By Caitlin Raux Gunther
I’m excited to take on the role of Editor in Chief of The Startup, Medium’s largest publication (680K+ followers). Our tagline, “Build Something Awesome,” gets to the heart of our mission: to help readers get smarter at building their things; and to offer writers a platform to share their stories — of work, inspiration, and creativity.
This year in Paris, after the mandatory quarantine was lifted, one of the first things I did was visit the Centre Pompidou, Paris’s modern art museum. The featured exhibition was a tribute to late artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude, whom I first discovered through their installation, The Gates, in New York City’s Central Park. I was a college student at the time and rode the subway downtown to experience what seemed like a unique moment in history. I remember feeling mesmerized as I watched the gates’ saffron fabric swaying gently in the midtown breeze.
In Paris, the exhibition focused on the artists’ Pont Neuf project — when in 1985, Christo and Jeanne-Claude wrapped Paris’ oldest bridge, Pont Neuf, in shimmering, celestial gold fabric. The result was breathtaking.
Lesser known, and what the exhibition revealed, was the years of meticulous planning and persistent convincing it took to realize it — nearly a decade’s worth.
I left the Pompidou inspired, both by the beauty of the artists’ work and the underlying takeaway:
Great things take time — and a lot of planning.
Speaking of which, as we approach the seven-year mark since our launch, we’ve been doing a lot of planning for the future of The Startup.
We’ve decided to reimagine our publication. Here’s why.
The other day, I told a close friend about my new role at The Startup. After offering her congratulations, she asked, point-blank: Caitlin, what is The Startup?
To me, The Startup should be a digital visit to a space for education and inspiration. As editor, I want to curate original and valuable insights from our contributors. I want readers to walk away inspired — and equipped with the tools to realize their own Pont Neuf.
But more recently, we’ve come up against some challenges.
The Startup has grown — fast. Having nearly 700k followers and a quarter of a million daily readers doesn’t just equal extensive readership. It also means that we get an incredibly high volume of submissions from Medium authors — according to Medium’s internal data team, the highest of any publication on their platform.
The beauty of working with an innovative platform like Medium is that traditional publishing barriers are removed. Anyone (with a Medium account) can submit a story for consideration.
But with that waived entry fee comes the challenge of sifting through all of those stories, and somewhere along the way, our mission got diluted.
As EIC, I want to reaffirm our raison d’être. I want to reestablish our standards and in doing so, give authors better, clearer guidance to boost their chances of being published on The Startup. And, I want to cultivate a diversity of voices.
And authors: Once you submit, we promise, we read and carefully consider every single story. With the Medium interface, we see your headline before we see your name. Our publication decisions are based on merit, not your existing portfolio. The benefit of this, and the excitement for us editors, is that we have the opportunity to offer a platform to new and emerging writers.
And trust me: great writing shines instantly.
So let’s start with our revamped editorial strategy.
To pull back the curtain on our editorial strategy, I think it’s necessary to consider four questions.
1. Who are we?
In short: The Startup isn’t just for tech entrepreneurs.
Our readers and contributors include founders, creatives, designers, developers, marketers, freelancers, and writers.
Some are 9–5 office professionals launching a side hustle; others have already founded a startup (or several); still, others are just at that nascent, daydreaming stage, taking the first step toward planning to build their thing.
Regardless of where they are on their entrepreneurial path, The Startup should be a resource — because it’s never been easier to start a company, but it’s also never been harder to build something successfully.
“It’s never been easier to start a company. It’s never been harder to build one.” — Naval Ravikant
2. What do we cover?
Big picture, our content falls into two categories.
First, the “evergreen” topics. These include:
- Maker life: Entrepreneurship, creativity, freelancing, startups, investing, innovation, marketing, social media
- Culture today: leadership, diversity, inclusivity, climate change and sustainability.
- Technology: Artificial Intelligence, blockchain, cryptocurrencies, VR/AR/MR, IoT, robotics, data science, machine learning and big data.
- Web dev and design: UX, UI, design, developing, programming, apps, software, hardware and SaaS.
Second, stories relating to a monthly theme, which will be shared in our “call for stories” published at the outset of each month.
- This month, we’re interested in: the psychology of building your own thing. How does the entrepreneurial journey affect our state of mind? How does it impact our relationship with others? Is there new thinking on entrepreneurial guilt from taking time off? How does the “always-on” mindset affect our quality of life? Is your startup bleeding into your family time? (Note: please don’t send us a story that reads like a diary entry.) These are just a few examples of potential topics to explore. Most importantly, we want fresh, eye-opening insights. Send us stories that explore your experience with the psychology of building your own thing.
3. How can I be published?
If you’re wondering how to increase your chances of becoming one of our writers, here, some tips for making your story shine when submitting to The Startup.
- Do the research — Not infrequently, we receive stories that include assertion after assertion with zero authoritative sources or research. Unless you’re Elon Musk, you’ll need something to hang your hat on. On second thought, we’d probably ask Musk for links to sources, too. Because even the best writers back their facts up with references — be it published research or expert opinion. Include links to sources that support the factual assertions in your writing.
- Don’t skimp on the intro — You know what they say: first impressions are everything. We receive a lot of submissions that begin with a couple of lines and quickly cut to: X tips for doing Y better. Instead of rushing, get creative with your introduction. Drop us into the action; paint a vivid picture of a real-life example; come up with an attention-grabbing way to introduce us to your story, be it a shocking research finding or a little-known statistic.
- Master the headline — We can help you tweak this part, but the stories that immediately grab our attention already have strong headlines and subheads. Consider the stories that draw you in — do their headlines sound like clickbait-y advertisements? (The Secret to This Productivity Hack Will Shock You!) Or, are they thoughtful, high-quality propositions that leave you deeply curious for more. (Productivity Is About Prioritizing, Not About Time Management). I’m guessing the latter.
- Don’t transplant ideas — Again, we allow and even encourage you to rely on other publications to support your facts. But we do not accept the transplanting of another writer’s ideas entirely. (Also, it violates Medium’s rules against plagiarism.) Simply rewording doesn’t cut the mustard, either.
- Read our publication — Your birth story might be very interesting (I’m a new mom! I love birth stories!) but that doesn’t mean it’s a good fit for our publication. I can’t tell you how many submissions we get on topics that are completely unrelated to our publication. That, or a topic that’s already been covered (e.g., chances are, the story behind [insert big-name startup] has already been told). Take some time to browse our publication before sending us your story.
- Ask yourself: why? Why should the reader spend the time it takes (typically 5–10 minutes) to read your story? Will it add value to their lives? Will it entertain them? Could it change their way of thinking? It’s good practice to consider the “why” before you sit down to write anything.
4. How will The Startup support me, the writer?
During the editing process, we’ll work with authors to make their stories even better. We’ll also regularly share guides and tips for getting published. Consider this the first of an ongoing series of stories from The Startup, aimed at improving our communication and providing you the tools to get your great stories heard.
As an official Medium partner, The Startup will work to achieve an even higher rate of curation for our authors and distribute their stories to an even wider audience.
Whether you’re masterminding a prolific artwork, looking to jumpstart your writing career or launching the VR startup the world never knew it always needed, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s build something awesome.
You can fill out the following form to submit your story.
Thank you for reading.