Edward De Valle II comes from a prestigious lineage, with a great-grandfather who was the owner of the largest newspaper in Cuba, and a great-great-grandfather who became the fourth President of the island nation. The young scion is creating a legacy all his own by building a multi-faceted organization that encompasses stocks and bonds, real estate, and media; among them LINKS World Group, one of the most innovative marketing and public relations agencies serving Latin America, and the US Hispanic market. In an exclusive conversation De Valle reveals his future plans for the company, the importance of charity, and offers helpful insight for establishing a successful brand and advancement in business.
After graduating college, De Valle went on to manage all sales and marketing for major titles like Vogue, Glamour, and Architectural Digest for both the U.S. Hispanic and Latin America markets. Drawing from that experience, he then founded AMGW Agency, an Americas-focused digital, advertising and public relations company in 2001.
In 2012 he purchased the franchise “Douglas Elliman Real Estate” for representation in the Dominican Republic. This special passion for real estate marketing led him to become one of America’s top marketing, and communications professionals. He is responsible for promoting more than $15 billion of residential and vacation real estate projects for many of the most prominent developers and architects, including Andres Balaz, Richard Meier, Zaha Hadid and Armani.
As a serial entrepreneur, in 2013 De Valle made a deal with Forbes Magazine and was awarded the publishing license in Central America and the Caribbean, delivering the first of seven different editions for this region.
In 2017 he secured the license to build alongside the development company Grupo Zagalo the first-ever YOO Studio by Phillipe Starck to be constructed in the Caribbean.
De Valle is passionate about charity and helping the less fortunate. Fundación De Valle is a Dominican Republic based charity focused on helping children of any age with special needs, hardships, living with HIV or AIDS.
It was in 2015 that De Valle founded LINKS World Group with a goal of providing clients with high-impact, intelligent and innovative solutions in the marketing world.
The marketing communications agency is headquartered in Miami and has rapidly grown to become an industry leader in the Caribbean and Latin America with a robust portfolio of travel and hospitality, tech, real estate, and consumer goods clients. In addition to four U.S. offices, LINKS is in more than 30 countries around the world with principal locations throughout the Caribbean, Latin America and offices in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Panama, Peru and Puerto Rico. And as a member of Tribe Global, an expanding network of independent, member-owned communications agencies, the company has additional offices in Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Israel, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom.
HOMBRE: You’ve had several businesses throughout your career, to what do you attribute the current success of LINKS World Group?
Edward del Valle: First, so that you have an understanding of the way that my companies are built. I’ve always held a different percentage in dealings from our conglomerate of family run businesses. Thirty-three percent of our investments are in stocks and bonds, thirty-three percent are in real estate, and then the other thirty-three percent is in the media world, which is where we are at now with LINKS. We understood about two years ago that structure for media companies was becoming more and more difficult. Because, although the sales numbers seem to have maintained, in terms of gross revenue, the net profits were shrinking across the board. Not only for newspapers and magazines, but they were shrinking even for digital firms that were stuck in the traditional social media kind of area. There was not a lot of movement in terms of profit.
Taking that into consideration, and the fact that clients have completely redirected their efforts towards content and towards communicating in a more engaged way with their customers, I decided we’re just going to focus on marketing and communication. What that means is, we’re going to build a company that helps our clients come up with content and a strategy to communicate. And, of course, buying media when the campaign has a paid component to it. I took a complete opposite direction to an advertising agency with this new brand. It’s really worked out well because what we’re finding is clients are willing to pay a higher retainer for a company that gets them more without having to do certain types of pay media. But they’re also ready to listen more when we want them to buy media because we’re coming from an objective place.
H: Which are some of the most recent clients you represent?
EDV: We’ve reversed the process and that has been a big success for us. Just in the last year we picked up Kayak.com, we picked up Travel Israel from Mexico, Travel Cayman Islands for Brazil and Argentina, Viva Airlines – it’s a new competitor to JetBlue. They are going to be doing Viva Colombia and Viva Peru. We picked up a Philippe Starck YOO building. It’s called YOO Studio by Philippe Starck in the Dominican Republic. We’ve picked up HTC Mobile. All that happened in the last few months. If you approach the client from a more business and strategic angle and you really learn what they want to communicate, and you start with that, then you come back and say – look this is great but we need to do this and this – at that point you have a more engaged client.
H: Do you plan an all-encompassing campaign that lasts month, maybe years, to get them to meet their goals?
EDV: Yes. It’s very goal and success oriented, which is the second thing that has helped us a lot. We take two forms of payment. One is the traditional route where I charge you a fee or a retainer for a service being provided. The second one, which we offer, is based on success. We are an agency that’s basically willing to work on zero cash and all on success fees. We’re really moving more towards that model. In fact, we project that fifty percent of our business with multinationals will be based on success of their campaign in the next 24 months.
H: Is that a new model that you are seeing, or are you leading the way with this concept?
EDV: It’s been around for awhile. There are agencies that are very progressive, some in Silicon Valley particularly because it’s a tech world, and they give you shares. It’s easier to do it in certain industries. But I do think it’s very new for multinationals. More so for them than it is for us. I would think less than two percent of the entire marketing and advertising industry is doing that because you have to have a lot of cash. I mentioned that thirty-three percent of my family’s portfolio is in media, so we have cash to fund that type of incentive because we understand the results. It also builds a great company because you have people working towards success and they actually see what they’re doing.
H: How are clients responding to this model?
EDV: They love it. If they’re open to it I would say, if their company can do it, nine out of ten times they’ll say yes.
H: What can you tell us about the YOO project? It seems that you were much more involved in this than just marketing, is that so?
EDV: That’s true, yes. That is also based on success. What I did was put the project together. We brought YOO Studio by Philippe Starck and his designers. Not only did I put the deal together, but I put together the entire marketing and sales strategy, hired the sales teams, even outside of my company and then I had a success fee based off the sellout of the building. It’s the same model, except that in this case I take more of a liking to it because I brought an entirely new concept to a country that never had that. There is a little bit more passion from my end on that side.
H: Are there plans to expand to other markets?
EDV: Yes, I’m actually working very hard and closely with the YOO Studio team to try and make some breakthroughs in other places in Latin America. We’re seeing a boom. In Panama there are already two, in Ecuador there are two, in Peru there’s one, and in Mexico there are a couple of them. This is a big opportunity for anyone looking in the Caribbean and Latin American to do a residential component. It could be YOO, or a YOO Studio and then you have YOO with the number two on it, which are the hotels. You could do a traditional building like we’re doing which is hotel and residences. I’m really excited about it because it’s something I’m going to see a very decent return on but at the same time, I’m really happy to be able to start to change the culture of a city like Santo Domingo because once this happens and it’s successful, someone else will follow and bring a W, and this and the other thing.
H: What can you tell us about Forbes Latin America?
EDV: That goes back to the media component I was explaining before. We were in the media business. We liked Forbes but then that just became too much. I love the magazine business, I worked in the magazine business for twenty years. I used to sell Vogue, Architectural Digest, Glamour, even Teen, and Discover Magazine. I’ve worked in the magazine industry from pagination to editorials and it came to a point where I really wanted to focus on this project with the agencies. You have to give something up. When you try to do too many things, as our parents have always told us, you get nothing done.
H: What advice would you give to a company that is launching on how to establish a brand that’s successful?
EDV: There are three things. The first one is, every company needs to understand what its DNA is. That’s important, before you offer something you have to understand what your DNA is. Second you need to understand who your stakeholders are. Customers, media, vendors, you name it. You have to understand who is going to be really benefiting from this at all different levels, both on the B2B side and the B2C side. And then three, you have to give great customer experience or great product experience. If those three things are in place you generally have a successful outcome.
H: For brands that are already established, what do you do for them?
EDV: That’s a good question. I’ll give you an example. HTC cell phones. They are an established company out of Taiwan, but they have a new product every week. At the end of the day, they come to us to help them communicate. We’re not really creating anything, they’ve created it already and we’re innovating the communication for them. It’s not that different from building a new company actually. It’s just that I’m building a new product or selling a new product, but differently.
H: Let’s talk a little bit about Fundación De Valle. Why is it important for you to get involved in something like this?
EDV: It’s enormously important to me. I live in a third world country. A country that has a lot of poverty. I’ve taken a particular initiative to work with children from 0-5 who are HIV stricken and generally their parents abandon them because they don’t have money to pay for the medication, or are afraid to take care of a child with AIDS or HIV. That’s just something that is very personal to me and I’ve been able to use many of the funds that we generate from our different businesses to be able to provide children not only housing and shelter, but also medication that they need to live a healthy life.
H: What are the plans for the foundation?
EDV: Right now we’re focusing on making sure that our businesses are strong and financially stable so that we can at least put in 10% of the profits that we have into the foundation. We’re thinking about new projects in 2018.
H: On a personal level, what would you say is the key to your success?
EDV: I think it’s that I love people and I love business. And those two things have equated for me making a lot of friends, allowing myself to be creative and open and then having the vision to execute on my theoretical image.
H: What advice can you offer aspiring entrepreneurs in terms of business and success?
EDV: I think it’s a very simple answer, keep it real and go from A to Z on every project. Whether you win or you fail you must go from A to Z. Don’t start and dream. Dreaming is great, but dreaming needs a reality check many times.
H: What would you say is the best advice that your family gave you?
EDV: Keep it straight, keep it honest, karma is a bitch. My grandma used to tell me that all the time.
H: Finally, what’s next for this multifaceted organization you’ve building?
EDV: I’m very interested in getting into more of the development and real estate sector. I’m just starting to explore some relationships there. I think that by the next time we meet I’ll be able to give you some update on where I’m at with that.
H: And next for LINKS?
EDV: I think we are going to try and keep our business stable this year. Really go slowly moving forward. We want to have a healthy business, that’s healthy for many years and growth is important but stability is more important. You can see with different economic environments that keeping it stable is just as important as growing it. Right now we just want to stay stable and grow. Slowly.