I loved doing this interview with the wicked-smart and delightful Ruben Sanchez, just out in Skyword.com’s Innovator Series. Reading it over, I realized that one of the ideas I mentioned to Ruben is something I wanted to develop a bit, so here goes:
In all immodesty, the cool, bristling-with-ideas folks planning startups are overlooking an opportunity: They should be putting old journalists (yes, like me) on their boards. Google “why startups fail,” (see here, here and here for just the first three examples I saw) and you’ll get my point. Veteran journalists have skills that counter common startup plagues.
Take the single-minded commitment of one leader: It may be a criticall thing for a startup, as far as it goes. But listening mostly to yourself is a problem. Run your thoughts past folks who have served the public interests in many different ways over a long period of time, and everyone is likely to learn something. Same with one very narrow idea — enrich it by regularly subjecting it to discussions with those who have long experience with life, and enhance its staying power.
Management weaknesses are another challenge. Anyone new to this arena could benefit from the counsel of those who have found solutions over years of management challenges.
Veteran journalists know how to picture the people they are trying to reach. They know how communities function and what strengthens or weakens democracy. They know how to write, edit, verify, curate. And, stubborn and passionate as we are, old journalists can help by bolstering your tenacity and passion when those are flagging.
Silicon Valley is famous for its lack of gender and ethnic diversity. Both of these lamentable facts decrease startups’ chances of success in our ever more diverse society. Here’s another lack that weakens them. Journalism has made plenty of mistakes over the past few years. Why not benefit from what we’ve learned from them?