The sixth annual Baltimore Innovation Week has already kicked off, and so I’ve been thinking, as I always do, about what’s different or special this year.
There’s this strange and perhaps dated idea that mission and money don’t mix.
I suppose it comes from a time of less transparency, of very black and white lines between nonprofits and for profits. But I find it altogether puzzling today.
Someone asked me recently what was the biggest motivator for me to start a company, and I told him it was fear.
That’s true, if still somewhat self-deprecating.
When you’re growing a team, it’s easy for you to get the attention. You have the power to always take the final word. You can always be the focus of the meeting or the team social event or the group discussion.
Harvard University’s Nieman Lab journalism trade publication profiled last week Technically Media, the digital media company I cofounded, for the first time since 2012 (that year we got both a profile and an expansion look).
This new profile, which you should read, seemed like a grand opportunity to revisit the check I made in 2015 when we surpassed $1 million in revenue for the first time. So to supplement my professional accomplishments of last year, I wanted to share a few notes included in the Nieman Lab report I find important.
The truest goal for starting a company is to grow it to a stronger place of stability.
To battle a generational low point in business incorporation, we’ve built a solid drumbeat celebrating entrepreneurship. To complement this charge, we need a serious dialogue about transitioning founders into leaders, from the one who started a company to the one who is growing it.
As a cofounder of 25-person publishing company Technically Media who has interviewed hundreds of founders and CEOs along the way, I am experiencing this transition myself. To give yourself the best shot at success in business, you must know what your goals are. One of them should be looking for opportunities to make this transition from founder to leader.
That was the focus of a lecture and workshop I led at the second annual Fearless Conference, held by the precocious Melissa Alam, who has developed a wonderful community of (mostly) young women aspiring to build businesses of their own. Below I share my slides, some notes and reaction to my talk.
You determine success by what goals you set. The mission of Philly Tech Week from the very start six years ago was to create an entry point for others to discover the community of technologists and entrepreneurs bubbling up in Philadelphia.
So this annual, community-supported calendar of events celebrating technology, entrepreneurship and innovation in Philadelphia will have a role for as long as those subjects warrant local on-boarding. Led by us at local tech news network Technical.ly, some 50 partners put together 150 events during a 10-day period ending this past weekend. And though we’re still collecting survey results and feedback from attendees, organizers and supporters, the early feedback I remains consistent with past years: (a) the collective calendar brings more people out to all our events and (b) the attendees include community-regulars and, just as important, people trying to better understand how to join in.
When that stops, that’s likely when PTW (and events like it) cease to matter. What does change each year is what stands out to me as particularly telling or representative from the calendar. That’s where I’m often most proud.
Let’s start with the obvious: I help run a (very) very small, young business. By very nearly any measure, $1 million in annual revenue shows no great scale.
But for this first-time entrepreneur, slowly bootstrapping a niche news company like Technically Media, it means a lot to me to hit that nice round number in 2015. We have a full-time team of 15 with another half-dozen independent contractors who support the daily production of a news and events product with a strong reputation. We continue to find purpose with Technical.ly and expect our second brand Generocity.org to signal a coming explosion of local social impact conversations like local tech is here now.
I want to share what this means to us.
We at Technical.ly hosted our inaugural Delaware Innovation Week. It was our smallest community yet to do something like that, so we anxious to see what would happen.
The early signs show the model worked — new people came to take part in the week and join the community. So we’ll be back in November 2016.
Since it was the first year, I thought I’d share some surprises that came across.
When you’re building a team, each role is best filled by someone on a range between generalists and specialists. The first is flexible but lacking expertise, and the latter is experienced but lacking range.
Of course, like the term use among animals, most of us are somewhere on a spectrum, but it still can be a helpful prism to see your applicant pool. Some celebrate the generalist and others honor the specialist but both are necessary and nuanced. And perhaps most important to remember: anyone can move along that spectrum, depending on their willingness and adaptability. But be conscious of your choices.