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Festival of Media Asia owner secures venture capital funding, eyes regional expansion

Martin Sorrell talks to Charlie Crowe at Festival of Media Asia 2013

WPP boss Sir Martin Sorrell is interviewed by Charlie Crowe at Festival of Media Asia 2013 in Singapore

C Squared, the media company behind the Festival of Media Asia conference and awards and M&M Global magazine, has secured venture capital funding as it eyes growth in the region.

The company, which was founded by journalist turned entrepreneur Charlie Crowe, has received backing from private equity investor Stephen Grabiner, a veteran deal-maker of the UK’s media scene who led negotiations to buy the owner of Cannes Lions four years ago.

The injection of capital will enable C Squared to set up offices outside of its London base and potentially make acquisitions, Crowe told Mumbrella.

“What we’ve done as a business to date has, I think, been rather bold and certainly high risk. We’ve established the Festival of Media event on three continents [Europe, Latin America and Asia] from our headquarters in London, with a low capital base, with help and support from local partners,” he said.

To expand the business further, Crowe said he wants to establish “proper base camps in the markets we serve.”

The injection of capital from Grabiner will be used to set up offices in local markets, hire new talent and make acquisitions, he said.

Grabiner

Grabiner

Stephen Grabiner has been a major player on the UK’s media scene for the last two decades. He has managed the media portfolio of private equity firm Apax Partners, a company he worked with for 11 years, and oversaw a deal to buy the publisher formerly known as Emap, which at the time owned Cannes Lions advertising festival. He also worked at British newspaper the Daily Telegraph as managing director, and was chairman of the now defunct British digital TV service ONdigital.

“Stephen is someone I’ve been keen to know and learn from. He looked at our business a few years ago, and loved the fact that we were bold. We’ve reached the stage where he can really add value, not just in capital terms, but in guiding us as we scale,” said Crowe.

On his ambitions in Asia for C Squared’s events and publishing brands – which include magazines Cream and M&M Global – Crowe said there was an appetite for a more global perspective than the market is providing currently.

“Where we think we can add value in Asia is not in recreating the same sort of information and events already out there. The market is already oversupplied, and there are some great companies doing a brilliant job,” he said.

The company has an edge in offering content and perspectives that are “more global than our competitors,” Crowe said.

“Asia is very well catered for in terms of local and regional perspectives. We’re looking to engage with globally minded Asian media people – and that’s a growing market.”

Chinese marketers looking for an international perspective to help them globalise their brands is an example of the audience C Squared’s brands will be targeting, he said.

“A trend I’m starting to see is our Brazilian contacts increasingly keen for us to introduce them to business leaders in China,” he added.

“We’re starting to see a truly global village emerge in marketing and advertising, and we think we’re well placed to serve this growing community,” he said.

The Festival of Media Asia, which is to be held in Singapore from 16-18 March this year, first entered the market through a joint-venture deal with the publisher of Marketing Magazine, Lighthouse Independent Media. But the two companies have since gone their separate ways.

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