I’ve often been asked over the years why I cover so many funding announcements – as well as scoop more than a few independently – and the answer has largely remained the same.
First and foremost I enjoy early-stage startups and funding the best since I get to talk directly to founders when a business idea is pretty unproven (and subject to change), and typically before the PR handlers have taken over the asylum.
And even though the funding news provides the “in” for a story, more than that it is an opportunity to really drill into the company’s business model and founder-market-fit.
I don’t pretend to be great at all aspects of business and tech journalism, but one area I think I can hold my own is in my ability to tease out and understand what a company does and the problem it is attempting to solve. The (mostly) fun and challenging part is then distilling that down into something digestible for the reader.
Of course, early-stage is also about building relationships with founders and VCs (and sources
) and then being in a prime position to cover a company all the way to exit or IPO, whilst hopefully remaining ‘in the know’. Only a handful of companies make it that far, but I can tell you this, when they do, they tend to remember the first journalist to show an interest when literally nobody gave any fucks.
At least, most do.
As the tech media climate has become more competitive (which is something I definitely welcome) and we remain in frothy times, I’m starting to see a pattern of founders – sometimes pressured by their newly acquired VCs – chasing vanity coverage in traditional media outlets at the expense of the deeper media relationships they have spent the early years building.
Recently, a founder cut me out of their news altogether, despite my pinging them on WhatsApp a few weeks before having independently sourced (but not published) part of the story.
Naturally, the founder apologised afterwards – hey, you can’t win them all! – but then without missing a beat asked if I would like to meet for coffee later in the year so he could tell me about his next new thing.
“I really value relationships,” the founder said with a distinct lack of self-awareness. “Ha,” I replied, with a requisite smiley. “That’s funny because you may have just burned one”.
tl;dr: know when to play it long.