Simon Ryan Heavy Hitters: Former Dentsu boss taking on the big agency groups

Simon Ryan

RyanCap founder explains initial success…the early stages, mid-term plan, winning pitches and the competition

Our second guest on the new Mediaweek podcast series is RyanCap founder Simon Ryan. He was interviewed by Mediaweek’s James Manning.

Below are just a few highlights from the podcast which can be listened to here.

When Ryan departed Dentsu in 2019 where he was chief executive Australia and New Zealand, he said the plan was to start his own business.

I had an interesting and learned 10 years at Dentsu and I wouldn’t swap it for anything. When you are part of a large ecosystem, running the third or fourth-largest market for them globally and a publicly listed business, eventually you begin to look at other things.

I had a non-compete which I had to stick to. I had many good friends at Carsales so I sat there for a little while and really enjoyed my time there.

“During that process I did decide I needed to go back to what I love and what I am good at, or what I think I am good at!

“RyanCap was born to be a parent company and from there I looked at what I thought the gaps in the market were and built out an offering across media, tech and data, and consultancy. We launched in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane quite quickly across a two-and-a-half-year period.”

Simon Ryan

Inside the Mediaweek studio at ProPodcast

Simon Ryan builds a business

The three parts of the business are the digital media agency Ryvalmedia, data and tech specialist foxcatcher and consultancy tightrope.

“What I really loved about my old position at Dentsu was the business had many facets. There were three things I was really passionate about which focus on different aspects of the C-suite.

“The first focus is media, and a business that is built for the digital economy. That’s Ryvalmedia.

“The other focus was tech and data which is foxcatcher. It is an outstanding business that is travelling very well in the tech and data field and the programmatic space.

“Tightrope is in the consultancy space and I was in discussion with four people Accenture. Those four people joined the business and they are doing some high level consultancy with a number of listed and large non-listed businesses.”

Launching RyanCap during Covid

“We launched the business right during the first wave. In hindsight I think it helped, but you never really know.”

Before getting any clients on board, Ryan said building the infrastructure and finding the staff came first.

“You can’t expect clients of any size or scale to trust you to service their needs unless you have the back end right with staff and the ability to manoeuvre.”

RyanCap overall currently has around 70 staff with Ryan projecting over 100 by the end of 2023.

“We started the business with about 10 things we needed and you have to be able to run those concurrently to be able to perform what was the mid-term plan. There was about six months solid of full day planning to get the business up and running for the July 2020 launch.”

Funding a startup

Launching a business when there was no revenue for some time was at times “scary and challenging,” said Ryan.

“I was fortunate to have a range of reasonably large jobs before I started RyanCap which availed me some capitol to roll into the business. The family were extremely supportive also and thank you to them.

“The key priorities were securing the staff, building the back end and getting the confidence of all our partners, including the media. It was then about winning clients.

We were quite fortunate to get on a few pitch lists very early. We actually won every one of those pitches. Without wanting to sound in any way arrogant, we have been able to continue winning pitches.

“One of our values is to be very humble when we are invited to pitch.

“The goals of the business were to launch capability in three areas and get on pitch lists.”

“But after launching and being invited to pitch we ended up using about 12 months of working capital. The business was not expected to make a profit in the first 12 months.”

Simon Ryan with Mediaweek’s James Manning

The discussion continued with Ryan talking about recruiting staff, building a culture and finding clients. It was very much a masterclass about building an advertising business and how RyanCap has managed growth.

Ryan also shares future plans and gives us some thoughts about the advertising outlook for the remainder of 2023. He also reveals the elements that were attracting new clients.

“RyanCap is a very uncomplicated offering versus a number of the big global parent companies. Although there are some great ones out there and some not-so-great ones.”

Listen to the Simon Ryan Heavy Hitters podcast.
Apple podcasts.
Spotify podcasts.

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