Myty Group: Rethinking networks

David Rost and his Myty Group AG are shaking up the communications industry: The entrepreneur has "collected" 14 European agencies since 2020, with no end in sight. What makes Rost different from the competition?

(Pictures: Chris Reist)

And suddenly David Rost climbs out of the window. The founder of Myty Group AG, one of the fastest growing agency groups in Europe, doesn't really like the co-working background for the planned photo shoot; you get the feeling it's all a bit too clichéd for him, too staged. Foosball tables, mood boards, colorful seating: you've often seen this in founder portraits. So without further ado, it's off through the window, into the ice-cold inner courtyard - which is explicitly not open to co-working users - and has a rather raw industrial character. The journalist and photographer can barely keep up, the people in the surrounding offices watch the spectacle with interest. Then David Rost positions himself in the middle of the action, a smile on his lips. "So," he says, "now we can get started."

Someone who does it differently

The anecdote fits the sketch that this article will draw of the entrepreneur: Rost does not particularly care about conventions, but transcends them; but he does so without arrogance or megalomania, but with charm and enormous speed. He acts and thinks so quickly that it is sometimes difficult to keep up, but it is also a pleasure to watch him.

14 companies at 23 locations now belong to the international Myty cosmos, each with autonomous management, but centrally networked and supported from the headquarters in Berlin. That's around 800 employees, many of whom are considered top talents in their respective fields. In Switzerland, for example, the acquisition of Sir Mary in Zurich made headlines; in Croatia, the local agency of the year 404 is part of the portfolio; integr8, a full-service digital agency with which David Rost once started his career as an entrepreneur, operates in the German capital. 14 companies since October 2020 - how has Rost and his management team managed this "inorganic growth", as he calls it? And why does he think the "Myty principle" is a good idea - no: a better idea than the one behind other networks and holding companies?

"I really had no idea"

To answer these questions, you have to go back to the beginning of Founder's career. Initially, he wanted to follow his father, a seasoned journalist and former editor-in-chief of newspapers such as the "Märkische Allgemeine", into the media, but then saw the first signs of a dying newspaper on the horizon. So Rost did an internship at a Munich agency (original quote: "I really had no idea what was going on there, but I was sufficiently street-smart to become a valued team member"), stayed there for two years - and, after another stopover, founded the aforementioned integr8 agency. He enjoyed design, had a lot of interest in digitalization and if you could combine that with marketing and creation ... wouldn't that be an excellent "full service offering" for a broad group of customers?

"I really had no idea what was going on. But I was sufficiently street-smart."

"I still believe that we did a good job with integr8 right from the start," recalls David Rost, "but I also realized that the specialists in the company actually needed their own environment." The "creatives, the techies, the designers ... feel more comfortable when they can work in a habitat with their peers", the entrepreneur felt. At the same time, he was looking for a lever to grow quickly - but the classic network principle ("buy and integrate") was out of the question, based on the aforementioned insight. David Rost wanted to create a construct in which experts could simply be experts - at an individual, team or agency level.

A joint venture with a media group failed due to the fact that "not everything that looks good on the drawing board works in reality". When the group began to retrain advertising salespeople in agency sales (a project that insiders would describe as "daring" at best ... and that would still be a euphemism!), the entrepreneur had long been working on an exit strategy.

Private equity co-op as a solution

At a private equity fund in Pfäffikon on Lake Zurich, David Rost finally found someone who shared his vision: to create a network of agencies in which everyone retains their history, their skills and their profile, while still creating synergies when it counts. After countless brainstorming sessions, the idea was born not just to acquire agencies, but to give the owners a stake in Myty in exchange for their company. This strategy not only prevents owners from being "paid off", half-heartedly fulfilling a two- or three-year follow-up contract as an employee and then retiring to a finca in Ibiza. It makes the success of every Myty member the success of all Myty members.

"The creatives, the techies, the designers ... feel more comfortable when they can work in a habitat with their peers."

Attentive readers may object that other networks also like to talk about collective success. But, to give the truth its due: Employees there are only motivated to commit to "the big picture" if the internal culture is right and management knows how to create a sense of community. Of course, this is not impossible, but it is less tangible and involves much more lengthy processes. With Myty, there is an economic factor in addition to the cultural aspect: the better an agency performs, the better everyone performs. The companies involved in the group form synergies purely out of self-interest - and community is not created through forced esprit de corps, but through the exact opposite.

No pressure to vote

David Rost attaches great importance to not dictating business decisions to Myty members and not "talking them into the day-to-day business", as he nonchalantly explains. This also means that the agencies in the network are free to choose their own partnerships: They can go into a pitch with Myty colleagues, but also with external providers if they consider them more suitable. "I believe this differentiates us enormously from our market competitors - and increases the autonomy and satisfaction of the companies that belong to us."

"I can't tell you today which agency will be joining us in six months' time."

The effect? Network agencies are looking for partners who are also part of Myty out of a sense of freedom, but not because it is imposed on them. This now works so smoothly that David Rost is surprised by a cell phone notification in the middle of a conversation with m&k: Two Myty companies have jointly won a pitch. He has to smile: "I didn't even know that they were applying for this mandate together. Great!"

Monsieur "laissez faire"?

However, to avoid a possible misconception here: the entrepreneur (and his private equity partners) are not acting as described because they don't care what happens in the company. What may sound like "laissez faire" is calculated down to the last detail, makes economic sense and pays off. "This may sound a bit harsh, but I have no tolerance for irrational decisions," says David Rost, "and we don't do anything because it feels nice on impulse ... or because it's always been done that way." This also means that although the autonomy of the Myty agencies is sacrosanct, thoughts about new business areas and opportunities must not be blocked. The founder reveals: "If, for example, we can use the currently fragmented resources of individual agencies to create a more powerful offering in the media sector, then we need to think about it." This could also work remotely under a new, uniform branding for a media unit, as a hybrid competence center with staff in Munich, Zagreb, Zurich and Berlin. The advantage: people would remain in their agencies, in their familiar environment. And additional office costs could also be saved, especially as David Rost notes: "In Berlin, we only recently got rid of the majority of our office space out of conviction." The employees who really want a fixed desk are given one - the rest can work on projects from anywhere or dial into conference calls.

Myty-Founder David Rost: «Autonomie und Synergien sind kein Widerspruch.»
Myty founder David Rost: "Autonomy and synergies are not a contradiction."

Quo vadis, Myty?

Flexible, hybrid competence centers as the next logical step. And then? "The great thing is that I can't tell you today which agency will join us in six months' time," says the entrepreneur. David Rost travels Europe incessantly - sometimes alone, sometimes together with a top-class advisory board that has recently started work - meeting agency founders and owners, analyzing national advertising markets and the cultural "fit" in relation to the overall construct. "London, even after Brexit, Scandinavia, the Baltics, Southern Europe ... we're not ruling anything out," says Rost before he takes his leave. And leaves the writer with a feeling: There are still many windows through which the entrepreneur will climb, still many conventions that he will break.

David Rost is the founder and CEO of the Myty Group, a European agency group headquartered in Berlin. Founded in October 2020, the group now comprises 14 companies with around 800 employees, including in Germany, Croatia and Switzerland. Before founding Myty, Rost ran Integr8, an agency he founded seven years ago that focused on combining digitalization, strategy, marketing and design. It still exists - and is now part of the Myty Group.

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