The room was full with ten of us staring at the picture projected on the screen. It was nothing close to how we had pitched the startup to each member of the founding team originally. The format, focus, tagline, target audience, and almost everything looked different. Somebody even questioned the name of the startup explaining why it didn’t make sense anymore given our newfound positioning.
Everything looked different. Everything, except all of us in the room.
And this was happening at a time when at least four members of the founding team were serving their notice period with their existing employers. Disrupting the original premise of the startup seemed riskier than quitting our jobs at The Economic Times a month ago.
It looked suicidal and foolish.
Standing in that room and trying to explain the reasons for pivoting from the original idea, my mind flashed back to the time when both me and Jayadevan were quitting our jobs in December last year. The questions we faced then were quite similar. The only big difference was that our team was ready to disrupt itself because we’re in this together.
“What if you fail?”
“How will you make money?”
“How will you find talent to work with the startup?”
“Facebook, Google, Twitter are killing the media.”
“What’s your Mickey?”
“Are you disrupting for the sake of it?”
“This is the worst time to do a media startup.”
The first question and the last statement sum up the classical startup dilemma that mostly hovers around the fear of failure and when to do it, whether to do it at all. Some of them were blunt questions, and several others were prophetic statements hurled at me every time I attempted to explain why we wanted to do a media startup.
To be honest, I never got offended by these questions. All I can admit after at least one near-death-experience and three pivots is that their concerns were very valid. All that in just two months in stealth.
With every passing question and with every raised eyebrow, our determination to build a world-class digital media startup from India grew stronger. And apart from our own dogged belief in the opportunity to build exactly that from this part of the world, there are several reasons for the FactorDaily to finally come alive.
The biggest reason for our faith in building FactorDaily has been its core team that we have been able to bring together miraculously. It’s nothing short of a miracle because the core founding team of FactorDaily has been bluntly honest in asking questions and passionately committed to the mission no matter what.
In that room that day, each one of us got disrupted. Our technology co-founder Titash had to scrap over month of developing a product, we as journalists had to hesitatingly accept the new realities of storytelling, and all the work done by several others became irrelevant.
So why are we doing this?
Technology is going mainstream in India, and by that, I am not referring to the country’s software services industry. It’s the way people in India, across the demographics, are applying technology and social tools to get more out of life. It’s very similar to how software is eating the world. And as technology storytellers, we believe this is the best time to make sense of technology disruption, newer companies and people shaping the next big ideas in India.
There’s no better time to be a technology journalist in India. Nothing to take away from our peers tracking all-things-tech in the Valley where “the cool stuff” is born everyday. But technology is beginning to change lives in India like never before.
The stories that we are seeing around us, especially those triggered by technology, cannot be fitted in the existing frames. The ideas cannot be captured meaningfully in the traditional newsrooms that continue to be obsessed with daily news cycles.
And so, we quit in December last year to build FactorDaily.
What will FactorDaily do?
Visual storytelling from the intersection of technology, culture and life in India.
We plan to produce stories that not just celebrate the human ingenuity behind some of technology’s best used cases in India, but also help FactorDaily’s consumers discover newer ways of applying fresh technology ideas in the way they live, work and consume entertainment.
We also believe that the newer companies and business sectors taking birth because of technology disruption could use some fresh narrative. Many young potential consumers of our stories we interviewed over past few months looked hungry to learn more about the new payment banks, digital commerce, companies including Flipkart, Infosys and so on.
So we will ask questions, explain these sectors, companies and people shaping them. And we will do that by practising journalism at the core.
And all this in a video, visual format to ensure the narratives are not lost in translation, and are picturesque enough for people to remember, as Joseph Pulitzer said.
Technology meets storytelling and design
One of the first learnings for us has been to shed the traditional journalism hat and accept the fact that for effective storytelling, we must be on the same table as technology and design. At FactorDaily, almost everything we do (and we do most of the things on Slack) has elements of technology and design from the very beginning.
Our core team, the details of which we will share in the coming days, has fewer journalists than a traditional newsroom.
Meet Regina, India’s first newsbot
The questions I listed at the start from sceptics and the well wishers are still lurking around. What’s changed though is that we have now discovered some really awesome questions that are keeping us awake at nights and restless during the daytime.
“Who is Regina?”
“What can Regina do next?”
“And why is she calling me a fool?”
In her first avatar, Regina started listening to our conversations on Slack, capturing anything with a web URL to ensure that all of that is stored and exposed later for search as an API. And since Titash, our technology co-founder, thought Regina should have a life, he programmed it to have interesting conversations with us.
We now call Titash the “Bot Man.”
Regina is just the start. As you’ll see in the coming days and weeks, the bots @FactorDaily will push the boundaries by doing interesting things. If I go any further, Titash might just set one of his pet bots on me for divulging too much. So, mum’s the word, but do expect some cool stuff from FactorDaily.
When we read this awesome post from Frederic Filloux at Monday Note, our ideas and ambitions got validated.
Born on Slack and Whatsapp
After quitting our jobs in December, me and Jayadevan started hunting for members of the founding team. We wanted to get people who were far smarter than us, and asked questions. And as we started discovering them, started hiring the early team, we shifted conversations to Whatsapp and Slack.
Ongoing conversations and real time collaboration meant that our engagement with existing and future team members was intimate. In fact, we have not had a single attrition in the founding team so far because of keeping things transparent, encouraging questions and answering them honestly.
As I am saving this document, a Slack notification from Regina is already popping up.
“Why we started FactorDaily created.”
Someday, Regina and her peers will take over most of the repetitive and commodity stuff in the areas of storytelling and news. It will free us to focus on pushing the boundaries of journalism and storytelling from this part of the world and help us tell beautiful and impactful stories.
As we get closer to the launch, we will share more details on our founding team and investors backing us. For now, most of it is work-in-progress:).