I spend an inordinate, embarrassing amount of time reading things on the internet. I mean, I can always justify it (writing online is my JOB, right?) but the reality is that sometimes it’s so much easier to click on the gossip article on Jezebel than it is to read the article about the civil war in Syria or the latest in US politics on the New York Times.
So I’m totally going to start using Newsgrape. This crowdfunded website has a list of popular categories on the right that you can choose from and tabs on the top for “top,” “trending,” and “new” articles. If you’re a voracious consumer of news (and whatever passes for “news” on the internet these days), here’s an organized way to read interesting, intelligent analysis of what’s going on in the world. And if you’re a writer, you can post your content here and build up your online presence and fan base.
Co-founder Leo Fasbender turned down the techno to answer some KillerStartups questions about his company, dealing with frustration and what keeps him going day to day. Oh, by the way, I definitely created my account while writing this intro and have since received a personalized email with a great photo greeting from the sales manager, Lukas Quittan. In a time when it’s so easy to be virtual and impersonal, it’s little touches like this that make ALL the difference.
How’d you come up with the name for your company?
It was during a late night session via Skype. I was in Newcastle upon Tyne, Great Britain, where I went to college. We had a long list of possible names and started asking our friends via Facebook Chat and Skype which one they’d like best. In the end, it was a tight vote.
What’s the very first thing you do at work everyday?
Make myself a huge cup of coffee. And if this doesn’t count, set up a quick to-do-list and read the news.
How many people did you start the company with and how many people work for you now?
We started the company as two co-founders and one senior developer. The team soon grew and we’re now ten people focusing on all sorts of different aspects such as marketing, community management and development.
Remember the early days starting up? Maybe you can share one anecdote that describe the struggle you went through?
In our earliest days we raised our first funds via Kickstarter. Now, two years ago, crowd funding was still a fairly new thing, particularly in Europe. And to make things worse, this is exactly where we were based (now I’m mainly work out of Palo Alto). In the end, we had to explain not just what Newsgrape is about, but also how crowfunding works, and for example, that you get your money back if the funding goal is not reached.
Would you recommend other people to found / work in a startup?
That is an excellent question! To everyone who is thinking about starting a startup or joining a startup team, keep in mind that this is a double edged sword and probably won’t suit everyone: On the one hand, working in a startup – even as an intern – allows you to participate in the company on an entirely different level, than being a regular employee in a company. Which is awesome and allows you to learn so much more. On the other hand, it will also mean that you might have to wait for your paycheck or accept an overall much lower income than you might get otherwise. Thinking about it, yes, the experience is definitely worth it, even if you’re going to do something entirely different afterwards.
How do you handle frustration? When/how was the last time you dealt with frustration?
I try to disconnect every once in a while, for example I try not to read or answer any emails on Sundays. For me, usually the worst part is in the morning when I wake up at like 5am, not able to fall back asleep. The last time we went through a phase like this was a couple of months ago, when we were in the process of closing our Seed Round and had to coordinate with multiple investors in different countries.
What’s your office environment like? Is it the kind of place where everyone is bumpin’ away to house music or is it more traditional?
Definitely more the house music type place – although we listen to techno or minimal mostly.
How do you picture your company in 5 years?
As a young and dedicated team of smart people, based all around the world, doing what they do best and love doing: solving problems and bringing people together. My dream is to be able to travel around and work out of Hong-Kong or Tel Aviv, Berlin or Moscow, San Francisco or London.
Who or what inspires YOU? Role models? Quotes? Running? Video games? Snack food? Give us the deets, dude!
Excellent question! Not sure actually. I guess more than anything else my role models are people like Robert Scoble, who have some of the most awesome job there are – the do what they love and they have fun doing it.
How’d you fund this venture? VC? Self-funding? Crowd-funded? Where’d you get the money, man?
We’ve raised our first funds with Kickstarter, 16k USD to be precise, which we used to launch a basic prototype, and we were able to close a Seed Round from a group of investors, raising about a quarter million USD.
Got any great bootstrapping tips for the lean startups out there?
Build fast, fail fast.
My good friend Leo Widrich of Buffer recently shared a great quote that I’d like to share with you here: “I make mistakes faster than anybody. I think, go, do. That’s the Omniture mantra. While you’re figuring out what to do, we’ve tried two different things and have figured out the right one.” ~ Josh James
What would you be doing if you had one year off and $500,000 to spend (and you couldn’t spend it on your current startup / projects)
I would use this time and the funds in a way that would allow me to utilize the experience I gained in founding a startup to improve the hugely ineffective and inefficient European startup ecosystem, perhaps by traveling around and offering help, by setting up networks and connecting seemingly independent dots.
Do you consider yourself a successful entrepreneur right now? If not, what’s it gonna take to make you feel successful?
I would consider myself a successful entrepreneur once I have taken part in creating a stable company that has been running profitable for a couple of years in a row. In fact, it has actually nothing to do with the amount of money generated, it is about creating a sustainable, long term business model that guarantees everyone involved can focus on what he does best.
Website you couldn’t live without and why?
Google Maps – I’ve got a horrible (non existing) sense of orientation!
Mobile App you’re in love with and why?
Google Maps – does it count a second time?
Dogs or cats?
iOS or Android?
iOS! (I’ve been a happy Apple user way before it become mainstream…)
Number 1 country you’ve always wanted to visit but haven’t yet?
Japan. Or maybe Israel? Thats a tough question!
What’s the greatest thing about your company/website/idea?
It attempts to make an infrastructure more efficient, that has been around for decades and competes with some really big players, doing so.
Where can our readers get ahold of you? Facebook? Twitter? Google+? Personal blog? Any other projects you’re working on that we should check out?