Media Buying Briefing: How a VC vet hunts for tech startups with Martin Sorrell’s backing

Sanja Partalo is not any stranger to chopping offers and searching for to outsmart investments for companies. The previous head of strategic growth and partnerships at WPP labored with each Sir Martin Sorrell and present CEO Mark Learn till final November, earlier than launching her personal enterprise capital agency, S4S Ventures, in January.

Sounds a bit like S4, Sorrell’s no-longer-new company holding firm, proper? There’s an oblique connection, acknowledged Partalo, as Sorrell is one in all two principal companions working along with her to construct up the VC’s greater than $100 million funding fund, together with Daniel Pinto of Stanhope Capital. Partalo stated S4S isn’t an arm of S4, however does work with numerous S4’s executives — simply not solely, as she’s prepared to work with any tech platform or company holding firm.

Specializing in investments within the ad-tech and mar-tech areas she’s fairly accustomed to from her time attempting to find partnerships at WPP, Partalo hasn’t wasted time searching for out alternatives. Though she declined to call her first funding, Partalo stated she has closed one deal and is near closing two extra, in utilized synthetic intelligence and mar-tech. She stated she believes that now that the media world has been optimized to the hilt, the content material world is subsequent up, given the convenience of entry to expertise like synthetic intelligence. 

Digiday’s interview with Partalo has been edited for area and readability. 

How did S4S Ventures come about? 

I did loads of enterprise investing whereas at WPP, and it was my favourite a part of the job… being ready to consider the long run, and the place the disruption was going to return from for our business. The place the place there was probably the most vitality and vibrancy tended to be smaller firms. The truth that generally they didn’t come from our world meant they’d visions that had been very compelling as a result of they weren’t encumbered by legacy considering.

Should you take a look at the numbers, solely 2% of VC funds are led by ladies. I had no illusions that it could be tremendous simple to place collectively. So when the chance offered itself with Martin and Daniel, it was the proper setup from an experience standpoint, from an expertise standpoint, and clearly from the alignment with S4 Capital.

How do you’re employed with S4 Capital? 

As a result of Sir Martin sits on the funding committee and has personally invested into the fund — as have numerous administrators at S4 Capital — we’ve got operational alignment with the enterprise. At S4S, we all know the sectors that all of us collectively labored in. What startups need is entry to people who can play with their expertise, who can use the expertise, or give them insights on whether or not one thing is constructed the precise method or priced the precise method. How do they [S4 executives] suppose that product stacks up towards the aggressive set? There’s loads of real-world sign [S4S can deliver] that could be very helpful to early-stage firms as they give thought to growing their merchandise for the broader advertising and promoting ecosystem.

What sort of firms are you focusing on for funding or acquisition? 

We’re hoping to again the subsequent era of leaders throughout mar-tech and ad-tech. We’re searching for technology-enabled firms — not service companies or companies. However there’s an extra pillar, which is content material firms as a result of we’ve got loads of expertise in backing these. The media ecosystem is continually going by way of change, notably with Gen Z simply now hitting that age level the place they’re making a significant mark on defining what new leisure and media platforms appear to be for them. So we’re nonetheless within the early phases of determining who’re these firms which might be capturing their consideration.

To Gen Z, content material does look totally different whenever you see YouTube star Mr. Beast open a brick-and-mortar restaurant and have 10,000 fans descend on it on the first day. What do you make of that? 

It’s an exquisite instance as a result of how would the business categorize what’s taking place there? He’s a creator if we use business jargon, which I personally really feel doesn’t go far sufficient. Meaning the creator financial system is alive and properly. He creates his personal product, he monetizes his complete product, he’s a model, he’s an promoting channel. It defies the buckets that we’re accustomed to. 

I feel that’s what’s actually thrilling about this second in time as a result of Gen Z and the newer breed of firms and creators as manufacturers — the eye they’re capturing are enterprise fashions that defy any construction that we’d have seen within the final 10 years. It’s about folks and firms which might be in a position to construct communities — that’s the underpinning of all of this.

So do you see a democratization of content material and expertise taking place? 

The following stage of democratization of content material growth and affect constructing goes to be simpler as a result of the artistic expertise instruments are getting higher by the second. So whether or not you’re speaking about open AI or generative artwork or generative textual content, or whether or not it’s artificial people — we’re nonetheless within the early phases of all that. There are already applied sciences which might be going to make content material growth an entire lot cheaper, and an entire lot much less demanding from a technical and expertise perspective. All of that implies that there’ll be extra alternatives for the typical human to develop content material, to be extra artistic. All the pieces concerning the content material growth business to me appears very ripe for disruption.

Coloration by numbers

Apparently, when you’re not working for Netflix, Amazon Prime Video or Disney+, you may need a little bit of a vanity downside. Kaltura, a self-described video expertise cloud, surveyed 200 streaming executives about shopper habits and technological advances and their findings in Go With the Stream, weren’t massively confidence-inspiring. Some stats: 

  • Kaltura cites other research noting there are greater than 5,300 streaming companies worldwide. 
  • When requested how they charge their service’s high quality of expertise and options from a shopper perspective, most executives stated their companies are “good” (43%) or “acceptable” (33%). 
  • Solely 20% of executives believed their service to be nearly as good as international streaming giants like Netflix, Disney+, and Amazon Prime Video. 
  • 64% of respondents plan to enhance their consumer expertise within the subsequent three years, with 32% planning to take action this yr.
  • Solely 25% of respondents claimed a superb understanding of their viewers and 47% acknowledged their understanding is restricted. 

Takeoff & touchdown

  • Impartial Crossmedia retained international media AOR duties for Etihad Airways after a overview and can deal with the account out of its London and Düsseldorf, Germany workplaces. Crossmedia has dealt with media for the airline since 2019.
  • Havas Media Group landed international media duties for clothes licensor Wolverine Worldwide (which incorporates such manufacturers as Saucony, Sperry, Merrell and Keds) following a overview that sought to consolidate model spend below one roof. 
  • Omnicom Media Group retained SC Johnson’s media enterprise following a overview. The CPG 
  • large consists of such manufacturers as Windex, Raid and Glade. 

Direct quote

“It’s very believable that Apple is seeking to construct a cellular web-based DSP to serve the perform of lock-screen promoting. If this does occur, it’s going to undoubtedly affect consumer notion of privateness and the ‘Apple Expertise’ as an entire, contemplating a locked cellphone display screen is without doubt one of the few locations the place customers are at present not inundated with commercials. In the end, Apple is probably going making some critical inside selections on the place they’ll serve advertisements on Apple units with out irritating the 50%+ of the American inhabitants which might be iPhone customers.”

Alexa Kilroy, head of brand name at ecommerce agency Triple Whale.

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