15 things I learned three years after launching Technically Philly

First, let’s acknowledge that three years is not a terribly long time.

Still, I’m proud that three years ago last month, Brian James Kirk, Sean Blanda and I launched a blog to cover the technology community of Philadelphia. Three years later, we are full-time employees of a growing business with a good reputation.

In that time, we’ve had some accomplishments that are worth being proud of. It’s been a learning experience to be sure.

First, our organization is changing in lots of ways.

Most positively, we’re thrilled to announce that we made our first hire, Technically Philly’s first dedicated reporter Yael Borofsky, whom we hope will continue to help grow our local technology news flagship.

More recently, we announced that Sean Blanda, one of my co-founders, is leaving the company June 1. He’ll retain a small ownership stake — so, no, this isn’t an ugly breakup — but is leaving as a full-time employee as he hopes to pursue other interests. He helped start this business and surely there are few better people in this world with whom to start an idea from inception.

Additionally, in a more subtle move, we’ve changed our original tagline — Covering the Community of People who use Technology in Philadelphia — to one meant to convey our interest in going beyond coverage to being involved in the solution: a Better Philadelphia through Technology. Not long after the second annual Philly Tech Week, a proud growth point of its own, we expect to be making perhaps a few more exciting announcements.

For now, I wanted to share some of what I’ve learned in our first three years.

  1. Launching a company with three founders is good for a lot of reasons, particularly when the roles of technology, business and operations are filled. This is also a godsend to reduce conflict and solve differing opinions. As you develop, focus the business and bring on other staff, this becomes less important, but it is a great way to start.
  2. Write everything down, particularly when it regards to money, ownership and goals. This means meeting notes, partner agreements, business plans, goals and objections. Have it all in a place that be shared and searched — email and Google Docs are a fine start.
  3. Run meetings with a hawk-like eye for efficiency, because you are all busy and this also establishes a culture of getting things done. We are pretty over-the-top with our staff meetings, which are weekly and long but replace the need for any other work interruptions. Excessive meetings and conference calls are where productivity goes to die.
  4. Have awkward, difficult conversations with your partners, which includes talking about money and work share and output and goals and dreams and the rest. If you haven’t had some tough conversations a year in, then you’re missing something. Every time, the sooner we had a harder conversation, the better. When having those conversations, prepare with concrete examples.
  5. Come with solutions, not questions, to your co-founders. Discussion and creativity are good, but if you’re bringing up a problem, always have a recommended solution, even if it isn’t the route that is taken, you need to have some thoughts for next steps.
  6. Don’t give up your day job until you have to, because the revenue won’t come quickly enough and rushing into investment is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. As an alternative, there is no better time to launch a project than when you are unemployed or underemployed, which is when we launched TP. Give it your all while you look for other opportunities.
  7. Set goals constantly, both for your weekly to-do list, your quarterly projections and your yearly resolutions, and, as noted above, write them all down and hold yourself and your colleagues accountable. With each year, we set monthly goals that govern the path toward where we want to be at the end of a given year. Many we miss, some we hit. Regardless, it helps serve as our rudder for the big picture.
  8. You will be wrong or outvoted and often both, which is particularly important for having three founders so there is a clear democratic process. There were some projects or ideas that I really wanted to move forward but couldn’t win the support of my two co-founders. Those ideas died and rightfully so. We can all get better at letting go.
  9. Celebrate independence, as one of the perks of having multiple founders is being blessed with people other than you who are devoted to your business. The three of us instituted a policy where we wouldn’t send more than one of us to the same meeting or event unless totally necessary. We did weekly check-ins on some projects, but mostly, we gave each other great independence and ran our portions of the business. This allowed us to discover ourselves and move quickly.
  10. Create boundaries so you can still be humans outside of work, as your venture will become the primary focus every waking hour and you often launch with people with whom you are friendly, it is important to create balance. Though the three of us started as more friends than business associates, we all carved out personal creative projects outside of work and lessened our social time together so work could stay work.
  11. Don’t delay thinking about the future, which we tried to do by making Technically Philly a published product of the business Technically Media. More details from our end to come in the next few months, but the importance is to have some fun by thinking about the future of your company.
  12. Stick to your goals, plans and dreams, because while they will change and some will be smartly dropped, many will be worth pursuing. In May 2009, just three months after launching TP, I stood in a BarCamp NewsInnovation session and said that I was tired of the news funding conversation being only limited to advertising — we would pursue events and any other avenue that made sense. Three years later, that’s where we get most of our revenue.
  13. Be excited, because if entrepreneurship is drag, you’re going to lose.

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  • Anthony Coombs

    Nice post. Having started companies solo in the past it’s interesting to hear about the process when partners are involved. I love 1-4. I think it would be ideal to have a partner or partners that compliment my weaknesses and bring what I can’t to the table. I completely agree with writing everything down and can say from experience that if you don’t do this you can get burned. Nothing is set until it’s written down. Make sure that you have difficult conversations with cofounders, business partners, employees, whoever, it’s extremely important and conflict isn’t bad, it usually draws things out that were problems festering just below the radar. My own opinion is to QUIT your day job and go for your goal. Obviously this may not apply to everyone but I’m a firm believer that you can’t completely dedicate yourself to a new project until you detach yourself from your job or occupation. But that depends on a lot of external factors. Nice read.