Live Blogging: ONA Meeting 3/24/2011

(6:00) All right that’s our wrap-up… but a few small notes before we sign off for this ONA Mizzou meeting. First a HUGE thank you to Jim and Alex for being our March speakers. They provided great insight into not only how Newsy succeeded as a start-up but how any start-up gets off the ground. Alex and Jim (and the whole Newsy crew) always welcome you to stop by their offices across the street and learn more – remember Newsy offers two classes to journalism students who want to expand their experience and knowledge base. Plus there are always snacks…

ALSO – if you are interested in becoming a member of the ONA Mizzou executive board next year be sure to fill out an exec. application by the Friday after Spring Break. Check out this post to get a copy!

(5:50) One of the reasons people do things like this is because they can’t see themselves not doing this.

Question: When you brought people from non-traditional outlets how did you get them on board?

Alex: I think they were both excited by a new idea. You start to realize you are doing things the same way everyday. At Newsy we kind of make things up, they were excited about that. It’s not for everyone but some people like that.

(5:45) Question: How about the technology wall, you have to know things like coding for your start-up – how do you get around not knowing this.

Jim: There are technology things Titan does that I don’t know. There are marketing thinks Alex does that I don’t know. You have to know that and go out and find someone who can do it. You have to assemble a team with the same similar vision and attitude. Jim Flink cranked out 30 stores today and I have been on an airplane and I have no clue what they are. You have to completely trust people and know they are doing what you need them to do.

You will find yourself having to solve problems on the fly, real-time, things that you just didn’t wake up that morning thinking were going to happen. You have to be able to survive and thrive. 

(5:42) Question: What does a company like yours do to the future of journalism?

Jim: I think we advance news. I think we provide a new network. Everything was a start-up at some point, newspapers were a start-up. That was followed by film, movies were a start-up. Radio, television was a start-up. One of our advisory board members quit CBS to join a cable news network and people thought he was crazy. He joined ESPN which is way more profitable than the three news networks.

(5:40) Questions: Give us a timeline.

Jim: You start with a seed round. For us that was June of 2008. That was followed by a 2 million dollar round, those shares were at $1.82 a share. That round took a long time, that one was tricky. That was called a series A. We just finished a 1.5 million round called series B.

Raising money is an absolute necessity. You have to go out and get resources and bring them back to the team. Flipboard is currently raising money at a $200 million dollar evaluation. Let me say, we beat Flipboard as the best news app.

(5:37) Question: What happens when you hit obstacles?

Jim: Everyday you hit a bump. You have to be resilant and keep going. When we moved to Columbia it made us focused, failure was not an option at that point.

Alex: The biggest road bump was the economic crisis of two years ago. It’s hard to go to a pitch and then none of the investors are there. Whenever we’ve had a hiccup there is also usually something to move you forward.

Jim: You also figure out stuff together and kind of partner up. alex sees things much earlier than I see things. You have to build a really strong team and the team has to have the right attitude. If someone doesn’t, you have to change it.

Alex: Doing what is best for the company is something we have had to think about at all time. Make decisions about staff.

Jim: The people stuff is always the hardest.

(5:35) Question: So I have an idea, now what?

Jim: You need an elevator pitch. We literally put a video on an iPod Touch to show it off. Sometimes you also need a business plan. You then start to show this to investors (mom, dad, rich aunt). You also have angel investors. Basically it’s a group of fairly well-to-do individuals, many entrepreneurs, they are interested in investing in your company and also giving you advice.

Don’t be afraid to bounce ideas off people. You must also be extremely flexible. There are things you can’t control (Spring 2009 there was a huge financial depression – right at the time we were trying to rise our second round of money).

Keith Politte: There are also many entrepreneurs things on campus getting started – clubs and contests. There is also REDI.

Jim: We got 20,000 from REDI just for moving to Columbia, that’s great.

Alex: Research is important too.

Keith: Randy Smith’s class is a great idea too, a good place to start.

(5:30) Question: What is your advice for people wanting to have their own start-up?

Jim: You are at a great time in your life to do a start-up. You are bright and talented and you also don’t have a lot of risk (a big mortgage, a couple of children). Start-ups are rsiky but they also have fantastic awards for people who can make them succeed. That’s also why we put Newsy across the street. It is great for you to come on over and see what it’s like to see one succeed.

Right now we are working on a major partnership with a very big company. We have to work hard to pivot and shift and make sure we don’t miss out on a big opportunity.

If you have an idea, come talk with me. A couple of years ago this was just an idea. Now a few years later we have raised 4.2 million dollars and hired a lot of people and have five out of five stars. It takes a lot of hard work but it can happen.

Think about the Google guys sitting in a classroom – when you have China trying to block stuff you are on to something. Look around the room you may have a partner here with a great idea that leads to this.

(5:25) Jim: Devices like ours put out “digital pennies.” We don’t get big advertising dollars. That’s why we choose a place like Columbia. So we figured out we could partner with the University and have a teaching and partner component. Plus the Journalism school has a global pull, and we benefit from this. And it works great for us because we have an amazing talent pool.

Another reason we came here – Google and Yahoo started at Stanford – if you are going to do a search start-up you would want to be around Stanford’s computer science department. For me it makes since to put our journalism related company next to this journalism school.

Why else would you want to be in Columbia? How about a low cost of living. Someone in New York fighting for digital pennies is also fighting to survive in that city.

(5:20). Jim: So we looked at news bias, and multi-perspective world news. We also guessed on the trend that video would be important. Today the Thunderbolt was released – it is a 4G phone and it’s said to be faster than wireless networks. That’s what’s happening – all of this technology is enabling many forms of story telling. So we bet on video because the generation we are telling the news to has only known the world with internet and hundreds of channels of cable – they are very videocentric.

We also wanted to come up with a new model for journalism. We didn’t want to struggle financially like other organizations. They are struggling because they have to adapt to changing technology (ie newspapers used to be delivered to doors, now they go to your twitter feed). They used to put together highly profitable packages of news, but not anymore.

So summary of the three themes:
1. People consider the news to be biased
2. Technology and bandwith has enabled video
3. A different business model

(5:15) Jim: In that elevator pitch stared it talked about how there were going to b more mobile devices shipped in 2013 than there are desktops… but that happened this year while you were in school. Why is this important? When I was in school the internet was growing like crazy. When you look at the chart now and you see how mobile is growing it is doing the same.

When you choose what you are going to do with your career, it is important to choose o go in an industry that is growing.

So we guessed about some trends. We were watching what was happening with news and what was happening with the cable news networks, we saw that the news environment was becoming like the political climate – much more polarized. How do we turn this on its ear – we came up with the concept of multi-source news. It was inspired by a book called “Multiperspectial News.”

(5:10) Jim: Here’s our elevator pitch… (Not here to watch? Check out THIS about video). Jim we build news for devices like the iPad, iPhone, Android and Blackberry. We not only build the news content across those but also the apps that run them. We have probably the highest rated video-centric news apps on the iPhone and iPad.

Alex: We are at 5 stars today.

Jim: That’s incredible because it is not easy to stream video through apps.

Titan (app developer for Newsy): We just got put on Apple’s great iPhone app list!

(5:05) Welcome Jim Spencer and Alex Wharton who are here to talk about getting a start-up going in Columbia, Missouri.

(5:00) Sick of my live blog – you can check out J School Buzz‘s coverage as well!

(4:40) In case you are as big of social media nerds as I am (p.s. it’s executive board member Amanda blogging today) – we have made a FourSquare check-in for tonight’s meeting. Search ONA Mizzou Meeting and check-in!

(4:35) It’s the third Thursday of March so you know what that means – it’s time for our monthly ONA Mizzou meeting.

Join us in RJI 100 in about 15 minutes to hear about local start-up,, and learn a bit about how to make your journalistic entrepreneurial dreams become reality. Plus we have lots of ORG updates about ONA Mizzou and how you can take a leadership position next year.

Follow along with this post and you can get all the info provided in tonight’s meeting. The top of this post will have the most recent updates, and if you want pervious information just scroll down.

And if you prefer updates via 140 character posts you can also follow along on twitter by following the @ONAMizzou account!


About onamizzou

Welcome to the official blog page for University of Missouri students working to bring the Online News Association to Mizzou.
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One Response to Live Blogging: ONA Meeting 3/24/2011

  1. Pingback: Newsy Raises $1.5 Million for Mobile News Video Domination | J-School Buzz

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