You jumped off the good ship “stability” (or you were pushed), and decided to start up your own media or tech company or work with others on one. Hear from three people who are blending social media, storytelling and tech into (hopefully) sustainable businesses.
At that, we are finished. Thank you to our panelists!
Question: More info on Radio Ambulante?
Castro: We are anon-profit. Coming to the end of our four-episode pilot season, We have so many ideas for what we’re doing and we’re exploring possibilities for funding more.
Wright: Because they are journalists. They don’t look for that. J-schools are often not teaching business skills or entrepreneurial skills.
I have been talking to journalists at conferences, telling them to brand themselves and market themselves outside of their news orgs and many don’t think they need to do that.
The Knight News Challenge was created to allow freedom to do that, but many journalists haven’t made that shift.
Why aren’t more journalists banding together with business minded folks to create startups?
Castro thinks of a change she’d make. She wishes she had the confidence to do what she did earlier.
“If I could go back and enjoy it and believe in myself the whole time, it would have been better and I would have gone further.”
Wright: I’m an independent person. I am not one of those people who have a lot of people around. If I could do it differently, I would have started building my network sooner. I’ve got a network on social media, but when I look at the numbers others have and it is a big difference.
If you’re thinking of going out on your own, you need to start building your network. Connect with the people who can help you.
Castro: I’m at peace with how I got here. I wouldn’t do it any other way. I’m so grateful for everything that tok me to where I am. I’m living four lives in one, all of my dreams. I don’t know if it is sustainable.
Jon Vidar: I would have done it sooner. I would have made the plunge earlier.
I submitted four ideas to the Knight News Challenge the year we won. Three were finalists. Really put yourself out there if you’re going to do it.
Question: What would you do different?
Vidar: “I don’t have an off switch anymore.”
Wright says she’s had a lot of mentors validate what she’s working on.
She’s a consultant, too. Always busy.
“I don’t know what full-time is anymore. Part-time, full-time. It isn’t an 8-5, five day week.It goes out the window. Not to say you need to work seven days a week, but it’s a different experience.”
Vidar: Did you have a Kickstarter consultant?
Castro: No but she knew someone that had done it well and they grilled him/her for details.
Castro: Talking to eventual co-founder who sold her on the idea of a “This American Life”, but in Spanish. “She had a great elevator pitch.”
Before it got going, they took a trip to Latin America and collected stories. She took a sabbatical from work, four months of travel.Two months to go to where her family is from. they did a Kickstarter to get the money.
Vidar agrees Kickstarter is great for raising cash.
Castro: “Better way to ask your friends for money.” We were calling friends and asking them to give us money. We treated it like a pledge drive. You have to – it needs perks, incentive, a campaign.
They raised $40,000 and got a pilot season together.
Vidar: the grant and the recognition propelled us.
Question: How did you happen upon what you are doing now?
Vidar: If you aren’t good at begging for money, find someone who is.
Even if you are thinking of starting a non-profit, you need to think of it as a for-profit. It still needs to be sustainable.
Mitchell: “Difference between non-profit and money losing.”
Jon Vidar: there’s initial fear when you quit your day job, & that’s a main driving force. It’s easy to dream when you are employed.
Sherbeam Wright notes she is the youngest on the panel, she helped start LitHit.
In the next few years, people will do introductions by asking one another what you created. Several years back, she wouldn’t have imagined working on her own.
“From day 1, I was one of those people who did everything my teachers told me to do.”
She majored in broadcast. Never really got into it. She started in nonprofit communications. She didn’t make a real decision in her career until she was 10 years into it. She wanted to go into for-profit.
She never considered leaving a job without having another lined up – or having “a good reason”. She was sort of pushed out when her company laid her off. She had been saving up for it. She really got to thinking about what she wanted to do with her life.
In the next job, she had what she thought she wanted – security, salary, benefits – to go out on her own. It forced her to be creative and use her talents to solve problems.
Martina Castro started Radio Ambulante. I am still “in”, not out. Managing Editor of KALW News in San Francisco, also working on her own site.
She started as an NPR intern. We have something wrong with us that makes us want to be entrepreneurs, be overachievers.
Things that happened outside of her that led her here:
1. Having real mentors. There’s one level of meeting and networking with people and taking an interest. What she means is people who make an investment in you and it won’t benefit their careers necessarily. They are the reason she got into journalism and her NPR internship.
2. Jump at chances
Eight months into her temporary work with NPR, they needed someone to go with a reporter to Florida to produce and be an interpreter – she jumped at the chance. Good mentors give you the advice to find that moment, then you have to sick or swim on your own.
I was on my way to a long and awesome career at NPR. Little voice said, “Great, but why am I not happy?”
That voice got her to leave NPR eventually. First she left the Washington Bureau to go to LA.
3. Life happens. She went to LA for personal reasons.
Your life may need you somewhere that it might help your career anyway. On NPR job: “Just because it is the best for everyone else doesn’t mean it is best for me.”
She wanted to experiment and play, so she quit. She saw opportunity at KALW and it became her training ground. You need to find your culture of yes. Find a place that lets you play and become a leader.
Vidar asks the crowd how many are thinking of starting their own thing. There’s one hand so far.
Vidar got money from the Chase Community Giving, essentially a popularity contest on Facebook. Votes led to money. Here’s the contest: http://www.facebook.com/ChaseCommunityGiving
He won by urging every USC student to vote, all of the time. He got $25K grant to start the Tiziano Project. Built website for $500.
It went on to win SXSW Interactive. Won community award at ONA (http://blog.uscannenberg.org/?p=912), beating the likes of CNN.
It used to be a big deal to start a company. Now you can go on LegalZoom for $250 and 20 minutes to start a corporation.He just did this. It’s more doable now than ever.
Jon Vidar worked at USC as their emerging technology specialist, then left to found The Tiziano Project.
He asks if anyone has had a great idea, but their job or bureaucracy keeps them from doing it. Why stay? Money? You have to think about what you want out of your job. What I wanted I got from USC for a long time – I liked the flexibility of the academic calendar. He spent summers traveling, doing photography.
We went to USC and asked for six months off, they said no. He quit. He got a grant to do the Tiziano Project in Iraq and wanted to do it.
Here’s more on it: http://tizianoproject.org/
Doug Mitchell is taking over as host for this last panel.