Thursday, April 17, 2008
Interview with Roman Tsunder, Access 360 Media
Story by Benjamin F. Kuo
Access 360 Media (www.access360media.com) is a Bessemer Ventures-backed startup which operates an in-store, entertainment and advertising networks, and is one of a number of cross Los Angeles-New York firms in the ad business. The firm has its West Coast offices in Venice. We spoke with Roman Tsunder, the firm's founder, on the company.
What's the idea behind Access 360 Media?
Roman Tsunder: We are a media company, focused on young adults, which we define as 12 to 34 year olds. By 2010, it will be the largest demographic, based on the numbers.
When you say media company, what do you mean?
Roman Tsunder: We are a media company, because we sell eyeballs. There are three platforms we have. One is in-store--we're the largest in-store, media network for the market, where we are in 10,000 locations, reaching over 100 million 12-34 year old shoppers. We're in-store, because the number one task of our demographic is shopping. It's the top task for something like 94% of girls, and 91% of guys. In today's world, big companies are losing so much reach as people move away from traditional media, and they need a replacement. That reach has eroded at home, certainly, so you need to reach people out of the home. If you're out of the home, they circle back to us, we're in the number one place they are.
Can you give us some examples of your in-store media?
Roman Tsunder: Some of our retail partners include action sports footwear retailer Joruney's, f.y.e, the largest music gaming and DVD retailer, and many others. We have over 14-15 retailers now. We're kind of like MTV for when you're shopping. We create all the TV packages, which we operate like a media network and advertisers can buy time on.
What's your background, and how you got into this? It looks like you actually had a finance background?
Roman Tsunder: My passion has always been youth. My family immigrated to the U.S. when I was five, and had a typical immigrant story. Youth is a big piece of my background. However, my first job was investment banking at CS First Boston, and I was trained as a banker.
It looks like you worked for Digital Coast Partners (now Montgomery) at one time?
Roman Tsunder: In 2002 I worked for Digital Coast. When the bubble burst, I thought it was a great opportunity to move from private equity to the operating side.
Finance is a somewhat interesting background for someone now in advertising and media, don't you think?
Roman Tsunder: I always knew my passion was youth, and entertainment, and the future of media. But, I thought it was important to be trained in business first. I basically went through training in banking, and then worked in private equity. I saw and experienced the fragmentation of media, and the evolution of alternative media. Right now, alternative media is now over 26% of advertising budgets, including out of home digital.
There seem to be a lot of companies trying to take on this out of home market, some raising significant amounts of money. What do you think about that?
Roman Tsunder: People ask what the difference will be between this year and the next--I think the biggest difference is that half of the companies are going to go out of business. There are lots of companies who just don't have the domain expertise. Our DNA is made up of understanding retailer pains. The others have investment dollars, without a revenue stream to support them. They're investing all of that in capital equipment. We don't generally subscribe to that model. We take advantage of retailers who already have their own equipment, and who fundamentally need that equipment to attract customers.
Did we understand that correctly, that you don't buy your own equipment and just use the retailers?
Roman Tsunder: Yes, that's right. We enter into long term contracts to produce the programming, and we also have exclusive rights as a media company to represent the program and the network to advertisers. We also have the online advertising rights, and can sell ad space on mobile. That deal extends to the Internet, where we represent all of our retailer's sites, and aggregate their sites. We also feel the mobile Internet is more important than basic online, and --which is a big deal--we transition our retailers into a relationship with a consumer's handset.
That's not the first time we've heard mobile is more important than the PC in this market, why is that?
Roman Tsunder: 78 percent of consumers leave their phone on at least 18 hours a day, and over 80% sleep with their phones on. Over half, 53%, said they respond to brand promotions through text. Though this has nothing to do with stats, over 30% have interrupted hooking up to pick up their cell phone. For youth, it's social currency. Adults have a house or cars to show off. Kid's don't have that, they have cell phones. Almost half of kids think their cell phone says as much about them as their car does. More kids will pick up their phone than their wallet, if they forgot one of them at home. You've got to remember, when you're 18 or 19 years old, you're kind of insecure. You want to be cool, hang out with friends, and always be connected with your cell phone.