Playboy, Kijk and Marie Claire. Iconic examples of magazines of the once so vibrant Dutch print media landscape. Sanoma, a leading Finish media group operating in over 10 European countries with a strong foothold in the Netherlands and owner of these magazines announced last month that these and other 29 magazines will be merged with other titles, sold or closed.
The decision of Sanoma to ‘rationalize’ 32 of its 49 titles in the Netherlands is emblematic of the struggle of print media to adapt to an increasingly online centered world. Prediction of what is to come is a futile exercise. But one thing is for sure about the future media landscape: in the coming decades it will undergo a technology driven revolutionary transformation. The convergence of media and technology, under way since the advent of the Internet, will accelerate. Media will become even more ubiquitous and intertwined with products and services.
Sanoma is betting on this convergence. In 2012 it launched SanomaVentures, the investment arm of Sanoma that aims to invest and support the development of startups in online commerce, media, marketing and education.
In just a year SanomaVentures invested in eight Dutch tech startups, among which social lending platform Peerby, Passbook campaign management startup Fosbury (both recently selected by Techstars), fashion e-commerce platform Vault79, and mobile coupon platform Scoupy.
Recently StartupJuncture sat down with Herman Kienhuis to talk about the fund’s objectives, accomplishments and future plans. Herman Kienhuis is the investment director of SanomaVentures and responsible for investing in Dutch startups.
The pursuit of innovation and attraction of entrepreneurial and innovative talent has been the main reason for the launch of SanomaVentures, says Kienshuis. “Next to acquisitions and own product development we want to innovate by connecting to startups.”
If attracting money is difficult for startups it’s equally hard for investors to find the innovative gems everybody is looking for. SanomaVentures tries to tackle this issue by investing in six different domains that are tied together with media as their common denominator. Kienhuis: “You have to put your money in a lot of baskets when you don’t know what the growth paths of the future will be.”
Right now it’s equally difficult to tell if one of the eight startups will be a bright limelight for Sanoma into the unknown future. Kienhuis says that ‘none of them is a complete success already’, but argues that many of them are promising.
One of those promising startups is the mobile couponing platform Scoupy. Sanoma has a large mobile reach with premium brands such as nu.nl, the most visited news portal in the Netherlands on the web and mobile. “But we have seen it’s quite difficult to monetize mobile reach”, Kienhuis says. “By providing a marketing channel for retailers where they can send discount offers to their customers Scoupy is a clear new way to monetize mobile”, says Kienhuis. “I think that’s promising.”
The six domains SanomaVentures invests in include consumer-web, mobile and tablet applications, video and connected TV, e-commerce, marketing and advertising services and e-learning.
Startups operating in these domains and in seek of funding from SanomaVentures have to meet the normal investment criteria such as a team with a complementary skill set. But most importantly, startups have to have products and paying customers. “We don’t invest in ideas and plans. Entrepreneurs that have made that first step of launching their first product and getting their first customer are quite far ahead of those that only have plans or ideas, because it’s a very difficult step to make”, Kienhuis says.
Talking about the future Kienhuis says that SanomaVentures will continue to invest at the same pace in the Dutch startup scene. Kienhuis: “The first year we did 6 to 8 investments and we are planning to continue that for the coming 2 years. But there are also plans to support startup teams with funding and Sanoma’s network and expertise outside the Netherlands. “I think it’s great if Sanoma can support the startup scene in different regions.”
StartupJuncture partnered with Hit & Run Media Productions for this interview. Hit & Run Media Productions is our media production partner in the many more interesting (and fun) video interviews that will follow for StartupJuncture TV.