Following the July 2014 final rules implementation of the Affordable Care Act, my company Technical.ly was impacted more severely than we expected. This is not a political article — I am not opposed to Obamacare — this is a small business owner’s experience.
With just eight full-time team members (excluding, of course, our part-time independent contractors), I am solely responsible for managing our healthcare coverage plan, and while I tried to prepare for what the change might be, I wasn’t ready for our costs to more than double, and, for some plans, almost triple. Here’s what I learned and what we did.
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Founders aren’t scalable. You can grow an organization only so far with a founder and her emotion, personality and drive.
So you shouldn’t build an organization around them. They’re great in the beginning. They’re the ultimate generalists, as a good founder will do anything to get the job done. But it won’t last. It can’t last. Even if a founder stays a lifetime, eventually that life will end.
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I go to a lot of events. I cover them. I organize them. I speak at the em. I attend them. For any given event, easily the most common question is how many people attend. It’s how we get a sense of how popular (which is a clumsy shorthand for how valuable something is) the event was. But it’s the wrong question and, I’ve found, almost always a lie.
Because it’s so damn hard. Think about the challenge of estimating attendance at large-scale public events. We always have our reporters estimate attendee counts and often have organizers challenge us. Once an event stretches beyond even just a few dozen people, there’s no sure thing that anyone there will have a good sense of the attendee count. People will have a perceived sense of the crowd — was the event well attended or not — but that has very little to do with actual account and more to do with how full an event location is, among other biases and perspectives. Give me the right number of chairs, and I’ll make your 20-person event crowded.
It’s become second nature for me to hand count attendance at smaller events and do batch counting for larger ones (gauge what a group of 100 looks like and then estimate from there). So I read other event estimates with heavy skepticism.
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Event production is stressful, chaotic and labor-intensive. It is also an act in designed collision. There is a lot of learning to be done in all of these ways.
This Friday will kickoff the fourth annual Philly Tech Week Presented by AT&T, far and away the largest collaborative effort in which I have ever taken part. To track what I’m learning in the process, I pulled five of the more than 130 events happening during the week from which I believe I’m learning the most.
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Acts of journalism are challenging and at times infrequent things for local news organizations. Pushing a community and seeking to find outcomes through difficult questions is the best of what media can do. Balancing that with the work tied to creating a sustainable news venture is a consuming one. Here’s where I am in my thinking about that process.
When we launched in 2009 what has since become Technical.ly, we always prepared for a content mixture that would include information and community journalism. We were trained in a newspaper worldview that put a type of ethical paradigm and professional standards that we embraced, even as we challenged its traditions.
Along the way, I found out that I want to build something that could have an impact. Pessimists are nothing but spectators and reporters are almost always pessimists.
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I work at a startup. Not a tech startup or, to be honest, according to some, any kind of startup at all. I help lead a growing, young, small media business that happens to cover technology companies and startup culture, so I’m around conversations about definitions a lot.
Let me be clear: in this post, I’m using the definition I use for ‘startup,’ meaning a young company testing a business model. I’m writing here about what type of person I’m finding can work best in such an environment, which is different (but neither better, nor worse) than a large corporation or even another smaller, but more stable and more clearly defined, organization.
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After four years with the same Technical.ly Philly WordPress theme and six months after our Baltimore launch, we united our brands with a complete redesign under Technical.ly in March.
The design was led by Tom Rose and we partnered on the WordPress development (WordPress multisite) with WebDev Studios. We’re still making our way through bugs and looking toward a second phase, but I’m proud enough of a few design elements that I want to share.
My colleague Brian Kirk and I put no less than a year of thought into the effort, so we offered considerable direction and then watched Tom and WebDev exceed in making those plans a reality. Read a more general assessment of the redesign on our company blog here, and find a recap of our old site here.
Below, find some small elements that I’m most proud of and think should inform your design work.
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The largest event we helped organize during the second annual Baltimore Innovation Week was our opening party that drew 1,000 people to Penn Station Plaza in partnership with the Gathering food trucks and Station North Arts and Entertainment Inc.
The party activated a public space, as seen in the above photo from the event’s beginning, widened the reach of a narrow technology community and brought about other partnerships. It was fun and exciting and big.
But likely the event with bigger direct impact was the small Baltimore City Council hearing we helped launch with District 7 Councilman Nick Mosby, the first ever city council hearing dedicated to the innovation economy in Baltimore.
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Both Technically Philly and Technically Baltimore were honored in the prestigious annual ‘Best of’ lists from their respective city magazines this year. It’s really validating and rewarding to get nods in two different cities from prestigious city magazines.
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