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5 Minutes With Ali Gursoy

19th Dec 2015


Ali Gursoy is a co-founder and the EVP of Content Distribution and Partnerships at Commercialize TV (CTV).  He is a C-Level Executive leader and entrepreneur with successful start-up and high growth business experience with a wide background in traditional & digital media. Commercialize TV is a multi-channel, multi-platform, digital content creation & distribution company with a focus on Asia.  Our business models revolves around creating, managing and monetising content for our partners and clients.

You’re a very busy man Ali, experienced with a variety of businesses.  How would you sum up what you do?

As a business I would say we are a media house.  We create stories that we then disseminate on digitally.  We produce our own content but also distribute our partners content.  

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs trying to build a start-up business?

Pick up one idea, focus on it and keep focusing on it.  One of the big things I see with young entrepreneurs is that they tend to go one way with an idea, then pick up something they think is better and sometimes jump ship.  Just keep going with one thing and pull all your resources. It’s very hard to succeed, you need to be driven to face the many challenges and setbacks, you have to accept that you won’t be credible all the time.  It’s a pretty hard game but the rewards can be massive.  The biggest thing I would say is drive.

Would this advice differ or be more specific for people doing so in China?

The drive is the same, what you need in China is insight that you generally get via a local person.  Entering most markets is always based on the same model as they are fairly similar i.e. the UK the US have components that are similar.  In China the biggest challenge is the language, the second is the culture and the third is the way they do business.  Chinese people do business in a certain way and we need to adapt to that not the other way around.  The traditional model for us westerners is to follow our way of doing business and expect people to adapt, but China is different one need to adapt to the way they do business.  Once you get that, you may not succeed automatically but you have more chance then someone trying to force their way through without the local understanding.  It’s finding the right local partner internally and externally to support this approach that is the most challenging.

There is a lot more content out there and more channels for it to be consumed than ever, How do you develop a content marketing strategy to really stand out from the competition?

Data is the big play.  This is because the consumers have changed so much in the last decade, with millennial becoming much more connected and savvy, the content market has become a industry driven by consumer’s trust and feedback .  Any content  you do, they can decode very quickly, it has to be genuine, or a supported by a brand or voice that they trust.  This is the core target of online video.  You need still need to be creative but  it is crucial to understand what the expectations and trends are and then add your creative twist to it.  Large content companies like BuzzFeed have big creative teams who write stories, but their data team will be twice the size.

Interview interrupted by Matt Pirouelle - HK Country Manager “I told you to interview somebody interesting!?”  not realising he is being recorded!  

Interview continues…..Ali:  You want to respond to expectations.  What we can do online as opposed to say a magazine, is we have the ability to change our content in a matter of hours as opposed to when it hits the newsstand, that content is out there then.  For Example someone like VICE which started as a magazine but now they are online and a reason they are so successful is they are driven by data, understand the trends, expectations and where its going, react quickly and get interesting stories.

What are the biggest innovations in how we market or consume content in the last few years?

I think the biggest innovation is the disruption in the market, companies like ourselves, BuzzFeed and VICE (before us) have created a completely different content production model.  In the past to produce a TV series you would have to spend between US$80-100K for 20 mins pilot.  Once you pitched it you had to produce a season for someone to buy it, which is quite risky.  In our industry we can create a web series and a pilot for significantly less and we don't need to produce a season at once. A few episodes are enough to start. Then if the story line is not reaching the expectations or not well received we can adapt and change the content based on data and trends.   With people being more mobile and data being more accessible, and by data I mean Wifi etc, we are moving more towards mobile which in some countries is close to 80% of viewership.  This means we need shorter content as it is used while commuting.  This content is more “snackable” and bits of information for here and now.

How do you stay ahead of the competition?

It’s a big challenge.  Again it’s a combination of data, insights and creativity.  Great content is still driven by passion, great minds and creativity etc.  Staying ahead on trends and disruption businesses.

What are your plans for CTV for the year ahead?

I think I will use my Joker card for that question - said with a wink.

What’s your favourite place to travel?

Back home to Switzerland and Sydney as these are my two homes.  I am a city person as opposed to a beach person.  I like hectic, traffic, pollution etc and in cities you get to the heart of a country.  Watching a city waking up and one going to sleep is such a shift between two parts of a city population.  The best illustration of this is where we are now in Wan Chai in Hong Kong.

I understand you are a bit of a burger enthusiast and are writing some memoirs about the burger’s you have eaten in different countries and restaurants.  Where was the best burger you have ever had and why?

It’s a place in Miami Beach called Beach, Beers and Burgers.  They have beers from all over the world and the burgers are just fantastic.  The patties are great, the bread is homemade and it is kept simple.  They also have a 10 pound burger!  Hong Kong has some good burgers also but maybe not in top 10.  Butchers Club is close as they had a simple burger and option which was fresh and good ingredients.  Double D is also good.

Muchas Gracias Ali Gursoy!