Meet the Romanian Marketing Guru, Who Got Facebook to Call By Flying a Plane With a Message, Over Their HQ
I had the pleasure of interviewing Razvan Romanescu, CO-FOUNDER Memes.com / Guff.com, Hypeblvd.com. Razvan has been an integral member of the emerging social media world, regularly servicing the digital needs of more than 55 million U.S. smartphone owners and 500 million people around the world each month. Razvan is co-founder of Guff Media, a massive digital media network that is ready to capitalize on the transition from television to digital. The company now has more than 50 million followers and has generated over $50 million in revenue since launch. Their flagship brands, Memes.com and Guff.com, appear in more than one billion news feeds each month. Beyond Guff Media, Raz has carved out a place in e-commerce as founder of HYPEBLVD, an e-commerce platform that integrates Shopify brands into their distribution network with the click of a button. The company is focused on apparel & accessories, boasting over 2 million followers on social with steady monthly growth.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
I was born in Romania and moved to Canada when I was 5 years old. Growing up, we never really had much but we were always happy. That stuck with me. In my teens, I got sucked into the online gaming world. — specifically MMORPGs (online role-playing video games in which a very large number of people participate simultaneously). This experience led me to learning how internet ecosystems work and how to network with people online. Then came the rise of “social media” as we know it today, and I would soon find my passion for “online networking” translated well into this new social world. Information is so available and people are so connected nowadays, making it really easy to learn anything from anybody you want.
The world of social leaves us all one click away from meeting people who can change your life and I’ve been fortunate to meet some really life-changing people along the way.
2 of these people I got a hold of were Hovik Pashayan and Chris Rosiak, which soon led to a difficult choice I’d have to make: Stay in Canada and finish school, or drop out of my 4th year in University and move to Los Angeles with Pashayan and Rosiak to build Guff Media. It felt like a huge risk at the time, but I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company
If you thought dropping out of University to start Guff was risky, hold onto your hats for this one. Like many companies in the digital space, we heavily depend on Facebook to gain access to our audience. We think Facebook is the future (sorry, television), and are quickly moving into a world where we can natively monetize on their platform. But it hasn’t always been a harmonious relationship. Just as we had started gaining traction within the Facebook ecosystem back in 2014, our accounts were spontaneously shut down. Lacking an explanation and with nobody to call at Facebook, my co-founder Chris Rosiak and I took the first flight out of LAX and headed to Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, CA. The thing about Facebook is, if you don’t have an appointment… they really don’t want you on their campus. We tried explaining our situation to security guards and the people in the lobby, but soon found ourselves escorted off campus. When we tried to re-enter, security threatened to call law enforcement. Even after building audiences of millions and spending an 8-figure number on Facebook advertising, we were unable to reach a single person at Facebook.
Desperate for answers, with no luck on the ground, and for lack of any better ideas, we thought we could get the attention of Facebook staffers by plane. So, with the help of 3 pilots, we hovered over Facebook headquarters for nearly 2 hours, with the planes dragging 3 banners that read: Plane 1: “Guff.com needs your help immediately!”
Plane 2: “FB PLEASE REACH OUT!!!”
Plane 3: “My personal cell phone number: XXX-XXX-XXXX”
For the next 2 hours, I received many, many phone calls. Fortunately for us, one of them was Facebook.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Guff was born and bred in the social space. Unlike pre-established media companies, we never had to transition into social… we started from the “social ground” up. We have far exceeded the 10,000 hours needed to be a domain expert, and we are the experts behind many key domains (@memes, @gaming, @science, @style etc).
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?
I owe a lot of my personal wellness and values to my family. It’s amazing what having solid parents can do for you in life. My dad, through his own journey, taught me to always keep learning and take calculated risks. He broke free of the corporate shackles and put it all on the line, which was a risk that paid off professionally for him, and inspired me personally as well to be an entrepreneur.
I think it’s important to surround yourself with driven, resilient people. The reality is that business isn’t always smooth sailing, so you have to build a core team that’s willing to stick it out through the tough times and weather the storm, all while still being able to laugh at the end of the day.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
We give people with skills and expertise a platform to be heard on. Whether it’s making captivating content creators go viral, or helping someone with great initiative get their message out, our company connects truly talented people with truly passionate audiences. The more people that we empower and positive initiatives we push, the more good we do. It’s a compounding effect.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I launched my Start-Up” and why.
1. Keep your business model extremely simple.
-As an young entrepreneur, you often aspire to do anything and everything. Literally, everything looks like an opportunity. But the more you take on, the more distracted you get. Take a step back, pick one or 2 things, really focus on your strengths and you’ll find much more success.
2. Don’t forget to pay yourself.
-At the end of the day, even when you’re a startup, you’re still a business. Paying yourself serves 2 purposes. 1, you’re ensuring a reasonably comfortable life to relax and recharge for those precious few hours you’re not working. 2, it builds in a little ‘backup cushion’ for the business, in the event you ever need some extra funds should times get tough. 3. Have an idea? Go test it! Quickly!
-It’s easy to get bogged down in hypothetical conversation of should we / shouldn’t we. Trust yourself. Just do it! Forget the hypothetical ‘what ifs’ and let the data tell you if you’re right or wrong. Even when you’re wrong, you’ll be surprised to find the ways those wrongs will build future rights. 4. Do not hire overpaid executives simply based on their past successes.
-Make sure they can REALLY impact your business. Be wary of anyone demanding high salaries / equity without any performance-based initiatives attached. They could have been a rockstar and achieved something amazing 10–15 years ago, but if they’re no longer motivated and simply burned out, that past success does you no good.
5. Make sure you really enjoy what you’re doing.
You wouldn’t believe how many people miss this one. When you enjoy what you do, you can work at it day and night and it will never feel like a chore. Waking up early because you’re excited to go to work is one of the best feelings in the world.
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