 - Fred Schonenberg, VentureFuel
Chapters
#MediaSnack Meets
24 - Fred Schonenberg, VentureFuel
Jan 14, 2019 Episode 24
ID Comms
Interview with Fred Schonenberg, Founder of VentureFuel - Episode 24
Show Notes Transcript

This episode is all about marketing innovation. Marketers say they want to "innovate" but what does that actually mean? 

Typically this can mean a brand partnering with an innovative startup in their category, learning an exploring together. 

But how can the world's leading brands find the right startup businesses to partner with before they miss out get disrupted by them?

...and why didn't Ford buy Uber?

Meet "Mr. Marketing Innovation" Fred Shonenberg, the founder of VentureFuel, an innovative New York firm helping leading marketers to find and partner successfully with startups.

In this episode, we learn from Fred



Episode Links:

Fred Schonenberg on LinkedIn

VentureFuel Inc website

VentureFuel Insights on Twitter

Tom Denford:
0:00
Hello everyone. I'm Tom Denford, co-founder of ID Comms. Welcome to episode 24 of #MediaSnackMeets. Recorded each week in New York, we get to meet the individuals and organizations doing great work to inspire success and drive change within the global media and marketing industry. In each episode we find out what is behind that success, what it takes to make a change in the industry, and what the rest of us can learn from that experience.
Tom Denford:
0:29
My guest for this episode is Fred Schonenberg, the founder of VentureFuel. Fred is a curator of marketing innovation, and his company helps major advertisers discover innovative technologies that unlock growth. Now, we talk a lot on MediaSnack about how marketers are busy and how they might be able to find it hard to find the time to investigate all the different options available to them. How to separate the wheat from the chaff or the fact and the fiction. And this is hard and especially so we're needing to sift through the thousands of technologies available and the many startups vying for their attention. Most could be a waste of time, but how do you find that diamond in the rough? Well, this is exactly Fred's mission. He's helping his clients quickly identify partner companies to provide innovation in operations and marketing, and it's understandable then why Fred calls himself 'the marketer's secret weapon'. He's a regular at CES, SXSW, and Advertising Week, et cetera, and he's often bringing with him innovative startup companies to meet with and inspire marketers with new possibilities. In this episode, Fred explains how he identifies the right tech companies that are worthwhile for his clients and the impact that having an innovation agenda can have on their business. He also tells us why Ford didn't buy Uber. You can check the full show notes for this at www.mediasnackpodcast.com so without further delay, please enjoy this highly insightful interview with Fred Schonenberg.
Tom Denford:
2:04
Hi Fred, welcome to #MediaSnackMeets.
F Schonenberg:
2:07
Hey Tom. Thanks so much for having me.
Tom Denford:
2:09
Good. Now it's taken us a little while to schedule this, and I'm really excited to be talking today just about innovation. So tell me in your mind, what is innovation and why is that important to business?
F Schonenberg:
2:23
I think innovation is anything that can help you grow your business or deliver value substantially differently than the way you're currently operating. So, Coca-Cola made famous the sort of 70-20-10 approach where, you know, 70 is now, 20 is, is sort of what's about to pop, and the 10 percent is that 'forward thinking' innovation. We look at innovation as something that is a competitive advantage. That can be new technology, but it's really new thinking and it's a way of attacking a problem differently than it has been attacked by that organization, in the past. So it can be tech, it can be experiences, it can be a lot of different things.
Tom Denford:
3:04
Is that critical now for business success? It maybe feels a bit like a cliche if we kind of say that it's all about innovation. But I mean, how important is it now for businesses to be seeking innovation in their categories and in their marketing?
F Schonenberg:
3:19
Yeah. I think it's more important now than ever, but you're absolutely right. The word innovation is terribly overused as is disruption and now transformation also, those three are being used just about in any context possible. To me this is the most important time to be innovating. You see of all the things that are happening to the fortune 500, right? There are some stats out there. The 50 percent of the Fortune 500-- it's disappeared since 2000. Yet, throughout that same time period, the brands that are considered most innovative are outperforming the S&P 500 by 200 percent. So it's this moment of, you could call it disrupt or be disrupted, or innovate or to seek irrelevancy. It's a really interesting time where the tried and true isn't delivering results. And you can look at things like Kraft-Heinz and their challenges around writing down 15 billion dollars or all the stores that are closing at the GAP. And Victoria's Secret, and what has been working, isn't working quite the way it was because of consumer changes and some of that's driven by technology. So I think the idea of innovating and really being able to move at the speed of the consumer is more important now than it ever has been.
Tom Denford:
4:40
Yeah, I want to dig into that-- just the difference between, or the challenges of, big companies you've listed here. So I mean, some big organizations that are very high profile, really failing, maybe because they just didn't innovate or they maybe got lazy or whatever it is that's caused the downfall. We'll come to some specific examples. Obviously innovation is something that clearly is one of your passions, as I said in the introduction. Just explain to me now, what is VentureFuels? This is your company that helps organizations in innovation. So, what led you to that and what kind of work are you doing?
F Schonenberg:
5:22
Yeah, I love it. So I launched the company five years ago, and the reason behind it was that as I was working with brands in my past life, they kept asking: 'what's next? We need to do something new.' So we needed to do something different. We want to push the envelope, yet the brands all felt really overwhelmed by what's next. There are 2 million startups that launch every year. There's no way you can make sense of 2 million different companies, and they're all emailing and bombarding the marketing director or even the VP of innovation. And it's really hard to make sense of that and separate the wheat from the chaff, and find what's going to work for your organization. So that's why I wanted to start the company-- I felt that new ventures would be able to fuel the growth of established companies, and I saw it in my own life-- in business when we would work with a startup or an emerging technology company, they're so hungry to grow. They're going to work harder to ensure success than when you go with a much more established company that might have scale, but it's not personalized. They don't have a founder that's living, breathing, and sweating the results of this particular campaign. So I started to see the reverse idea. A lot of people say, 'oh, well, start ups fail all the time'. I've seen the opposite where startups were working, you know, 10 times as hard as the established players because they really valued my business, and it helped. It was giving me a competitive advantage. So the idea was, could we take the business challenges of an established company and go out and find a startup or a new technology that could solve that problem in a new way and give them a competitive advantage.
Tom Denford:
7:10
How does that work? You're focusing on providing a service for marketers. When does it start?
F Schonenberg:
7:16
It starts with a problem. It starts, with a challenge or an opportunity, right? So we'll sit and maybe the idea is (and I'll make one up) the brand is, let's say a sports team. They have a great fan base, but they're getting older and they know that the younger generation isn't coming to the stadium as frequently. What's the future of the fan experience? How can we read, re-engage the younger consumers and get them to love the team and be as passionate as their parents or grandparents? And there's a lot of technologies there that can make that experience unique and different, more shareable, allow the sort of connection between online and offline. But where do you even start? Right? It's such a daunting thing to consider. And so our processes will kind of identify what those pain points are. We then go out, we've built a network of over 500 investors and that's ranging from VCS to Angel investors. So, very early stage investors. And we say, 'hey, this is what we're trying to solve. Are there companies that you've invested in, or companies that you've seen, that you think can solve this problem?' And of course, they share it with us because you know, we have the opportunity for their investment to then work with this monster, you know, sports team in this example. So it's good for their investment. But we're totally independent. So if you're a big VC Tom and you send me a cool future fan experience, start up, I'm not obligated to go show that to the client. I'll take it into consideration. But I may look at Bob's VC or Sarah's investment. And so we're able to then vet through the best options and provide only the ones that are gonna deliver for that particular client.
Tom Denford:
9:06
That's good. I like just, I'm just imagining the amount of sales pitches and the sales decks that you must see. How do use, you talk about like 2 million, you said 2 million startups. How do you even begin to sift through that and identify the kinds of things that might be relevant to the brands that you work with?
F Schonenberg:
9:23
I'll use a marketing example. It's sort of like going shopping for soup, right? You go in the soup aisle, and, it's overwhelming. There's hundreds of different SKUs of soup, 70% of those you're not interested in. So that's usually the way it starts is, you know, we'll get, we'll get a huge amount that come in for whatever the particular challenges and 70% of them just don't fit whether they're too early stage, they're not the right vibe, whatever it might be. And so it's really, we're able to get it down to that, that next level fairly quickly because we've been doing this for a long time. And then, and then it's really about vetting them. So we, we sit through, we put them through a little bit of an evaluation matrix that we have developed that looks at, you know, where they are in funding. Have they worked with corporates before? Do they have any case studies? What is the growth potential? So we really just edit through it and can get down to what's right for that particular brand. And, and you're right, it's a daunting process. But my sort of point of view in our company point of view is that's what, that's what we do so that the brand doesn't need to do that work. I'm just going through the pitch decks and, and going through and what's amazing is we're startups as you have some people that are unbelievably charismatic, but their tech isn't that good and more likely than not. The other is true where they're not charismatic, their deck is terrible, but they've got an unbelievable product that can solve a particular problem and they just haven't been able to get in front of the right person or can't explain it well. So we have to really kind of train ourselves to look at what the real product is and not be swayed by, I'll call it the magic or innovation tourism, but it's fun, Tom. It's fun. Like all day, all day. I get to see what's next.
Tom Denford:
11:10
Do you offer advisory to the, to these startups? Presumably you'd be a very good source of advice for them if particularly if they've got businesses where they've got a business model reliant on advertising or marketing partnerships.
F Schonenberg:
11:24
Yeah, it's interesting. When I first started the company that was the business model, that we would work for the startup and we would help get their pitch ready and almost be business development for them. But what we found was then we just became a sales team and we were whatever was in our portfolio. We would push that on the brands. We tried to be agnostic, but it was hard. And so we decided to divest ourselves of any sort of equity with any of these startups. We don't, we don't help them officially. Right. I'm not, I'm not in the, the company doesn't advise or take a percentage of the companies or do anything like that. We end up coaching them when we think that they're the right fit for our brand. We'll help them understand, hey, you don't need a 55 page deck. Let's, let's bring it down. And then we actually will help the brand execute on the programs. So we ended up doing a lot of coaching. But it's always from the brand brand lens cause there was really nobody in the startup ecosystem that was focused on the established company. Everybody was on the other side of like, oh, we'll help you get your pitch right or we'll get your meetings. All of which are very relevant and something we're capable of. But to me it was more about what these startups, the real ones, what they really need is deals. And that's what the corporations want is to make things happen. So we focused on the corporate side of it.
Tom Denford:
12:49
So anyone that is listening that is in a startup though that feels like they could be a candidate for this, what should they be doing? What could they be thinking about to appeal to marketers? When you see businesses and you think, oh, that, you know, they're great, they've got, as you said, like a great idea and the great charisma and a good leadership and all these kind of things. How do you make the most of that to appeal to marketers? How can a start up owner or leadership team make themselves more attractive to a marketing leader?
F Schonenberg:
13:19
It's a challenging question and you're right. For startups, what we tell them when we work with them is what's the problem that you are trying to solve? Like why did you start the company? Why did you quit your day job and go, go off and you know, kind of risk your paycheck to create this business. What is, what is the why behind it? And once you kind of have that down, it becomes a lot easier to understand which brands can benefit from that. And so it's a little bit of reverse engineering. But you start to think, okay, you know, maybe it's, you've created a dynamic creative optimization play, right? So you can, you can take one beautiful piece of video and chop it up and personalize it at scale. That obviously would work for tons and tons of brands. But you have to start thinking, okay, which brands and why?And is that who, who should I talk to at those brands? And, and really just showing what value you deliver. I think the biggest mistake startup founders make is they, they're so obsessed with their idea. They end up just talking about themselves over and over and over and not thinking about it from the other side of the table, which is what problem can you solve? Why should you know, Microsoft write you a check rather than Google. One of the things that's hard for a lot of early stage companies is they don't understand how much competition there is for marketers dollars, right? You know, ESPN is fighting with sports illustrated, which is fighting with, you know, Google and Facebook and all these people for every dollar. And so as a startup, you're coming in with no name recognition, definitely less scale than that. So you have to be really compelling with why someone should take the time to, to point a couple of dollars in your direction. But if you can solve their problem, then you're, you're in the driver's seat. So it's really thinking through why you started the company, what problem it solves, and then aligning that with, with what brands it would solve the problem for.
Tom Denford:
15:21
Whenever we've worked with any kind of startup business, it's sometimes a revelation to them that advertising dollars don't flow perfectly through the system. You know, I think, I mean maybe there's less so these days, but going back to the kind of 10 years or so, a load of startups would just based on this, on a pure ad funded model, right? They would loads of businesses saying, we're just going to build this thing. We'll build an audience and then we'll naturally just attract advertising dollars because we've got an audience. But ad dollars don't flow through the system in such a logical way. You don't get your proportion of total attention in dollar terms because there's many, many gates in between, you know, marketing decision making. It's not always the most rational always. And there's also lots of people in, in between the touch the money, right? They have to be more innovative now and perhaps more entrepreneurial, how to appeal to marketers and solve problems. Not just attract dollars.
F Schonenberg:
16:13
Well, it's funny if you think about it and I know you, you work with lots of very interesting brands, like very rarely is there challenge. How can I get more scale, right? Where I've got all this money, what eyeballs, where can I get more eyeballs? Like nobody has a scale problem anymore. So the idea of like, oh, I can, I can get lots of eyeballs and then I'm going to make a fortune. You need to have the right eyeballs or a unique niche of eyeballs or a reason why your eyeballs are more valuable than all the different other options that every advertiser has. And to your point, there's so many different ways to be bought and people in between the decision maker and the actual execution that it's very challenging both for the marketer and also the startup to, to figure out where they fit in the equation and, and to make things happen. And I think that's why, uh, that's why we exist. But it's also, it's a challenge, um, because you know, if you're a startup, you're not popping up on any programmatic buys. Um, out of the gate. So you need to go kind of shake the tree and get exposure to that brand where you are a a unique solution
Tom Denford:
17:22
When it works really well, you must see, you try and mitigate the failures I guess by doing really good screening where it works well, what happens? What is created when you take the company that you might work with and you partner them with a startup, what happens?
F Schonenberg:
17:42
Yeah, I'd say it's a couple things. From a pure ROI perspective, they see magic. In some cases it's the only place you can get magic, right? That you're not the, I guess you could invest on a TV channel and have a breakaway hit show and all of a sudden you're, here's sort of really glad you were there. But for the most part a lot of that is negotiated up front. Whereas with a startup, when we, we helped launch like say the Museum of Ice Cream in New York, you know, that was a pop up experience that became a cultural zeitgeist. The brands that got involved with that, like it was like up there as their best investment of the year and they did not invest a lot cause it was such an early new concept. Um, we're able to do unique things that give that brand a competitive advantage, uh, outside of that. So there've been several companies, um, that have looked for ways to conquest their competitors using technology and all of a sudden their competitors are spending $1 million to be the official sponsor of x, y, z. And you know, our client is able to kind of conquest that, buy for a sliver of that investment. Um, so, you know, what I think is cool is that this has the innovation, air quotes around it has the opportunity to deliver really outsized results. Um, I think it also has the ability to inject enthusiasm throughout the organization. People want to do new, different campaigns. They want to work on that. It creates an excitement internally. Um, it's, it's almost like an HR move, um, because you start to do cool new things. It makes your company feel relevant. It makes it feel, you know, cutting edge and modern and, and that increases sort of the employee satisfaction. So there's all these sort of like secondary benefits to it. Um, that I always say, look, that's a nice to have. Like I'm in business, not for the cherry on top of the sundae. Like we're here to make money for the brand and deliver results. But it's fun. I mean, people love working on this. Um, and then to have your, your breakthrough magical moments, you know, that's the stuff that ends up in, in all the trades. And then you start getting into the whole earned media side of things, um, which this stuff is built for press, wants to talk about new and different. Um, so there's a lot of sort of secondary benefits to it. Um, but we always look at it as can we deliver good ROI. Um, and, and I think you can, and there's, there's a bad rap, right, that so many startups fail and they do. And some of them are really bad ideas that shouldn't have started. Um, but a lot of them can, can go beyond delivering what the brand invests with them for, for a campaign, for a partnership, regardless of what their longterm, you know, they're not going to become a unicorn, but they can deliver a B2B campaign at five x what you would have gotten from a traditional player.
Tom Denford:
20:48
How do you find the marketers that need your help? You go to any marketing conference these days, there's going to be some segment about broad innovation or it's about how to engage internal stakeholders to get excited about marketing. Again, do we keep doing the same thing but just add the cherry on top? Do they find you, do you, where do you go in and go and hunt and identify people that have got this challenge?
F Schonenberg:
21:13
We're looking at their businesses in some cases where we're looking for problems. One thing that's interesting is we see a lot of startups on the way up so we can see some disruption. Uh, we can kind of trend spot that ahead of time. And when you start to see, you know, all these direct to consumer food brands, you know, it's time, it's a good time to start calling all the big CPGs. So we do some of that. What's interesting is, is 85% of our business comes from referrals from existing clients. And, and that is literally just someone that we've worked with saying, this is awesome. Talk to my friend from business school. Or, I used to work over at this company that you guys helped me so much, I want to put them in touch. So that's a little bit of an old school way to, to drum up business. We also get a lot of clients that have tried different innovation programs and they haven't worked. There's a lot of, I'll call it innovation tourism, this idea of we can go to CES and walk the floor and now we've, now we've innovated, right? And we went and looked at the autonomous toothbrush company. Um, and it's like, what? No, that's, that's not innovation. Like, this should be solving a business problem, but people will go out to silicon valley for a two day seminar with a big VC and, and feel like they've checked the box. Um, so we, we tend to get a lot of calls from people that have done that and realize they haven't seen results and that their competitors have done cool things. Um, so it's, it's hard. I mean, you, you've nailed this whole thing out of the gate with your question of like, what does innovation mean? Uh, and it's a buzzword so it gets used everywhere and misused. So it's a little bit hard to make the case for what the true value is for it. Everyone knows they need to be doing it, but they're not 100% sure how to approach it. So it tends to be word of mouth.
Tom Denford:
23:07
You're listening to #MediaSnackMeets, podcast from ID Comms. This is episode 24. So Fred, I want to come on and talk about in a minute your advice for marketers that are listening, right? How to get into this space if this is something that they're thinking about with their teams and their organization. The first, I just want to pick up something that you mentioned right at the beginning because you were suggesting names of some kind of big companies that might have very visibly and publicly stumbled in their success. I think you mentioned Kraft-Heinz is a very recent one, but there's some high profile retail businesses that are either closed or closing or really struggling, Sears is probably well, you know, one of the most well known over here in the US recently. Strikes me that, you know, and there's a lot of, a lot of narrative around the struggles of these businesses and lots of people saying they took their eye off the ball, they didn't observe their customer, you know, they didn't innovate. It's really hard. Right? And these big companies, how, how big companies just don't see, you know, they don't see the threat. How can they avoid the falling off the cliff like some of these companies seem to be doing?
F Schonenberg:
24:17
What's interesting is I think they actually do see the threat. Um, I think that they're, they spend a tremendous amount of money on consumer research. Uh, they are watching, um, things in the marketplace. It's, it's their ability to react to the threat or know how to react to it. That I think is maybe a little bit slow. Uh, and there's all sorts of great stories about, you know, sort of blockbuster launching some version of Netflix. It was just too late. Um, and, and Sears is another one that was started to get into sort of e-commerce but not fast enough. Um, w what we see is a little bit of a knee jerk reaction. Um, that I think is a big misstep. And that is when they feel the heat, right? You start to see these direct to consumer brands coming up and nibbling at market share, uh, or, or fundamental business model innovation. If you think of like an AirBnb and what that did to the hotel industry, you sort of had this moment where you can either join them, right? You can, you can try and imagine the AirBnb model or fight it, uh, or come up with something else. And, and what's interesting is I think so many big companies are doing this knee jerk reaction of, oh, we need to innovate now. And they ended up spending a tremendous amount of money buying somebody. They acquire some, some business, they overvalue it to show their board and Wall Street that they are innovating. They create a corporate venturing fund, right? They put $100 million behind. They're going to invest in startups, which I think is great. I think it's one, one leg of the tripod that they should put money into. Um, or they try and start like, uh, an accelerator. Um, and all those things are good, but they're, they're not the core business of any of the companies you mentioned. Um, and I think, I think they need to go into it knowing, just like they shouldn't start their own social agency, um, that they're not, they're not investors and they shouldn't start an accelerator or a VC, um, without understanding what that business is. You know, an accelerator, it's gonna take five years to seven years to see any results from your investment. So in the CMO lifespan is two years. So you're gonna put $1 million into creating an accelerator that you're not going to see the returns on. Um, and so I, I think that there's this, oh, we need to innovate. Let's do something big and splashy rather than taking a deep breath and going, how do we inject innovation throughout the organization, right? Every single marketing plan put 50 to a 100 grand into that to do something new that's right for that brand launch that, that type of innovation. And then when it works, right, then you spray it across your portfolio, you globalize it, uh, you go big with your winners.
Tom Denford:
27:20
I can kind of sympathize with the marketer, right? As you said, the tenure of marketers or the churn of marketers within organizations is notoriously low, in terms of timing, right? People, well, they're moving every couple of years and yet these are long term plays, lots of these kind of things. Um, you know, the, these kind of deep innovation partnerships you can understand how marketers do pass on that and think, wow, you know, I'm investing in the longterm. I may not get to see this through. Also looks like it might carry a high risk and is it a distraction and all these kind of things. And so perhaps it's, you know, it's more the board level, you know, perhaps there's more kind of strategy, corporate strategy I guess where hit that start to get kind of an interested in these bigger things. But I guess for a marketer, this could be a good way of elevating yourself out of marketing or you know, above marketing if you like, bring your marketing sensibilities, but bring these corporate partnerships to your c-suite. It's a good investment in your own career potentially. I can, I could, I could see that right? Getting excited about bringing innovative partnerships to the, to a kind of corporate strategy level.
F Schonenberg:
28:32
We keep joking that we want to like put it on our website, but it just doesn't feel right. Uh, that everyone that works with us gets promoted. It's like a crazy number. It's like 90% of the people that were our lead contact last year got promoted by the end of the year. Um, and the reason is what you're doing is going to get press. It's going to get buzz, whether that's internal or external because it's new, different, it's creative thinking, which of course applies beyond marketing. And I think the problem with, I'll call it the longer term, let's call it corporate venturing, right? If you launch a corporate VC fund, that has to be the board level because that, that is a 5 to 15 year return on investment and it's really important. But I don't think that's the only place that people should be investing their time and their dollars. I think every single brand launch you should be injecting innovation into it. Um, and, and that's the way you're going to learn and you're going to get exposure to what else is happening, which is going to keep you a step ahead of everybody. And so it's sort of to do both the short term and the long term in this space. That is, it's, I think it would help you avoid disruption. Um, cause you start to explore these different pockets of your consumer quickly and, and with speed before and with a startup rather than wait for that startup to have so much momentum that they don't need you and then they go get VC dollars and now you're in trouble. Now you have a competitor you didn't see coming.
Tom Denford:
30:10
Do you advocate that companies just partner or are they sometimes looking for acquisition and in my mind, you know, thinking in his famous examples, right? People say well Ford should have bought Uber like early on. Right? That would have been, that would have made sense. Just acquire that, you know, Hilton should have bought AirBnB and that and obviously those things didn't happen. And in some cases, you know, the car company tries to build its own like ride sharing app or something and it just fails. Uh, is, is this a territory where is acquisition? Cause at the same time I can imagine if Ford had bought Uber, Uber probably wouldn't exist anymore. Right? They would've ruined it. Is acquisition the key or is this, is it better that the, these two partners stay separate and figure out how they could find, you know, mutual value.
F Schonenberg:
31:02
So, I think it's really interesting and, we'll play out the Ford Uber example cause it's fun. I think Ford should have talked to Uber before Uber was up for sale. So early stage Uber is just launching their, you know, sort of doing the black car version, right? The sort of Limo, uh, on demand, which is how they started. As soon as that started gaining traction, someone from Ford should have partnered with Uber and said, hey, we'll help your drivers. Um, whether that's providing, you know, whatever the fancy Ford is thinking of some way to give a benefit to drivers that have Ford for using it and get in good with Uber early when Uber needed it, right? Uber like out of the gate, there were like any startup, they're, they're trying to find drivers. The biggest cost is the car. How do we do this? You know, they, they could have figured out all sorts of ways to partner together and done a big press release with Uber. Um, that's where they should have first gotten involved together is when Uber was on the sort of upswing and early but still struggling. Um, once we were started getting traction and got VC dollars, Uber didn't need Ford at that point. It would have cost Ford so much money to get involved that I'm not sure it would have been the right play. Um, but I, I believe that you should date before you get married and there's an opportunity early on here to partner with startups to write a very modest check, get value out of that check, um, regardless of what happens. But then, you know, the founder and now you're working together and when they go to raise money, they're going to call you and you're going to be right there. And so they could have gotten in on that first round of investments and Uber would have been running around town talking about their Ford partnership. Um, so to me it's acquisition is, is an expensive piece of this. I would go earlier, I would try and find those companies on the way up, figure out how to work with them, how to get your brand in there. Um, partner with them, learn from them that that's where you're going to see a huge return on investment without blowing hundreds of millions of dollars. Not to say that that's not a good investment down the road, but I think out of the gate there's a lot of ways to experiment with new tech, new startups and get involved before it becomes cost prohibitive.
Tom Denford:
33:25
I think that that's really helpful. I think that, you know, your Ford-Uber example, I guess is at the crux of what you do, right? You're saying to Ford, look, you know, maybe that was a missed opportunity or this is where you should've done it, but let's find you those next opportunities.
F Schonenberg:
33:41
Absolutely. And it's crazy, right, that you wait a couple of years and all of a sudden it costs $100 million and it's, you know, the math is pretty simple. It's like two years earlier, you could have done a campaign and got involved with them for 50,000, $100,000 that now you're partners. Now you're now you're working together and you don't have investment in them, but you have first to look at it. Um, so yeah, that's our whole model is we think that there is so much happening that can provide a return on investment immediately. Um, in terms of just like any other marketing campaign, but also you get that value of seeing what's coming next, getting in front of it, protecting yourself from disruption, and also enabling yourself to become a growth partner with that particular company.
Tom Denford:
34:27
Good. Right. So let's come on to the big question, which is, what's your advice for marketers? So this is a big area. Maybe they're nervous, maybe they've experimented in this, in this kind of arena before. For marketers that are listening, what's the start point of this? If you say that you'd have, maybe they've wasted time walking the floors at CES. Think they've done a bit of innovation because they've done some, you know, wacky media executions or tech partnerships or something. What do they need to start thinking about now?
F Schonenberg:
35:01
I think the first start point is what, what challenges right in front of you. What, what is the iceberg that you're looking at, uh, that you have to navigate around, um, today?
Tom Denford:
35:12
And you mean like a business challenge that you're trying to solve? Is that what you're talking about?
F Schonenberg:
35:16
I'm trying to sell more beer in convenience stores, right? Like, it can be that that's sort of a traditional or that simple. And instead of saying, okay, let's, let's do the same things we've done and do more of it or tweak it just a little bit, see what else is out there. Are there ways to use technology to make that space come alive? Are there ways to drive consumers into that space? Uh, what's happening globally in that space? And, and I think really just taking a minute and thinking about one of the challenges that you have, and then, and let's see, you know, like we can do a quick intro call with somebody. Uh, it's very rare that we say no, we can't find a solution to that. Um, but from there you do one test to see if it works. You know, like the, you see these like VPs of marketing, you're like, what are you doing? Oh, I'm mentoring startups, uh, four hours a week. That's like, why would you be doing that? Like, that's not your KPI. It's fun, but that's, that's not going to deliver results if you're trying to sell more mayonnaise, right? Like you should be working on your core business and then have someone bring into you three breakthrough ideas to sell more mayonnaise and then you choose which one's gonna work. Um, so I think, I think it's simplifying it, really focusing on your business. Um, and not trying to boil the ocean, right? Like I want to see every startup at CES. Like there's, there's five startups out of the thousand at Eureka Park and CES that make sense for any one brand. Tops. And it's like, why not just have those five come to your headquarters?
Tom Denford:
36:58
I love the idea that technology and innovation should, should sell mayonnaise because it should, could absolutely, it could apply to anything. Okay. So before we go, I want to ask you just to look ahead, which I guess you spend most of your time doing, right? You're kind of wrapped in this idea of innovation and change, but what, what would you like to see happen across the next 12 months? What change would make you happy?
F Schonenberg:
37:20
I would love to see marketers go from innovation tourism, the sort of idea of seeing, you know, looking at startups like they're, you know, animals in a zoo. I'd like to see them instead start to test and learn, uh, do that more rapidly. Cause I think there's an opportunity to lasso a rocket ship, uh, and, and really transform a brand. Um, and I think that that's the key is just start to, to try more things, uh, in smaller bites. And see the return on investment, and then do some amazing work.
Tom Denford:
37:51
Fred Schonenberg, founder of VentureFuel. Thank you.
F Schonenberg:
37:55
Thank you, Tom. It's been a pleasure.
Tom Denford:
37:57
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