PR is powerful. It’s the special magic of making a business meaningful to the media, making it something the media can work with. I’ve watched people’s profiles light up because of good PR strategy, and I’ve seen it make stock fly off shelves.
I built a tech startup on the belief that editorial coverage can happen for anyone if the right information is made accessible to them. I was interested in empowering businesses to tackle PR on their own behalf. Young businesses with big ideas but tiny budgets. Those that are newsworthy but can’t yet hire a PR firm. I wanted to build a platform that provides validated, up-to-date media contacts, sorted logically by industry.
My startup has now ‘gone live’ in a couple of major markets. It was picked up by a prestigious accelerator in Berlin just after it launched and now I’ve being invited to incredible conferences around the world. But the journey was rocky, and I was sustained only by belief in my vision and the belief my loved ones had in me.
Tomorrow’s best business communicators cut their teeth on snapchat captions
I was at the 10 year mark in my PR career and at the strategic forefront. My skill as a Fashion & Luxury specialist had taken me to big glamorous cities like Dubai and London. I’d run a highly-regarded agency with my name over the door for years. I was still in love with doing PR work when I turned my face to a new direction.
The world of PR has always been behind a velvet rope; an exclusive world with secret networks. My vision was to open this world of opportunities to those who also deserve a seat at the table.
When you set out to build something you believe will solve a big problem, that vision can be so crystal clear that you underestimate the weight of the challenges you will face.
Part of the problem was the unaffordability of Public Relations. Few bootstrapping businesses can afford PR consultancies. Another part of the problem was information accessibility.
There wasn’t a reliable, affordable resource for accessing media contacts for independent businesses in my corner of the world. Media data companies were serving the big end of town and the communications industry, but for small businesses there was nothing. No one was making the best use of digital technology to deliver small businesses the constant updates that happen in media.
I worked with developers to create a platform that delivered the names and contacts for key media people, sorted into tidy industry categories. Crucially the platform we built made this intel both affordable and fathomable to users who are outside the world of professional communications. We left out the complex metrics, I didn’t want it to alienate anyone with a good story to tell.
I’ve watched people’s profiles light up because of good PR strategy, and I’ve seen it make stock fly off shelves.
Enter here for a chance to win free media lists for your business.
How tech do you need to be, technically?
When you set out to build something you believe will solve a big problem, that vision can be so crystal clear that you underestimate the weight of the challenges you will face. I entered the tech world fairly read-up on it’s inequality issues. The stories of sexism, under-representation and funding discrimination were filtering through the media.
Here are the ways I navigated it and a few things I learned.
Firstly, I worked out early on that I wanted to self-fund rather than take on investment. My early experiences with the investment world cemented this resolve. This to me was an empowerment issue. It was really reassuring that there was early investment interest in the concept.
Words like ‘scalable’ were peppered through conversations, and “you can add a zero to that price point”. However I knew instinctively that if I took on investment early then List Co. would not make it to market as the accessible service I believed it should be.
I met with a female VC at this early juncture. I told her I was hearing out investment options, but I felt I could personally fund the project to launch. Her advice; “Lady, do it”.
Bringing something to market with the vision intact can be an ideal worth holding onto. You will be in a better bargaining position down the track once the concept has been ‘proven’. When it’s ready to scale there’s no doubt the right kind of capital will help your startup achieve it’s potential.
Secondly, I regret not learning to code prior to building List Co. Working with tech leads and coders requires you to think in new ways just to see information the way they see it. I strongly believe every creative thinker and business mind should learn to code. You may never use the skill to build something, but when the time comes to work with a tech team you will be a greater support to their work process.
How much can you withstand before it begins to take shape?
And finally, the setbacks. Realistically, most tech builds take three times longer than expected. When you kick off with all the gumption in the world you think your project will take six weeks to accomplish. This is something you will laugh about in the end.
It’s often said that setbacks can work in your favour. That’s truly an annoying thing to hear when you are facing technical hurdles and coders gone AWOL. I can look back now and see how the long technical delays that List Co. experienced made it an even better product. Six months in I had finalised the media lists planned for industries like Fashion, Interior Design, Travel and Food, but the platform itself was far from finished. So while I waited I began to build resources for the other markets that I have worked in and am passionate about, including the UK, Asia and the Middle East. Ultimately, launching with a number of markets ready to go has given List Co. greater dimension and opened up opportunity for the users.
List Co. is now live in the US and Australia with media contact lists for the consumer-facing industries. It will be launching in other markets soon also. The dream is to bring it to every market with an entrepreneurial community that needs valuable, up-to-date media contacts. Ultimately I hope it helps to change the balance of representation in consumer media.
If you are a woman, a person of color or LGBTIA+ identified and are a part of a start-up company, this is the competition for you. The SoGal Global Pitch Competition is being hosted in over 25 cities and will culminate in a final contest in Silicon Valley as well as a "3-day immersive educational bootcamp." This could be an unprecedented opportunity for you, your business and for the future of entrepreneurial diversification.
We all know how important diversity is for the world and for any business entity. But the statistics need to catch up with these ideals, because diversity isn't just a moral imperative it can also have an impact on the success and efficiency of a business. So if the ethics isn't enough to get you interested, maybe these statistics will.
- Companies in the top quartile for ethnic and racial diversity are 35% more likely to have above-average financial returns
- Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15% more likely to have above-average financial returns
- Bottom quartile companies (in both gender and racial diversity) are less likely to achieve even average returns
- In senior executive teams in the US for every 10% increase in racial and ethnic diversity EBIT (earnings before interest and tax) rose 0.8%
Despite the fact that diversity is good for business, funding as a woman or a minority is incredibly challenging, but this competition could be someone's game-changing opportunity.
SoGal is a global education and empowerment platform focused on diverse investors and entrepreneurs. Their mission is "to close the diversity gap in entrepreneurship and venture capital." A tall order, given that 2.2% of VC funding went to women in 2018. Compounding the gender gap with race shows an even poorer picture: in the past decade only 0.1% (yes, that is a decimal) of funding was allocated to black women.
It is a straight up fact that companies with higher levels of diversity perform better, so why is it so hard for diverse start-ups to get funded? Oh right, racism, sexism, homophobia, implicit biases, inequality, classism... the list goes on, but thankfully that's where SoGal comes in! According to Kelley Elizabeth Henry, director of SoGal, "We're done waiting for these statistics to change; we're taking action to point investment capital toward these diverse-led startups. [...] We will change the future of entrepreneurship."
To enter this competition all you have to do is be a part of a pre-Series A startup (raised less than $3M) and have at least one "woman or diverse" founder. After you apply to pitch, you'll have to be able to make it to one of the "regional round location," which range from the more typical options of New York and Los Angeles to global locations such as Nairobi or Bangalore. And, if you're really playing to win, you better earmark February 28 to March 1 of next year, because that's when the top teams will be in San Francisco duking it out to the very end. And by "duking it out," I mean participating in "curated educational programming," talking to press and getting "facetime in front of top-tier investors." Though not everyone can win, the experience in itself looks to be well-worth the time it takes to fill out an application form and huff it to the nearest large city for the first round.