Sometimes a startup is not that sudden awesome idea that you bring into fruition, but a result of years of hard work and experience in a very competitive industry, that naturally progresses to the obvious choice – take all that knowledge and start your own business. This is exactly what Alice Regester of 33Seconds did. Here is her story.

Tell us about your business and what it offers

33Seconds is a PR and Social Media Marketing agency that specialises in working with fast-growth companies and forward-thinking brands. We work with a wide range of businesses, both established and startup, including SoundCloud, Amazon, Web Summit, FiftyThree, Interchange, SOTV, Peugeot and Greenpeace, to name a few.

We use PR and social media – spanning everything from strategy development, media and blogger relations and issues management, to community management, content creation and advertising – to build global brands, by increasing awareness, audience and credibility.

Since launching in 2011, we’ve been recognised at a number of awards. We are currently a team of 18 and in the process of hiring.

And where are you based? Have you always been at this location?

We’re based near London Bridge and moved here from Shoreditch around four months ago.

Tell us what you think gives you the competitive edge over your competitors?

There are a number of things that set us apart from our competitors. First and foremost is our experience, as the founding team have worked in both the startup and social media arena for more than 10 years and in the wider communications and marketing sector for 18 years, along with our team of highly-talented comms and social media experts.

We also place great value on client care. Having worked primarily in-house before starting the agency and having managed many agencies during this time, we understand exactly what clients want and need, including honesty and transparency, focus on results and becoming an extension of their team.

We also bring to the table a varied range of clients, from startups through to established brands, so we understand how to meet the needs of companies of different sizes and different stages of growth. Because we work so closely with emerging technology, we’re able to ensure brands are across the latest innovations, while startups have the opportunity to connect with them in return.

How was the project funded initially?

Being a service business, we haven’t required any outside investment as we bring in regular fee income. We initially invested some of our own money, but as we launched with three founding clients we were able to scale in line with our earnings.

Is this your first startup venture or did you start other businesses before this?

This is the first time I’ve started my own business. Previously, my co-founders, Dominic Cook and Seb Underhill, and I worked together at MySpace, where I was communications director, Dominic was marketing and content director, and Seb managed brand partnerships. Prior to that I worked agency-side for the online TV platform, Joost, founded by Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis (Skype) – that’s when I first got the startup bug, falling in love with the unrelenting energy and pace, and working at the cutting-edge of new technology.

What makes you so passionate about this business and how did the idea for setting it up originally come about?

When Dominic and I left MySpace, we were in a relatively unique position in that we had worked for the world’s largest social network when the category was still in its relative infancy, helping to define the way people would communicate and discover and share content online. We were part of the core team to launch and scale the company successfully in the UK, but also experienced first-hand the downfall of the company and the factors which caused it to happen.

When we left there, we saw an opportunity to combine our skills to help other tech-related businesses as they scale and to use communication effectively, as well as help brands utilise social media to better build and engage their audiences.

You’ve mentioned a bit of your previous working history. Can you elaborate on this and take us further back?

As I mentioned, prior to starting 33Seconds in 2011, I worked for MySpace and formerly with Joost, so have been working with startups for 10 years. Prior to that I primarily worked in broadcast communications – both TV and radio – including BBC World Service and Network Ten, when I lived in Australia for a few years.

And what took you to Australia?

I initially went to Australia to travel for six months, deciding to take some time out as I’d never taken a gap year and wanted to explore some of the world. However, within a few weeks of arriving in Sydney, I landed a temp job in the publicity department of one of the leading broadcasters and absolutely loved it. I then discovered they were having trouble finding a suitable person for a permanent role in the corporate comms team and they encouraged me to apply for it, offering to sponsor me to stay.

What was supposed to be a six-month trip turned into four years of fabulous employment, before I finally headed home to my family and friends to start the next work chapter, which turned out to be Joost.

What about your childhood background? Were there any entrepreneurs or other role models there who inspired you?

My dad is my mentor and inspired me both in choosing my career in communications and also in starting a business. Having founded the leading crisis and issues management consultancy, Regester Larkin, he not only recognised that I might thrive in a similar field to him, but has always provided endless advice and encouragement, particularly as I’ve started my own business. Both my parents have played a very important role in helping me believe in myself and providing support throughout my career.

And can you think of any particular past event that you think may have sparked the idea to run your own business?

Other than working with entrepreneurs and within a startup environment for a long time, which definitely influenced my desire to start this business, it was the opportunity to do it with my business partner, Dominic that ultimately sparked the venture into life. We already knew how well we worked together and it was our shared ambition and vision that allowed it to fall into place.

Additionally, Seb, our co-founder and director of content and social media, was on board with our vision and had very complementary experience, which gave us added confidence in starting the business.

tech startup pr agency

Tell us a bit more about your two cofounders, Dominic and Seb

During his time at MySpace, Dominic worked with Channel Four to stream the inaugural episode of Skins to the MySpace community before it went on air – a UK first for a national broadcaster. He also conceived and executed the first fully integrated brand campaign within a social space, with MySpace Mars Planets Radio. Prior to this, his background was in building and engaging online communities for the music industry, working for both Virgin Records and EMI, with bands including Massive Attack, Radiohead and Blur.

Seb had previously been responsible for partnership development at Fairbridge in London (now a subsidiary of the Prince’s Trust), raising the £1m+ operational budget and building links with service providers to support personal development activities for London’s hardest to reach young people. Before that he worked on research projects focusing on marginalised communities and allocated and managed funds for the Big Lottery Fund, Home Office & BBC Children in Need.

Tell us about the most exciting or inspirational moment to date – in running your business or life in general

It was definitely a special moment when we moved into our new office, which is the first time we haven’t been in a coworking environment. We’ve been able to design it in a way that really represents our brand and culture, and knowing we have room to expand as well as seeing our staff so happy and inspired by their surroundings is really exciting and satisfying.

What about the toughest moment?

I wouldn’t call it the toughest moment, but as we’re constantly striving to be the best at what we do, we want to ensure we hire the very best talent, who will be driven by the same work ethic and embrace our culture, which can be challenging and time-consuming. We have a good track record so far but have to work hard to keep it that way.

And finally what would the one bit of advice be that you would offer someone considering their own startup?

Don’t get bogged down in fear and worrying about whether you’ll succeed or what the future holds. Have a clear vision, play to your strengths, believe in yourself and just do it!

 

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