Mar 19, 2024 - Business

Scoop: Lulu Cheng Meservey launches new firm for founder-led comms

Photo of Meservey at Axios Communicators event in NYC 2023.

Lulu Cheng Meservey at Axios Communicators event in New York City on Dec. 14, 2023. Photo credit: Steven Duarte on behalf of Axios.

Communications guru Lulu Cheng Meservey has partnered with Toya Holness and Sergey Alexashenko to launch Rostra, a strategic communications firm geared toward tech founders and startups.

Why it matters: Rostra is the latest addition to the long line of challenger firms that have formed in the past year.

  • It's the second strategic comms firm Meservey has launched. She co-founded TrailRunner International with Jim Wilkinson in 2016.

What they're saying: Rostrawhich is named after the ancient public platform where Roman orators and politicians would appeal directly to the public — will be different, Meservey says.

  • "We only work with founders and whoever they assign us to, but it has to be a founder who was bought in and it has to be a founder-led company. If there's a situation where it's a professional CEO who is not actually interested in doing this themselves and is delegated out to a team, I don't think there's anything we can do for them."

Zoom in: Meservey previously served on Activision Blizzard's board of directors before taking over as chief communications officer and executive vice president of corporate affairs.

  • She has built a reputation for her own quick witted communication style and raised eyebrows after publicly pushing back against FTC regulators in the midsts of the Activision-Microsoft deal.
  • She will serve as CEO, while Holness — an Activision Blizzard alum and former head of communications for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex — will be chief operations officer.
  • Former Substack engineer Sergey Alexashenko will serve as chief technology officer and has plans to build in-house communication tools to track, measure and predict messaging opportunities for Rostra clients.

Between the lines: Americans are increasingly pessimistic about AI's workplace uses and only 35% trust AI companies.

Yes, but: Direct communication is key if emerging tech founders hope to build a movement and bring people along, Meservey says.

  • "I think what's missing is, for too long founders have relied on what other people are saying and writing about them. ...There's been a vacuum of what they are saying about themselves and how they explain what they're doing in an unvarnished way."
  • "A founder's startup [will] stay a pet project and will fail to grow into a generational enterprise unless they can convince a lot of other people — employees, investors and customer to join them on that journey," she told Axios.

What to watch: The firm just completed its first major project — the launch of Devin, a generative AI software engineer created by the Peter Thiel-backed startup, Cognition AI.

  • However, they are not taking on any new clients at the moment, Meservey says.

Go deeper: Activision Blizzard's corporate affairs chief uses wartime communication strategies

Go deeper