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ONA: Before You Launch Session

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Advice for new media entrepreneurs.

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ONA: Before You Launch Session

  1. 1. Before You Launch: Things to Consider Before Beginning a Startup Presented by Ju-Don Marshall Roberts October 2013
  2. 2. About Me ☞17 years at The Washington ☞J-Lab’s New Voices Board Post ☞J-Lab’s New Media Women ☞Restart No. 1: NewsCorpEntrepreneurs Board owned Beliefnet ☞Work with various startups ☞Restart No. 2: Beliefnet was sold; had to start over, rebuilding and training new team for the new company ☞Restart No. 3: Everyday Health
  3. 3. Are You an Entrepreneur? ☞Is this really for you?  Are you a solo act or can you lead others?  Will you devote the necessary time?  Do you have the resources or resourcefulness to make this work?  Are you overwhelmed or excited by challenges? ☞ Resources:  Dan Isenberg’s entrepreneur checklist
  4. 4. If “You” Build It, They Might Come ☞If they know and trust you – your personal brand ‒ What have you already done? (reputation) ☞If you can sell the package of you and your idea effectively ‒ Are you believable? (passion) ‒ Are you credible? (experience)
  5. 5. If “You” Build It, They Might Come ☞But they won’t stay without a fight  Don’t rest on your laurels.  As fabulous as you/your idea/your product are, you will be in a death match for audience and revenue.  You may be a visionary, but can you execute?
  6. 6. Good Ideas Are Not Enough ☞Market opportunity  It may be a brilliant project, hobby or distraction but is it a business?  Are you solving a problem and for whom?  Do enough people care about the problem and would they be interested in your solution?  Is it scalable?  Do you have the skills, time, resources to make it work? ☞ Resources:  Dan Isenberg’s business opportunity checklist
  7. 7. Know the Competition ☞Who are your competitors?  How will you differentiate your product or service?  Does your product or service compete with or complement them?  Is market strong enough to support another product in this category?  Use free tools to analyze your competitors and sharpen your positioning. ☞ Resources:  Measurement and comparison tools:,,,
  8. 8. Define and Refine Your Idea ☞Summarize your idea  Is it clear? Does it convey value, differentiation, excitement?  Create an informal advisory group and pitch them. Do they understand it? Would they use or fund it?  Survey random people to test the idea/market.  Use others’ questions/comments to refine your idea.
  9. 9. Is It Worth Your Time? ☞How will you support the site and yourself?  Advertising may not be enough to sustain your business; do you have alternative revenue streams in mind?  Other options: Grants, sponsorships, services, crowd-funding, events, products, etc.  Subsidize income: Freelance, PT work ☞ Resources:   Sustainable business models for journalism Sample business models from CUNY’s Tow-Knight Center
  10. 10. Can You Build the Right Team? ☞You’ll need a team that you trust and that trusts you  Hire (or team up with) people with passion.  Find people with complementary strengths, expertise.  Strive not to be the smartest person in the room.  Build a culture, not just a business.
  11. 11. Can You Lose the Emotion, but Keep the Passion? ☞Your passion is your driving force  Allows you to effectively motivate your team and yourself.  Provides inspirational leadership. ☞Unchecked emotions are dangerous  Leads you to blind adherence or belief in your own ideas in spite of indicators or team feedback.  Results in erratic decision-making. ☞ Resources:  Article: Lead and motivate – not just your team, but yourself, too
  12. 12. Stay Committed and Focused ☞Good ideas need time to grow  Do your due diligence to make sure your ideas are sound and then give them time to work. ☞Avoid chasing every shiny new penny  Distractions (nonstrategic pursuits) will likely be corrosive and impact the execution of your actual priorities.
  13. 13. Know When to Pivot ☞Recognize when a strategy is flawed  Wrong assumptions.  Marketplace changes.  Audience shifts. ☞Seize the opportunities you cannot afford to miss
  14. 14. Bigger Is Not Always Better ☞Build a solid foundation  Make sure what you create or sell is replicable and scalable.  Invest in the infrastructure, teams, technology to adequately support your initiatives.
  15. 15. Be True to Yourself ☞ Define your brand or others will define it for you  Your Advertisers.  Your Competition. ☞ Remember your differentiator
  16. 16. Don’t Fear the Disruption; Be the Disruption ☞Never stop challenging your assumptions  Why won’t your product work “tomorrow”? ☞Figure out the game-changer in your niche and become it  Lessons from legacy media  Gamification
  17. 17. Advice From Founders ☞Build an advisory board. ☞Don’t expect your plans to go exactly as planned. Donna Byrd Publisher, The Root; Co-Founder, Kickoff Marketing @by_donna
  18. 18. Advice From Founders ☞Stay laser-focused on what you are trying to accomplish.  Don't let VCs, funders or staff allow scope creep to kick in. If you have a great idea, then don't let anything get in the way of building or perfecting that. Jim Brady President & Editor, Digital First Media; Founding GM TBD @jimbradysp ☞ Avoid growing too fast.  Quick success doesn't mean long-term success, so stay cheap until the long-term path is clearer. No big staff expansion or fancy real estate.
  19. 19. Advice From Founders ☞Turn a competitor into a mentor  Build a partnership, where you share ideas with each other, ask questions, and build a mutually beneficial relationship. Befriending your competition and developing a pathway to strengthen both businesses is what some of the most successful entrepreneurs are doing today. Amy Webb Founder and CEO, Webb Media Group @webbmedia ☞Ask the “dumb” questions  I see a lot of bright young people miss great opportunities simply because they were too embarrassed to ask for clarification.… There's a big difference between confidence and hubris. It's easier to be flashy and act cocky. It's a lot harder to find quiet inner confidence and to be comfortable asking people for help, or admitting when you don't know something.
  20. 20. Advice From Founders ☞Dig deep to find your purpose. It matters for everything. Hamet Watt Investment Partner, Upfront Ventures; Cofounder, bLife and MoviePass @hametwatt ☞Don’t underestimate the work required.
  21. 21. Advice From Founders ☞Establish a terrific group of advisers. Greg Behrman Founder & CEO, NationSwell @GregBehrman1 ☞Avoid not having a detailed and executable Action Plan  You have to prioritize what is really important from what is not.
  22. 22. Advice From Founders ☞Establish shared values  Talk openly with your founding team and establish your shared values. Then hire for them, teach them and be true to them. Tom Gerace Founder & CEO, Skyword; Founder, Gaither @tomgerace ☞Don’t blindly adhere to a model  Your model helps you understand the levers in your business, but it's always wrong in ways you don't expect.
  23. 23. Advice From Founders ☞Have a partner  Building a company is hard - it's a big existential struggle - and nothing improves one's odds of success more, or makes the process more enjoyable, than a another person to share the crusade. Oliver Ryan Founder & CEO, Social Workout @eauryan ☞ Avoid Editing Yourself  In the face of bleak prospects or long odds, the tendency is to second guess and to avoid risk, i.e. to narrow the vision, and to be quick to dismiss "crazy" ideas.… This doesn't mean that you embrace every half-baked idea, but that you allow ideas to live for a while, before settling on a course of action. Innovation is a very fragile process, and it can be so easily killed without sufficient vigilance.
  24. 24. Resources for Startups ☞Entrepreneur’s 2 Weeks to Startup ☞CUNY Online Entrepreneurial Journalism Bootcamp ☞JStart: Resources for Startups ☞ReadWriteWeb’s Legal Resources for Startups ☞Quantcast: Traffic and Demographics ☞Alexa: Traffic ☞New Business Models from the Tow-Knight Center ☞Entrepreneur and Business Opportunity Checklist ☞SuBMoJour: Database of Startups and Business Models ☞Similar Web and Similar Sites: Measurement and Comparisons All links available here:
  25. 25. Thank You!