Nick (Nachum) Dimer is looking to change how we buy outdoor advertising, his startup Adfaces, a self-service advertising platform allows small and medium businesses to buy outdoor advertising through the internet giving local businesses visibility and exposure to thousand of potential customers.
Nick also tells me his story growing up in Soviet Georgia, being raised by a single mum after his father died at age 2, his love story on how he got involved with computers, how the idea for Adfaces came about, challenges starting the business, experience from StartupBoocamp and advices for young entrepreneurs.
Hi Nick, How are you doing, great to have you on YHP?
Hello Joseph, I’m doing great, thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here
Could you quickly give us some background information about yourself? Tell me about yourself growing up?
I was born in Soviet Georgia in 1980. My father died when I was 2 years old. So I was raised by my mother, aunt and uncle. Growing up in the early nineties in a post-soviet country was a very challenging and interesting time in my life. Money was devalued rapidly and prices were changing practically every day. It was a tough economy and my family was struggling just like the majority of the rest ex-soviet citizens. Creativity and entrepreneurship were the key to survival.
This is also when I started my love story with computers. I got my first one at the age of 13. It was a Sinclair-type of computer that worked on tapes and was connected to the TV. The only problem was that we had a 20 year old black and white TV that didn’t have the required connector. Nobody could foresee that issue, but what I was concerned with was that I could not play video games. There was only a book on the Basic programming language. I started to read and quickly figured out that I can end every command with a beep signal. So I started to write simple programs without a screen, guided only by beep signals. I learned that creativity can solve any problems.
At age 15, my mother and I moved to Israel. This is where I fulfilled my passion to create things and where I really grew up into whom I am today.
How did you get into business? Were you exposed to entrepreneurship as a child?
In post-soviet period you had to be an entrepreneur to survive, even as a child. When I was still in school, I found a business card notebook with dollar signs on each page. I thought it was really cool. I bought one and brought it to school with me and started selling. All the children at school wanted to buy those business cards from me. That was the moment when I thought that business might be what I wanted to do.
Who was your inspiration growing up and why?
From the earliest years in life my mother was the biggest inspiration. She was always pushing me forward, demanding the best from me, and encouraging me to aim higher. Back then I hated it; she was never satisfied with my achievements. But now I know that in the end she was always right. I think that she was the one who taught me how to have the right attitude for being an entrepreneur and doing business.
What was the inspiration behind Adfaces? How did the idea come about?
I was amazed by how online advertising was so easy, even for an inexperienced user. In the summer of 2008 I was sitting with my wife on the riverbank in Krakow in front of a huge traditional advertising space placed on the old hotel right in the heart of the city. It was a spectacular view – I imagined having my advertisement seen there daily by literally every person who travelled across Krakow. I fell in love with traditional advertising and from that moment I started to wonder how to bring it online. The result of that was Adfaces.
So Nick, what is Adfaces? What are you guys trying to solve?
Adfaces is a self-service advertising platform that allows small and medium businesses to buy outdoor (out-of-home) advertising through the internet. Adfaces offers out-of-home advertising as low as €2 per day.
While being considered as very expensive, outdoor and out-of-home is in fact one of the most affordable and effective advertising mediums. Until now, buying outdoor and out-of-home advertising has been a timely and complex process. This is why, while used by top brands, it is almost unused and inaccessible to small and medium businesses. This also results up to 60% of unsold media.
So Adfaces simplifies media buying process and allows any small to medium business to buy a local advertising in a matter of few clicks. The option they have never had before. Now local businesses like cafes, restaurants, local retailers and many others can advertise next door to their business and reach thousands of potential customers on the move.
What were you doing before you founded Adfaces?
The first business I got involved in was an online computer store. In 1999 I developed one of the first online computer stores in Israel. Then I worked in various government and private companies as software developer and team leader. In 2005 I got my first job in start up as system engineer, giving up safe job in a large and very successful software company. Unfortunately, this company closed after only a year. This is when I realized that I don’t want to write programs anymore. I moved then to sales and started to work as pre-sales manager in a multinational software company. After a couple of years, in 2008, I decided to quit and open my own consultancy business. The same year, I also got the idea for Adfaces.
What was your biggest challenge during the starting up phase? Tell us about the first initial months after launching?
I think we are still in the starting up phase. So our main challenge is still how to increase sales and traction with very limited resources. Yet, after we launched, world changes completely around you. Now, in addition to primarily growing the business, you need to support the existing customers, keep them happy and analyze how their input influences your business. We are getting a lot of great feedback from our customers and visitor, but with startup’s limited resources, it’s challenging to prioritize what needs to be done first.
Raising money is always such a hot topic, How have you been able to fund the business so far?
I funded Adfaces entirely from my own pocket. I was lucky to be able to run a consultancy business at the same time which generated enough cash to cover companies and my own expenses. We are now raising our first seed round. Keeping up with day-to day management role and working with investors is challenging and time consuming. Yet, I find money raising very educational and inspirational at the same time.
You’ve just recently finished the Startup Boot camp Dublin, tell us about your experience there and some of the key things you took from the whole experience?
StartupBoocamp is like Dragon’s Den, but lasts three months. Entrepreneurs, businessmen, industry experts and occasional visitors - all questioning your business every day. You are constantly under pressure. For me it was a great experience, as it forced me to think on my feet and act quickly. It also gave me a unique opportunity to get feedback and help from leading entrepreneurs and industry experts in Europe. All that matters in business is the bottom line and unfortunately, we as entrepreneurs, with a more artistic mindset, often forget that. I learned that you need to bring results rather than just talk about them.
What tips can you give to startups/entrepreneurs looking to get involved in the future?
Don’t over-think; just do it. We tend to think and speak more than actually doing things. Also, startup is a long way to success so be patient and consistent. Don’t loose your faith and don’t take ‘no’ for an answer. It’s important to find wise advisers who know your market and will support you. Listen to them!
What are the most crucial things you have done to grow your business?
Actually, we’re still a growing business. The most crucial thing, however, is to move out of the office, go to the front line and meet customers and do sales. As an entrepreneur you need to present yourself as a salesman. An important period of our company’s history was moving to Ireland. That was a completely new market that allowed us to reengage and get new opportunities.
Would you say the business has changed from the first initial idea?
My core vision hasn’t changed, but product, route to market and many other things changed. Today I see many business, partnership and revenue streams opportunities that I didn’t foresee before. The business is evolving and we discover new opportunities and adjust ourselves accordingly every day. But the vision remains the same – bring traditional advertising online and make it accessible, efficient and affordable.
What would you say has been the highlight of your entrepreneurial journey so far?
The highlight so far is the feedback and excitement I am getting from industry professionals and occasional people I meet. When others talk about your company with passion and excitement - I feel that I have created something tangible, something real.
What can we be expecting from Adfaces in 2012?
We’re looking forward to establishing our position in the Irish out-of-home advertising market for SMB’s. We are also planning to start operating in the UK by the end of this year.
What three pieces of advice would you offer entrepreneurs starting out today?
· Be quick and lean – times are tough so don’t expect to be funded before you find the market fit, get some initial traction and first few customers
· Find customers before you have a product – don’t be afraid to speak with potential customers before you have anything to show. You will be surprised how enthusiastic they are to speak about their issues and possible solutions.
· Be concrete – don’t let talks to mislead you. Always end up a meeting or call with clear conclusion and well defined next step. Don’t afraid of a negative answer - it is better than no-answer. This way, you don’t waste your time on things that are never going to happen.