Oliver Yonchev

CEO & Co-founder of Flight Story

Listen on

Scaling a Marketing Agency and What Sets Flight Story Apart

Oliver Yonchev is the co-founder and CEO of Flight Story, a company he co-founded with Steven Bartlett in 2021 that “helps brands stay at the forefront of what’s possible”. Prior to Flight Story, he served as the managing director of Social Chain, one of the most successful social media marketing agencies in Europe.

In this episode, we covered a range of topics, including:

  • Oliver’s earliest childhood memories and how they shaped him as a person (spoiler: he wanted to become a professional footballer when he was younger)
  • How he became managing director of Social Chain at the young age of 26 and led its expansion into the US
  • The strategic decisions that helped scale Social Chain into one of Europe’s leading marketing agencies
  • What sets Flight Story apart from Social Chain and its approach to helping brands stay at the forefront of what’s possible
  • The growing importance of community building and the influence of retail investors in today’s business landscape
  • Oliver’s views on nurturing a thriving community around your brand
  • The future of Web3 and what the big players are getting wrong
  • When can we expect to see Oliver on the Diary of a CEO?

Tune in to this episode to hear Oliver’s insights and experience in the world of marketing and entrepreneurship.

Oliver on LinkedIn.

Oliver on Twitter.


Please note this transcript is automated

Desi Velikova: Just like my guest today, I have a bit of a soft spot for good communicators, which is why I found my conversation with him so fascinating. Oliver Yonchev is the CEO of Flight Story, an agency he co-founded with Steven Bartlett in 2021. His mother might describe him as delusional ambitious, which is likely the reason how he became social change managing director at only 26. After pursuing careers in professional football and music . 

In this episode, Oliver shared with me his view on scaling a service agency from a local business to a global company, as well as his recipe for building a thriving community around your brand. You won’t want to miss the next 40 minutes.

And a quick side note from me while recording this episode, I had a bit of a nightmare experience. Imagine all the technical difficulties at once. So I apologize in advance for any audio quality issues, but I hope that the quality of the conversation will make up for it. Enjoy.

Hi Oli. How are you doing?

Oliver Yonchev: I’m good. Good. I’m in the midst of a snowstorm in London now. I’m joking. It’s just rain, but unusual weather for this time. 

Desi Velikova: Yeah. Sharing the same city. I’m experiencing the same pleasure today. Thank you very much for taking the time to speak to us. As most of our listeners know you are the co-founder and CEO of Flight Story, a company you co-founded with Steven Bartlett back in 2021, which according to your website helps.

Stay at the forefront of what is possible. Before that, you were the managing director of Social Chain that back at the time was one of the most influential marketing agencies in Europe. But [00:02:00] before we dive deeper into your journey as a business and marketing expert, I just want to learn a little bit more about you.

Who you are what are the earliest memories and experiences that you believe shaped you as the person you are.

Oliver Yonchev: Wow, you’re going in strong. It’s probably worth saying I had a really good childhood. A very close family. I’m a byproduct of a holiday romance. My dad’s Bulgarian, my mom’s from the UK.

So yeah, that probably shaped me in terms of memories. So one of them that stands out to me, . When I was young, my dad always used to tell me very Eastern European thing to say. He used to say, you are mentally strong, you’re mentally tough. So whether that was true or whether I just grew up believing that I had a probably a an inbuilt belief that I would be able to deal with anything that life froze at me.

Whether that’s pressure whether that’s. And I went on through my adolescence and into my adult life believing that, so that probably shaped who I am and gives you the probably some good [00:03:00] foundations and tools for business.

Desi Velikova: Yeah, no I agree. I’m Bulgarian by the way as well. I didn’t know that you’re, how Bulgarian?

I’m a hundred percent Bulgarian. Yeah.

Oliver Yonchev: I used to spend a lot of time growing up there. I, most of my holidays when I had more family in bul. . So my youth, I spent a lot of time, Sophia Valgra, Bansko sunny Beach, of course , who 

Desi Velikova: hasn’t been there. . You haven’t been to Bulgarian if you haven’t been to Sunny Beach, right?

No . Okay, perfect. I can check some of your Bulgarian later. I’m just curious how your accent is. . Are you fluent? Can you speak Bulgar? I’ll

Oliver Yonchev: tell you a funny story actually. I dunno if this is this is probably bad parenting, so I’m gonna throw my parents under the bus. When I was young, I would be asked a question in English and I’d respond in Bulgarian and vice versa.

So I stopped learning Bulgarian going up. I could say a few phrases, but I can maybe listen to a few put things. But that’s as far as I go. [00:04:00]

Desi Velikova: Yeah. I see. I have the same thing. My son, he’s born here in the uk, he’s seven. He understands when I’m speaking, and I’m not always speaking to him in Bulgarian, but he always replies back in English and he yeah I don’t think, because it’s a hard language, it’s difficult to learn.

So I think I’m gonna have this challenge.

Oliver Yonchev: It’s very different. That’s the thing. It was decided that I would bail on one of my languages and consider when I was in the uk. Bulgarian, unfortunately, I do wish I kept, I do wish I, I do wish I kept it up. Maybe I revisit it at some point. 

Desi Velikova: I heard that you wanted to become a FUBU when you were growing up.

Just curious how long from your childhood you spent on this dream and why did you just keep upon it and why did you decide this is not for you? At what point you decided? I’m just, starting something. Yeah

Oliver Yonchev: I was, that was all I wanted to be when I was growing up. I wanted to be a football player.

My dad was obsessed. They used to play at a high level, at youth level. And then the reason I [00:05:00] stopped was part I became a teenager. It was at the time when you start picking college and I got my first offer to play semi-pro. So this is the first time you were about to get paid, leaving the youth leagues and going and playing.

Yes. And you’re about to get paid. So this blew my mind, the idea that I could play football and get paid it wasn’t a lot, but you’ve, that was a step up. And I got a earn at the time, so I had to have an operation. It took me out the start of the season and at the same time I was picking to go to college.

So I studied music at college and it just meant that I started to pursue more music and became more interesting and was filling my time with music, and it was at that point where you have to start making decisions and be really committed. And I was probably a little fatigued with this thing that I did every day for most of my young life.

I probably left it a few years, maybe could have revisited, but my life went on the different path by that. Sport’s a wonderful thing to grow up on any sport, right? I think life is competitive. We’re [00:06:00] competing in work, we’re competing in business, we’re competing in relationships. You name it, there’s competition, right?

I think what sport does, it does a couple of things brings out the competitive nature. It teaches you how to lose, and you don’t always win. And I think it’s good to take losses. You learn a lot in your. And also generally playing sports that are team dynamics. You have to converse with lots of different people that are also really competitive.

And I think all of those things eventually will shape you and very positive. So I had a lot of positive experiences playing sports, football, boxing, tennis. I did it all.

Desi Velikova: Amazing. And later on you started buying domain names, impulsive. and you even set up a website selling light bulbs because you found out that the margin, exciting ways of 

Oliver Yonchev: light bulbs , 

Desi Velikova: but the margins were good.

So it was worth it giving it a go .

Oliver Yonchev: Yeah. Funnily enough, I still have many light bulbs in storage. So if anyone ever needs a light [00:07:00] bulb, I have many of them. Yeah, it was my first so at the time I was working for a large media owner doing commercial development and. And I was always having business ideas, so I would have an idea.

I would come up with a brand, I’d have a domain, and eventually I thought when I got to a list of 20 to 30 domains, I thought I probably should do something about this. I decided to pick one of the names. I looked for a product that was high margin. I wanted to figure out how do you set up a website and how do you ship things into the uk and how do you sell things?

I’d been in obviously working in marketing and consulting with brands and representing a media owner. But I hadn’t been a tangible practitioner of business, so I was doing it as a bit of a side hustle. And yeah, that, that was probably my first foray. Didn’t work out very well, but I learned some stuff along the way.

And I think that’s the important thing. It’s certainly something I wish, if I reflect back on being younger, I wish I started doing more businesses and different things at a younger.

Desi Velikova: This kind of experimental mindset if you wish really clearly shows that you are [00:08:00] entrepreneur by nature.

And I’m just curious what and why did it take you so long to become a founder yourself? Yeah.

Oliver Yonchev: I dunno if it’s by nature. I think I’m a very ambitious person. Always have been. My mother would say I’m delusively a. If you said to me, Youngme, I’m not the tallest guy, but if you said to me, Oliver, do you wanna be a basketball player?

This is like a part of me thinks I probably could. So yeah, very ambitious. Always had a lot of self-belief. But I would say the entrepreneurial thing came just from that ambition. In my head I go I can focus heavily on my craft, on my career and it will take me this amount of time to get to where I want to go.

Or I could try and do it. And maybe get there faster. So I think it was a combination of being very ambitious on one hand and a combination of wanting to achieve and test myself and challenge myself. I think they’re the factors I wouldn’t necessarily say I was born with it. I’m probably, one of the reasons it took me a little longer was I’m a little risk adverse, [00:09:00] which being risk adverse is a real advantage, particularly in.

If you’re more measured in your decision making, you weigh up the consequences, but you tend to find those, I have a lot of admiration for those moonshot entrepreneurs, the ones that take big risks that, they’re the ones that I suppose grab our attentions and I have a lot of admiration, but I’m not naturally like that.

Desi Velikova: I think Like taking the time to build this experience working in probably other companies and working at large organizations before you set up your startup. It’s really underrated. I think young people probably don’t realize how much they can learn from the different experience different companies, especially large organization, especially in market.

Where you can experiment and learn and test with the project that’s not your own savings. It actually gives you a world. We are really blown away by those stories where just the college drop propel that set up the startup in their bedroom and they go on this wild entrepreneurial journey.

[00:10:00] But sometimes it is in kind dory years where you can get the experience that you need to make a successful. You were the managing director of social chain for about five years. You joined the company when they were around 20 people. You worked with companies like apple, the bbc, Spotify, and lucky to becoming one of the most influential marketing agencies in Europe.

And then also like the expansion in the us. Why do you think you are the best person for the job? What are your kind of best leadership attributes that

Oliver Yonchev: help you? Yeah, I think there was a couple of things. It was a young business had a lot of qualities that I admired, incredibly entrepreneurial. But what I brought in coming to business, I was probably, if not the most, one of the most experienced with my whole four or five years experience.

Desi Velikova: How old were you then to be 

Oliver Yonchev: the most? I think I was maybe 26, 27, something like that. So yeah, the [00:11:00] it speaks volumes about, the what a, a group of young people did and achieved together. But having joined that, I had, a good foundation. I understood how to work and cooperate and work through a growing organization and being in a larger setting probably qualities that made me good.

I love. , if you go on one hand, really ambitious, like to compete. On the other hand, I love learning. Just very curious, love business, love learning about how to do things, love learning about people. So as a consequence of those two things I fit in really well into an environment that was built around marketing in the social media world.

And the social media world changes every day. So things that were true yesterday may not be true. So to fit and do really well in those environments and be great at your craft you need to be very curious. So that was part of it. And the other part is I’d have a, I’d put a lot of care into everything I do.

So when I first joined social chain I made a lot of sacrifices in the sense that I didn’t leave my hometown. [00:12:00] I used to drive about four hours of commuting a day in total. So I’d set off at five 30 in the morning. I’d get in, go to the gym with some of my. I’d then do the same on the way back, a lot of driving.

So I was fully committed to what I did. I used to work, there was very few people would outwork me the level of discipline that injected into what I did and I’d obsessed over the work. There’s a phrase that Gary V uses and he talked about he’s effective because he has his head in the clouds, but he’s also in the mud.

And For me, that’s really true. To be highly effective, yes, you need to think big and have the ambitions and have lofty dreams and be focused in the future. But you also need to be in the weeds. You need to truly understand your craft. And what made me very good I suppose within a social media agency was I understood social media.

I understand how people behave online through learning. I would pay a lot of attention, when I would get in at 9:00 PM at night that my work didn’t finish, I’d been. On my commutes, I’d [00:13:00] have podcast song. I’d always be filling up my time with learning. Not because I had to, but because I enjoyed it.

It was part of something that I’ve always enjoyed. So I think those qualities, being ambitious, competitive, those types of things drive you forward. But what probably helped me a lot in that environment was just being very curious and always loving learning.

Desi Velikova: Social chain kept throwing.

Kept growing at a phenomenal speed. And one of the biggest challenges of scaling a service business, especially when it’s an agency, it’s growing too fast. And this is a pitfall you didn’t fall into back then. What were some of the best decisions you made, both personally, but also as a company that led to this phenomenal growth and you really.

Growing month, after

Oliver Yonchev: month. I really like your questions. They’re very deep. They’re not surface level questions. 

Desi Velikova: They’re what I do my research and I live in Bri world as well, [00:14:00] so probably Okay. Yeah, I have that in 

Oliver Yonchev: common. Okay. So first and foremost, I would say we made a lot of mistakes as it related to growing too quickly.

You can’t go, you can’t in a, in a summer period, hire 50 people and make great. You need to do it in a more sustainable way. So yes, it was a really high growth business. But that created a lot of challenges as well. They weren’t challenges that couldn’t be overcome. But I reflect on our new endeavor, which is flight story, and that’s certainly been a big learning, taking more sustainable growth, and certainly building stronger foundations to.

And grow upon. In terms of the best decisions that we made, all the best decisions were predicated on starting before we were ready. So when social change decided to go to the us it wasn’t ready to go to the us. Didn’t have the structure, didn’t know what it was doing. There was all these things and it was learning along the way.

Inadvertently, the US became one of the most important parts of the business for a number of reasons. It gave us a strategic advantage as a global business, we were able to win global. Because a lot of [00:15:00] global accounts are dictated to in US territory from global brands. So that gave us some advantages and we were truly able to be global.

So I think that’s one example where we took a step before we were ready because there is never no perfect time in business, so taking those steps, I think the other thing that probably. Me apart personally. I make decisions pretty quickly, whether they’re right or wrong. I have humility to say when I’m wrong, but I tend to make a decision and be at peace with it rather quickly.

So I think that ability to reiterate and make decisions fast is a big advantage. And then I’d be remiss if I didn’t say my best decisions made when I hired great people. And for me, great people. Some of them were like real big value adds to the culture. Some of them elevated the quality of our.

I learned from them. Some of them were just great managers, great team players. So all for different reasons. I have different people in different categories. But yeah, when we make good decisions, agencies are built on just great people thinking minds. So if you can have a room full of the best thinkers, you [00:16:00] probably won’t go far wrong in running an agency.

Desi Velikova: Oh no, I’m so passionate about this topic and exactly what you said in my view in an agency, People are the product. You don’t really have a business if you don’t have the right people by your site. And they’re the ones, finding the right talent, motivating them retaining them and making sure that they’re by your site while you are growing.

It’s one of the, the main thing that the business really can stand on. I’m just curious, what are the qualities you are looking for in people? Other than the hard skills, obviously when hiring team members to make sure that you have, the best team in in the

Oliver Yonchev: industry.

Yeah, I think your hiring decisions should be anchored to your company values, so that should be a foundation for us. We’re a very on flight story. We’re a very ambitious business, so we’re very ambitious. We have very high standards as it relates [00:17:00] to our. We wanna achieve great things. So if you build from there, there’s certain qualities that would lend itself to that type of mindset, right?

I have this thesis, and I think you can’t go far wrong if you hire lots of optimistic people that are nice, like genuinely, like you spend a lot of time together, you collaborate. I would much rather be in a room full of nice people that are optimistic. There’s a room there’s a role for pessimism.

But. Just people that bring up the morale. I think that’s a good environment to be around. So that’s a first and foremost. I have a renewed appreciation for intelligent people. I certainly, intelligence to me, people learn and I actually think people that are intelligent, not just academically, but emotionally intelligent, I think intelligence comes in many forms.

So I think people that excel in intelligence, they usually adapt very well. And that’s really important in When things change all the time, you need people that are good at adapting. And then probably the final thing that I really look for in, in [00:18:00] people is curiosity, particularly for a zip flight, sorry, people who love to learn.

I’ve been a benefactor of being a lifelong learner. And I think those that have that curiosity and always want to. They always stay. They elevate, they keep pushing what they’re capable of. So yeah, that to me their qualities. And probably last thing, if I go where do I have a soft spot for, as someone that’s worked in sales and commercial development and business development for a lot of my career, I have a soft spot for great communicators and that can be people that are great writers, can take their ideas and thinking and distill it down in writing or can speak it very.

Be very eloquent. I have a very, I have a soft spot for good communicators. Awesome.

Desi Velikova: And while we are on the topic of good communication, can you give me the elevator pitch flight story? How are you guys different from a traditional agency? Why are clients choosing you over your competitors? And to be honest, I’m really curious.

How is the company different from [00:19:00] social?

Oliver Yonchev: Yeah, def is a good question. I will give you three answers to this. I’ll give you the client pitch. I will tell you our corporate pitch. And then I’ll tell you probably how we differ. I think foundationally, so if I’m speaking and if I was to say what makes us different about our work, I think agencies would be online if they said they’re uniquely wildly different.

Agencies are groups of people that do work. Do I think we have one of the best teams in the industry? Absolutely. But I’m biased, right? So part of me would say part of me would say our point of difference is just having really great people. But I’ll build on that in a second. In terms of what we do our mission or why we exist is we keep brands at the forefront of what’s possible.

And for me, that’s a really important bedrock because companies, the world that we live in now is more complex than it’s ever. Things change at an exponential rate. The things that are relevant today and the things that are gonna be relevant in the future, that gap continues to close. So if you build a [00:20:00] company and organization, a group of people that are comfortable adapting to change, embrace it, turn, change, and challenge into opportunity, you have a very good foundation for a business.

And we distill down. We do lots of services, but we focus on three core areas. Strategy, we help c. Think and solve problems. And for me, great strategies, often less about what you do, but more about what you don’t do. When we are burdened with choice, and you can do many things, it’s about focus and intention.

So helping companies be focused and intentional with their work is part of what we do. The next is content. Creativity is a superpower in my. In, in every sense of the word, we put a lot of thought into our creative teams and our functions, and we have great design video animation capabilities within our walls.

And the final thing we do is media. The media landscape is fragmented. It sits in individuals, creators, websites, blogs, channels. There’s a whole spectrum of media [00:21:00] available. So we pay a lot of attention. Helping companies distribute their communication in the right way. So that’s what we do for clients.

If I would say, what’s our point of difference from a business at a corporate level we are very aware part of our corporate strategies to invest and acquire the best in class service capabilities. So the services we do today are one thing. The services we will do over the next three to five years will continue to.

And one of the things that gives us a point of difference, when you look at incumbent advertising agencies, they have grown and built through mergers and acquisitions. The challenge with mergers and acquisitions is if you don’t do it correctly, you end up as a group of companies that don’t communicate, don’t have aligned incentives aren’t greater than the sum of their parts.

They don’t share experiences, they don’t share talent. They don’t create opportu. And that’s how most large network agencies operate. Our point of difference is that through our m and a activity, investing, [00:22:00] acquiring companies, we move into an integrated model. So when we invest in a business, they become a flight story business.

We have a single client solution, we have a single marketing solution, and all the backend support being finance, hr, operations, these things. Encumber businesses of a certain size. So if you build the consolidated central functions that mean companies can just focus on doing great work, you end up with better outcomes.

So in my view, traditional incumbent advertising groups and agencies in their world, one plus one equals one and a half. And I think in flight stories world, one plus one should equal three because we’ve been very thoughtful about how we structure the company and the companies that we choose to.

and that’s been a lot of our mission. Going back to what I said earlier, just around people, what makes our point of difference? When we launched the company, we were very focused on the finance sector. And as a consequence of that, we brought in a lot of people from different backgrounds, from consulting, from [00:23:00] finance, obviously we’re from marketing, digital media creative, bringing together that collective experience as being transformative to us.

Having, seeing. People with, eight to 15 years of consulting experience come in a more creative, freeing environment. They’ve just been supercharged in their skillset. Having creatives work with really phenomenal business operators. People that are able, really good generalists that are able to connect the dots.

It’s just seen the standard of our client servicing just really elevate. So I have a renewed appreciation for assembling teams that have come from very different back. And I would say that is a big point of difference for us.

Desi Velikova: Amazing. And have your focus from financial industry shifted to somewhere else?

Or you are just operating more broadly at the moment?

Oliver Yonchev: We serviced three sectors more broadly, of three broad industries. Bear in mind our unique aspect is we help companies navigate, change, and stay at the forefront of all. [00:24:00] Sectors that go through a lot of change. Finance is one, and that’s where we started.

There are a whole suite of emerging technologies from biotech to web three to, machine learning ai. So we support a lot of technology businesses. The great thing for us and our background is those, the finance industry and the technology industry all have communication problem. They’re all highly complex and distilling down what they do in a really clear, concise, relevant way, consistently is not a skill they typically have.

So we focus there. And then the third sector is just companies that are looking to take advantage of changing social media. And so we say disruptive brands that actually want to be different in the world. And that’s a very broad category, but it’s more a mindset of a company and an organization.

So we have three sets of sectors in terms of our. Who do we speak and communicate to? On one hand, we speak to marketing leaders. These are marketing leaders that ask questions like, what should my creator marketing strategy look like in 2023? Should I launch an NFT [00:25:00] collection? These are questions that marketers ask themselves.

So we wanna be a partner for those on a tactical level. But we also want to support management teams and C-Suite on big problems. They have reputational cha c. There, there’s headwinds in their commercial model. There’s new disruptors coming into their sector. How do we support them through a range of services there?

So our two buyers are marketeers and then management teams as well.

Desi Velikova: Let’s talk a little bit more about building communities, because I know you are an expert at this. Many companies believe, and I would say wrongly assume that having a large social media following. To having a community while in reality, 90% of them, they don’t really have a community, they have just like impressive social media numbers, which is very different.

What is the ultimate definition for you of community?

Oliver Yonchev: That’s a good question. From an ultimate definition, if I think what a community is more broadly , I [00:26:00] think communities should share a common language. They should have something that anchors them to, it’s why communities are usually built around passions, gaming, fashion, investing.

Communities are built around things people care about. I tend to believe what you’re describing there is the difference between having, an audience and a community is something. , it means you’re connected, you share something, and you share a value that an audience doesn’t.

Always an audience can, be passive. It can be many things. So that’s probably the distinction for me. And I would say communities collaborate, they co-author and they’re a sort of bottom up experience as opposed to a top down. When you think of followings, it’s someone saying something to the world and broadcasting and giving their perspective.

A community is lives and breathes. Has much more nuance to it.

Desi Velikova: What do you think are the fundamentals of building a thriving community? There is a lot of bus, around the world, [00:27:00] community, but there is very little practical advice out there. Or maybe there is enough advice. It is just very hard.

That’s why people don’t follow. Let’s imagine I’m a client of yours, like I am the founder of a Hot Headphones brand. I come to you targeting Gen Z, and I come to you and I’m saying I want to be killing it on social. I have all the money in the world. I want to keep it on social. What are the very first steps you would recommend me to take so I can get closer to.

Oliver Yonchev: I would say, send me some headphones. I need to test them out. I need to know what you’re about, what you stand for. 

Desi Velikova: Perfect. Because you come to great marketing if you don’t have a great product. First you have to check the basics. 

Oliver Yonchev: Exactly. That’s where we’re gonna start. No. In terms of building a community, it’s a brief.

We receive a lot. Actually. There’s a real reason people want to build a community around what they do, their brand, their business, them as a person. Communities can be your greatest line of defense when things go. When you have news to [00:28:00] share they champion you. They’re evangelical they work with you, they co-author your communication efforts.

So it’s a real value add. If a company can achieve it, it’s a bit of a utopia. I don’t think many businesses are either set up or have the level of commitment required to deliver on a community promise. So first step for me is asking your question asking the question why are you doing it? So you need to understand why you’re doing it.

If you are doing it, someone within your industry has doing it. It’s probably not a good enough reason. I think you should want to do it because building a community is one of the hardest undertakings in marketing. It’s like saying, you saying to me, we wanna build a really well known brand that people love.

It’s possible, but it’s a real it’s the collective sum of years of effort and work and consistent good work. The same as of a community. He said to me, I wanna build a community that loves and breathes what we. That’s gonna take time. It’s gonna take resource. So your first step is truly understanding the role of a community.

The second is really caring. Cuz care is the foundation of every community. You have to [00:29:00] care about the people within it. And then as a consequence, you have to be willing to resource it. And resource doesn’t always mean capital and investment resource means time, head. Having someone accountable for nurturing and developing.

There’s a lot of roles coming out around community architecture and heads of community, and their responsibility is not just to engage with people, but think of what’s the experience. So you should have a plan for what’s the experience within your community? Where does it live? Does it live in discord?

Does it live on a subreddit? Does it live on a proprietary database somewhere? Is it a app experience? Where does it live? Make those decisions have a very clear plan. Care about the experience of those within it, have a real reason for people to be there and do that consistently for a long time. And you may have a community , so it’s not an easy undertaking.

Desi Velikova: No, I’m sure it’s not. It’s just an assumption. It is that Oh wow, let’s have 1 million people on Instagram. Yeah, you can have the numbers, but can you have the [00:30:00] engagement? And what does it take to have the engage. 

Oliver Yonchev: Yeah I’ll say something just on that, think of Steven’s podcast, I of a ceo, that podcast, he’s been doing a version of it for six years, and now it’s entered public consciousness and truly dominated probably for the last year, two years.

But that’s just relentless consistency and obsessing over detail and thinking about what the audience wants and et cetera. Yeah, it takes time on

Desi Velikova: the topic of Making everything perfect and being obsessed with perfectionism, are you kind of person that would just, go and do it straight away and gonna go and test it?

Or you just make sure that things are pitch perfect before you launch something onto the world? Yeah, I

Oliver Yonchev: think there’s I think everybody’s version of perfect perfectionism is different, right? It’s a very subjective, something that you think is. And, or something I think is perfect. Maybe we maybe worlds apart, right?

In our view I tend to believe there is no such thing as perfection, just [00:31:00] broadly. , it’s the same reason that a musician will create some music and they always want to change something years later. There’s always something that they don’t like. There is no such thing. So I think if you can understand that as a fundamental truth, you can act accordingly.

And my view is in the world when I think particularly from a marketing capacitor. A lot of great success comes from just reiterating, trying, doing lots of thought experiments. And if perfection will stop you doing that, or your version of perfection stops you doing that you probably won’t win.

You probably won’t do well. So I tend to favor speed learning, assessing what you’re doing. I tend to favor these things over perfection, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t hold very high. It’s if you put some work out into the world, you should be proud, you should care. One of my biggest bug bears in agency environments is, if I see a proposal and I go, do you like it?

Does the design look beautiful? Sometimes you have to make trade offs and be pragmatic on time, but it should be a reflection as you, as a professional of your work, of your [00:32:00] craft. So I think there’s a difference between high standards and perfection. I think the two can co. .

Desi Velikova: Going back to the topic of community, I’m passionate about it.

Retail investors accounted for 52% of global assets under the management in 2021 which is expected to grow to over 61 by 23 by 2030. Sorry. And you might have, the numbers more accurately than me. This is something I found online, but what I think this is really saying and. Super important for all us to keep our eyes on is that the average individual has a growing influence on a company’s future, which means that your community, your social media audience, your brand reputation might be more important than your financials in the coming.

Where is this taking us? This is shifting the marketing world dramatically.

Oliver Yonchev: Yeah. If you think of anyone running a company, [00:33:00] particularly public business their priorities should start with things like their brand, what people think about them. It should start with their people, those types of things.

Fundamentally what most management teams care about is their value . If you’re a, your measure of. Your reward mechanisms are usually anchored to what something is worth on the public as it’s publicly traded. What’s really interesting, the dynamics that you’ve just described there is the growing influence of individuals collectively over the value of a company.

And in finance there’s these unhelpful distinctions. We talk a lot about institutional investors, meaning banks, pension. This is professional money. And then retail investors and retail investors often get trivialized as young, impressionable, like the crypto degens, the ones that just don’t know anything.

But it’s such a broad spectrum to just describe. It’s a majority of asset class. I think in the us retail investors account for more than mutual and hedge funds combined in terms of a collective group, of [00:34:00] total traded asset volumes. So I think. The growing influence is something companies should pay attention to, and I think if you go a step deeper and say, what does a peop a community of people that know about you, care about you, what does that do for your business?

First and foremost, they’ll champion you. Second to that, they’ll defend you when things go wrong. And defending you when things go wrong in public markets is really important. When you don’t meet expectations and you have an army of people. Do the analysis and tell you why you haven’t met certain expectations that is persuasive.

And the distinctions between institutional and retail are always helpful because we all have similar influences on our lives. We’re all influenced by the news, we’re all influenced by our peers. We’re all influenced by a lot of online factors. So I think companies, public companies, have done things a certain way for a long time as it relates to their investor relations.

And I think it’s so important [00:35:00] now that they recognize the new world around them and actually start to put a lot of thought into how are they communicating with retail investors. They should have a retail investor focused strategy that supports any institutional strategy that that they have within their walls.

So it’s a good question. I don’t think it’s a question enough big, large organizations ask themself enough. But they probably will over the next couple of years as. Momentum and this democratization of financial markets more broadly continues to evolve

Desi Velikova: On the topic of democratization. I know you are into web three and blockchain.

In the last couple of years, we’ve seen an unprecedented amount of enthusiasm, even good around newly created. And at the same time large companies like , FIFA invested millions in their web projects, and unfortunately, they failed to [00:36:00] engage their already large communities. What did they do wrong?

What do they, I know it’s an unpredictable world, the NFT and the Webley world, but why did they fail so miserably? And I’m sorry to say that, but that is what is happening. Got something fundamentally wrong. What is it what do you think is happening behind the closed doors?

Oliver Yonchev: Yeah. I think there’s a couple of things.

First and foremost, marketing doesn’t always work, right? I think we just have to accept that . And in many cases, more often than not, it doesn’t work. It certainly doesn’t mean expectations. So I think that’s a fundamental truth. It’s a very nascent industry. The playbooks, what’s the right thing?

What’s the wrong? If anyone tells you with certainty they’re lying because it’s new. I also think one of the things that a lot of organizations got is they are too focused on the shiny new thing and they’ve gotta ask the motives of why would you do anything? I said at the start of this, marketeers have so many choices.

They’re burden with [00:37:00] choice, of all the things they could inject their energy into doing an NFT project. Doing a collection, they have to ask themselves why. And for me, there should be a few why’s why big, large organizations with lots of customers should do these things first and foremost to learn some stuff.

I think that’s really valuable. I think Web three is the next reiteration of the internet. I think it’s gonna disrupt commercial models more broadly. I think more and our more and more of our lives are gonna be digitized and continue on that trend. And I think the blockchain technology is fascinating.

So I think companies should learn some stuff that’s a found. The next is they should do it because they can earn some coverage and media around them doing interesting things. If innovation is part of their dna there is merit to doing those things. And if the reason they do it is for commercial motives, it’s probably too early to say.

I think certainly there’s been opportunistic programs and project. But if that’s the motivation for doing it, it’s a commercial one, it’s probably the wrong, there’s much better ways to spend your resource and energy if [00:38:00] your motives a commercial. I think they have to, those companies got it wrong because they maybe had the wrong motives or they just didn’t execute in an authentic way.

Marketing doesn’t always work, and I think that’s just a truth we all have to come to. ,

Desi Velikova: what I think might be the problem is that many of them treat it as just another marketing channel. Is it really another marketing channel or is it a new technology that offers just a completely new way to engage?

Your audience. That’s something many of the bigger guys probably couldn’t get right. And why? We see projects like crypto punk that directly serve the crypto native crowd appeals much more to their, to the people. They were aiming to engage

Oliver Yonchev: just on that. Our first job with any organization is more one of education, is really showing them the art of.

So yes, it can be a marketing initiative and yes, you can create a loyalty program that’s, through the vehicle of an [00:39:00] nft, right? But what they also do is they should understand how this can affect potential future verification. They can use it as a mechanism to verify their products and.

They should be thinking about how this may affect their supply chains and authentication. There are a lot of reasons that they should explore this technology. It seems that the marketing functions are front running this, but really I think other parts of a business should pay attention. And that’s generally what we try and do is take a more holistic approach and marketing is a great arena to test some things and to learn some.

But it should then be all about taking intelligence and then informing business decisions more broadly.

Desi Velikova: I have a bit of a cheesy question for you, . If you had to choose just one social media network to focus your efforts on in the next, let’s say a couple of years, which one would you choose and why?


Oliver Yonchev: is the future? So I’m gonna, I’m gonna give two [00:40:00] perspectives. I think TikTok is gonna be a dominant. For a few years until something decides to change that until someone comes along and creates a a new experience that’s different, that’s more compelling. So I think TikTok wouldn’t be a bad area to focus your time on.

Personally, for me as someone that is growing a business LinkedIn both present organic opportunities, both really. Nurture their creator community. They understand the lifeblood of their success is built on people creating on their platforms. So they’ve, they’re putting the effort, they’re putting the time to create resources, to give experiences to really champion.

So two areas I would focus on, it would be, it’s a bit of a cheat answer cause I said too, but I would say TikTok on.

Desi Velikova: It is been an absolute pleasure meeting you Ali. Thank you very much for your time. And before I let you go, when are we going to see you on the diary of a [00:41:00] ceo? , 

Oliver Yonchev: when are you going to see me on the diary of a ceo?

You know what I think the show is getting too big for me right now. I don’t think I can stand up to the caliber o of guests that are on there right now, however I probably, if there is a time, I would like to save it for a big moment in our company history. So if at some point we take the company public or something of that endeavor, that would be, feels like a good time to make my Doac debut.

Desi Velikova: I’m looking forward to this episode.