My Life as a Startup – The Road Not Taken

Posted: November 8, 2011 in My Data Journey
Tags: , , ,

So things have gone quiet on the blog front but screamingly loud behind the scenes. I have met some amazing and inspiring people in both the US and Canada. A lot of them have been taken aback by my journey which I have documented here and which I should update on my timeline.

I have called myself a ‘human experiment’. I am trying to create a so-called ‘Data Journalist’ and left the newsroom to retrain. Whilst working with a startup I have come to realise that I am not an experiment, I am a startup. A living, breathing, learning, iterating, startup.

I have used the web to test my seed idea by finding organisations like HacksHackers and attending conferences like NewsRewired. I have used this blog and my journey to seek validation. I have acted to develop my business acumen, creating point stories, Twitter accounts and bots.

I now have ‘Angel’ funding provided by the Knight Foundation and invested by Mozilla. This means I have to go into testing. Across the Atlantic I was doing a lot of outreach. I believed in ScraperWiki more than myself, in some ways I still do. They are a proper startup, a business, an institution, and I believe in their power as a tool for social good. And that will never die. And so the startup will never fail in my eyes.

As the tech startup joke goes: “A million guys walk in to a Silicon Valley bar. None of them buy anything. The bar is declared a rousing success.” Business is a hard world. Your passion for business is fundamentally what is needed to drive even the best ideas. My passion is not in business development, it’s in news development. And good news will always find a way to survive. I am not looking to succeed as a business but as a startup. So how can a startup not be a business?

In the same vein, how can an experiment not have a tangible result? I was never going to get to a stage when I could say ‘I have succeeded’. My experiment was to see if learning some programming (that journey still continues) and gathering news differently, would be a viable route into a newsroom (when newsrooms are hemorrhaging people and resources) in order to produce news and not just talk about it. I wondered, can I restructure myself faster and in the right direction of the evolving news industry by using the lean startup mode of discovery.

Now that has been verified, it’s back to the hypothesis. It’s back to testing and now I have a lab that is willing to take me on, The Guardian. And I couldn’t ask for a better lab. But it’s up to me to continue the research.

I was blown over by the ‘congratulations’ I received at the announcement of my fellowship (which was uploaded here, here and here) but the fellowship is not an acknowledgement of what I have done, but an opportunity to test out what I can do. It’s the end of one leg of my journey and the beginning of an even more daunting road.

My journey is made less daunting by the fact that I have travel partners in Cole Gillespie, Dan Schultz, Laurian Gridinoc and Mark Boas (although their skills and experience make for quite intimidating company). I have carriage provided by The Guardian and service by Knight.

So what is my success? What is my lesson learnt? I took the road less traveled by and that has made all the difference:

  1. We are all living, learning, growing, and evolving, Nicola. Nobody is ever “done,” and everyone has their own special super-hero power. You’re putting yourself on the learning edge, and that’s an incredibly awesome place to be. Enjoy it, rock it, and be it. 🙂

    Congrats again. The Guardian is lucky to have you. I can’t wait to watch the next twelve months unfold.


  2. […] My Life as a Startup – The Road not Taken by The Guardian fellow – Nicola Hughes […]

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