Steve's ITK

By Steve O'Hear

The elephant in the room

#57・
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Steve's ITK

January 19 · Issue #57 · View online

Steve's In The Know: Everything I published recently, commentary you won't find elsewhere, write-ups of events I attended or spoke at, and industry rumours.


Opening thought: Follow the money
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.
Things I wrote
Funnel closes $47M Series B to prepare marketing data for better reporting and analysis
Atomico promotes surgeon-turned-VC Irina Haivas to partner
Getsafe, the German insurtech, brings its contents insurance app to UK
Grover tops up debt facility to €250M to scale its renting model for consumer electronics
Anyline, the Austrian startup that provides OCR tech, picks up $12M Series A and heads to the US
Oviva scores $21M Series B to bring its digital diabetes treatment to more of Europe
Skyqraft, a startup using AI and drones for electricity power-line inspection, raises $505K
Jolt raises $14.1M for its ‘pay-monthly’ business school
Just Spices, the German spice mix startup, raises €13M Series B
Twitter co-founder Biz Stone backs tutoring platform Scoodle
Bux acquires ‘social’ cryptocurrency investment platform Blockport
Midnite raises $2.5M for its esports betting platform
Study associates frequency, quality of monthly reports with startup success
Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin backs ‘startup generator’ Antler
Closing thought: Content marketing works!
My album pre-launch (see: ITK: #57) is moving along nicely, with the vinyl crowdfunding campaign reaching 64% funded. Aside from this newsletter, the biggest driver of backers has been a Medium post where my co-producer (who just happens to be a music journalist) interviewed me about the project.
A shameless piece of new-fangled content marketing (the type that VCs increasingly do, to my disdain), it tells the story behind the album in an informal and conversational way.
Professional content marketers would likely say it works because it is “authentic” (although, when have you ever known me not to say it as I see it). And I’m sure that is partly true. However, for me it speaks to a wider trend in which people increasingly want to know the provenance behind a piece of work or product, especially in a world dominated by mass production.
You can see that in my recent piece on the boutique makers behind modular synthesisers, and, more cynically, the way founders go out of their way to cultivate a founding story, even if they sometimes get a little too creative!
That’s a long-winded way of saying: THANKS to everyone who has supported the album. And if you want to grab yourself a vinyl copy, there’s still time (also includes a digital download card).
Let's keep the conversation going
Have feedback or something to say? Hit reply. I answer every single ITK email (as long as it isn’t a pitch).
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