The Global Media Weekly for executives and entrepreneurs

Ready for lift-off

Two former executives of Dennis Publishing (now owned by Future Plc) have formed “a talent co-operative” that might just encourage many more B2B startups. Chris Cannon and Julian Lloyd Evans this week announced the Engage Media Group and its first launch, TechFinitive.

Cannon (former managing director of Dennis’ IT Pro who previously had commercial roles at Business Insider, CBS Interactive and the PHD advertising agency) is the managing director and majority shareholder of Engage.

He says the new digital brand would “give definitive advice to both traditional buyers of business IT and the new breed of influencers: employees who want a say in the hardware, software and services they use every day. We see a B2B digital landscape which hasn’t really changed in a decade. On one side you have business news websites and on the other your technical IT websites; today the buying committee for B2B technology is made up of both audiences, so we saw a gap in the landscape to bring these audiences together.”

That is code for creating a free platform for IT professionals who (as Foundry / IDG has asserted) want to make up their minds about purchases without needing to be subjected to a manufacturer’s sales team. It’s a promising enough idea for what remains one of the world’s largest B2B markets. If TechFinitive can put together a regular audience of at least 200k, IT marketers will want to pay for the lead gen, content marketing and sponsorship opportunities being planned by the tech-media experienced team based in the UK and Australia.

As the company’s digital director Ricardo Oliviera (ex Red Ventures and CBS Interactive) says: “Cloud-based software and collaboration tools, a global footprint and hybrid working allows us to select the very best talent and technologies to power and grow the business at a much faster rate than was possible even five years ago.” 

That may be the real significance of the Engage ‘distributed’ team who collectively have traded much of their would-be earnings for shares in the new venture.

Lloyd Evans (who had been Chief Revenue Officer of Dennis and also chairs The Big Issue, and the Advertising Week board in Europe) sees the additional opportunity to launch in new sectors like health and financial services. But, first, there is the little task of getting TechFinitive airborne.

In their unveiling enthusiasm this week, the two founders dared to hope for a breakthrough into profit by a mere 12-18 months. It seems likely that the bootstrapped venture has a burn rate of something like £200k and might have access to £500k. The founders have deliberately avoided external finance, choosing to share 20% of the equity among their team, in order to make the funds go further. Although professional equity investors might have laughed at Engage’s low-cost business model, the self-supporting structure has enabled them to create a network of B2B media talents way beyond their budget. Which is why it deserves our attention.

At the risk of prematurely exaggerating its significance, Cannon-Lloyd Evans’ Engage Media Group might just be able to exploit the changed world of semi-detached journalists, techies and others prepared to be part of a “talent co-operative”, working remotely and investing their skills and experience in a project that just might be the start of something big.