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Steve's ITK: You bastard!


Steve's ITK

August 14 · Issue #29 · View online

Steve's In The Know: Thoughts from a European tech insider.

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Opening thought: Competition
A source once asked me why, as a journalist, I cared so much about being first and why journalists are so competitive to out-scoop one another. At the time I didn’t have a very good answer.
‘It’s a silly game, I know,’ I replied. ‘But if I’m going to play the game, I may as well be in it to win it’.
The last few weeks have seen me win some and lose some.
The win – as insensitive as that sounds, given that it was a story partly about layoffs – was when I broke news that on-demand delivery app Jinn had closed all of its operations outside London. We had actually received a tip-off late the day before, and that night (from my bed!) I fired off a few emails to try to find out what exactly was going on.
The next morning, however, after following up with two sources, I had to put the Jinn scoop on hold while I took back-to-back briefing calls for other stories I had committed to writing. At the same time, I was super aware that Jinn’s offices were one street away from James Cook’s team at Business Insider and I had this nagging feeling that he or another BI reporter was likely not far behind.
And I was right.
As soon as I got an official comment from Jinn’s co-founder (who, incidentally, elected to only talk to me, given that I had covered the startup from the very beginning) I frantically bashed out a few hundred words and hit publish.
Within a few minutes, I received the following text message from James:
Text message from BI's James Cook outside of Jinn's offices
Text message from BI's James Cook outside of Jinn's offices
The following week, however, I wasn’t so lucky, losing out to City A.M.’s tech editor Lynsey Barber, who broke news that challenger bank Tandem was acquiring Harrods Bank, the banking arm of the famous London luxury department store.
The annoying thing is I’d heard third hand that this might be happening as far back as June, but couldn’t find additional sources and my instinct was that it was extremely unlikely. Here’s an email I sent to a source close to Tandem on June 14th:
I heard a wild rumour that Tandem is in merger talks with a bank that is part of a rich people’s retailer.:)How wild is it?
I never did hear back.
During the last few years, I’ve developed a much more considered view on why being first with a scoop matters. For a publication that covers news, it ensures that over time the publication becomes first in the minds of readers and, either via shares on social media or directly, part of their daily reading habit.
Even longer term, I don’t think you can underestimate how much being first – and therefore ‘in the know’ – contributes to a publication’s brand. A site like TechCrunch is synonymous with breaking news and therefore perceived as being extremely well-sourced within the industry we cover.
On a personal level, each time a journalist scoops some news it sends a number of important signals. First is that they themselves have good sources, which brings with it industry-wide credibility and adds to their own personal brand.
Second, it tells the source(s) of a story that the journalist has the skill-set and tenacity required to close a scoop, which can often take days or weeks, needs second sourcing, and involves the handling of sensitive information, all while not burning the source in the first place. This builds trust and a one-off source quite often becomes a regular one.
More importantly, the net effect of both signals is that it becomes just a little easier to break news that not everybody wants written – and in turn make the industry as a whole incrementally more transparent.
With all of that said, an editor I used to work for once instructed: if you can’t be first, be better. The point they were making is that there is often a space to be filled with more in depth reporting and follow on analysis once a story has been broken. In the adrenaline-filled rush to out scoop one another, that is something we tech journalists, myself included, would sometimes do well to remember.
Bonus: Which millennial fintech founder was so sure he knew how to do PR he hired not one but two agencies for his recent funding announcement?
Things I wrote
Glint is a stealthy London fintech startup that promises to turn gold into a ‘new global currency’
After heavy restructuring, London on-demand delivery app Jinn claims to be ‘profitable’
Curve co-founder joins challenger bank Monzo as COO
Railsbank, a new fintech startup from founder of Currencycloud, raises $1.2M led by Firestartr
Digital bank Tandem to acquire banking arm of UK’s famous luxury department store Harrods
Personio, a HR startup in Munich, closes $12M Series A
Wia, a cloud platform for IoT device developers, scores €750K seed funding
OLAmobile acquires mobile performance marketing startup IconPeak for $10M
Helpling, Rocket Internet’s home services company, picks up investment from Unilever Ventures
Carspring, a London and Berlin startup that lets you buy a used car online, raises £5M Series B
Lost My Name, the tech-driven kids book publisher, raises $8.5M and partners with Roald Dahl Estate
SimplyCook, a recipe kit with flavour ingredients instead of fresh food, raises further £2M
Carwow, a UK startup that helps you buy a new car, raises $39M Series C
Brolly, an ‘AI-driven’ insurance app, raises £1M seed round led by Valar Ventures and Pi Labs
On-demand delivery startup Jinn pulls out of ‘other markets outside London’
Cleo, a chatbot that wants to replace your banking apps, raises £2M led by LocalGlobe
Hinge Health closes $8M Series A led by Atomico to ‘digitize delivery of healthcare’
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Till next time,
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