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Book talk with Bogdan Savonea, CEO at TPS Engage

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Bogdan Savonea is the CEO and co-founder of TPS Engage.

I actually talked to the guys at TPS in 2012, when I was building MavenHut and they were just launching what would then become TPS Engage. Truth is, I didn’t talk to Bogdan, but to his co-founder, and I remember thinking their idea wasn’t that easy and that I wouldn’t try it. What did I know, though? They didn’t stop and I’m happy for that. And I kinda think they’re happy as well 😀

TPS Engage is a contextual marketplace for digital outdoor and indoor screens, a single point of buying for cross-border and cross-network DOOH ads. The solution offers small and large advertisers the possibility to serve the perfect ad at the perfect moment on any digital outdoor and indoor screen, transforming the way we look at outdoor advertising – from a static view to a dynamic one.

TPS has worked with brands such as Samsung, P&G, Coca Cola, Deutsche Telekom, Foodpanda, Uber Eats among others. Today TPS Engage has offices in New York, Dubai, Bucharest and Seoul and works with +100.000 digital outdoor and indoor screens worldwide.

I talked with Bogdan during the COVID pandemic, in March 2020, so it’s gonna be interesting to follow what happens with TPS Engage in a world where public spaces aren’t full of people anymore.

By the way, I really like this thing they did recently. They partnered with the local government and use their screens to keep the public informed on the latest data regarding the pandemic.

Now, on to the interview.

What’s your favorite book and why?

I don’t think I have a favorite book. There are a number of books I hold dear for various reasons, but one that I enjoy re-reading is “My Dear Mr. Stalin” and it’s the correspondence between Stalin and Roosevelt during the war. For the why, to be honest, besides the historical significance of the letters, I’m a fan of the way diplomacy was conducted in those days, an art that got lost in the 21st century.

Was there a moment, specifically, when something you read in a book helped you?

Solve for Happy. It’s a book written by Mo Gawdat, and it’s basically an engineer’s quest to rationalize happiness after losing his son. To me it has a deeper meaning since I know Mo, we were talking pretty often back then and I can honestly say it’s a must read book whenever something bad happens in your life.

What books had the biggest impact on you?

Kissinger’s “Diplomacy”, Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations” and Machiavelli’s “The Prince”. They pretty much shaped the first part of my life, defined my University choice and career path up until my late 20s.

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What five books would you recommend to young people interested in your career path

“Spy the lie” by Philip Houston and Michael Floyd and “The subtle art of not giving a f*ck” + “Everything is f*cked” by Mark Manson. I’d leave the remaining 2 books to their spirit of discovery.

How often do you read? What format do you prefer? Do you have any favorite places?

I prefer physical books, but due to the fast pace of today occasionally I have to read digital versions as well. I try to spend some time reading every week. Before COVID-19 I was reading mostly during flights, now, I do the reading on my couch. Bad part is I’ve read pretty much all the books in my house so I have to do digital reading these days. You win some you lose some.

How do you make time for reading?

For the last couple of years I’ve been doing the reading mostly on flights. Since I don’t sleep very well in airplanes, it’s one of the best places to read. You’ve got nothing better to do, although with WiFi becoming more and more a common flight feature, the “noise” is going to pretty much change this.

Do you take notes or similar things?

Luckily I still remember the important parts from the books. Now, how long will my memory work like this, remains to be seen 🙂 Since I mostly prefer physical books, I think it’s a profanity to highlight on the book itself so at some point, I’ll probably have to figure something out that would work.

How do you choose what books to read next?

I try to go into a library at least once per month. Usually I spend a lot of time and I write down the books that catch my eye. Procuring them afterwards is pretty easy, especially since I’m in an airport every other week and luckily they still sell books 🙂

Do you prioritize books recommended by certain people?

No, I very rarely take book recommendations. And I rarely recommend books. I think books are something very personal and everybody should choose what to read without external influence.

What book are you currently reading? What are you expecting to gain from it?

I’m re-reading “Ghost Wars” by Steve Coll. It’s a book about understanding what actually happened in Afghanistan and the role of the “behind the scenes”.

Even though most people are aware that “overnight success usually takes 10 years”, they are still looking for shortcuts and “latest hacks”. What are three common mistakes made by entrepreneurs?

Hehehe that’s a good question. Honestly, I think this wave of “overnight millionaires” that Silicon Valley sells for a bunch of years now screwed up with realistic business expectations.

So I think it depends on what kind of business one wants to build. For a long lasting business, probably one of the biggest mistakes is not spending enough time on the organization part, understanding your company in detail, understanding your market and your clients in detail, and knowing when to make certain decisions.

Shortcuts usually lead to another crossroad, so, they have a tendency of complicating more than solving.

For a long lasting business, probably one of the biggest mistakes is not spending enough time on the organization part, understanding your company in detail, understanding your market and your clients in detail... Click To Tweet

Do you have an example of a mistake you made while building your business? How did you change your mind, what was the thinking process behind it?

Not trusting my intuition enough.

At some point in time we were fundraising, and even though I knew I should have dropped the discussions with one of the investors looking to join the round, decided to prolong the situation while reaching the same result that was anticipated initially. Cost us a couple of months. The thought process was simple, it was a lot of money on the table so we kind of ignored the downside.

Luckily we turned the tides pretty fast once the outcome became evident and in the end, it proved to be a much better result for the company overall. But hey, one can only learn from mistakes.

What would you recommend to someone who’s very young and not yet aware of their passion? Where should they begin their professional journey?

Hmm, that’s a good one.

I can only reply for my personal lens and I was pretty lucky to know what makes me passionate about my professional life. But in the end, you can only find out things about you through experience, that means trying and experimenting and realizing what gives you butterflies. And the financial part should never come first.

My journey took me from running dishes in a US restaurant to executing state affairs. Had I put mental roadblocks I would’ve been most likely a different person today. Not to say that I’m a better or a worse person, but I’m comfortable with who I am.

What common myths related to your industry do you encounter on a day-to-day basis?

That giants can’t fall and that Davids can only beat Goliaths in books 🙂

What is something you believe that nearly no one agrees with you on? (Peter Thiel’s favorite question)

I believe technology, while in essence a positive thing, had a negative impact on humanity. It made us dumber, it made us more ignorant and it made us meaner. And I know it’s ironic, as the co-founder of a tech company, but the results are visible. Probably sometime in the next decade we need to find our lost humanity amongst the pixels in our faces.

Follow Bogdan Savonea or find out more about his projects:

If you want to know more about TPS engage, you can watch the video below:

All books mentioned by Bogdan in our interview:

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