Posted on September 25, 2018
Galina: We would like to build a supportive community of Toronto-based startups in a variety of industries by getting to know other founders and ask them about their startup journey. Jacqueline, congratulations of your recently launched podcast! Great idea for those who drive in the morning, and do not get a chance to have a coffee while reading a daily email from Pressed News. What do you enjoy the most about being the founder of Pressed News?
Jacqueline: My favourite part of what I do is that we are trying to make a difference for our readers. We are trying to create a community of smart very busy multidimensional people. Our team is trying to stay informed in different ways. So, how can Pressed help them accomplish that? How to make news easier and more fitting into people’s lives? My favourite part would be trying solve that problem for people, who are just like me, who don’t have time to read a 2,000-word article being left with more questions than answers. And I would like to help them solve that problem.
G: I can totally relate. I get multiple newsletter from different website due the nature of my job and in an attempt to keep the finger of the pulse of the startup community. And sadly I simple do not have all the time in the world to read through all the material.
J: Yeah, there’s a ton of stuff out there, you know.
G: News world is quite a competitive industry I assume. How did you realize that Pressed News would stand out?
J: I think the most important thing is that I created Pressed because it was something I need. I noticed that I never needed to follow any news, because I did not think it would impact me. But of course it would. But what I was not really a fan of was the fact that there was too much jargon, too much going on. I was not able to follow and comprehend anything without some sort of context. So, I quickly realized there was nothing out there actually made for my voice, my schedule. Then I went out and I created that. Yes, media is a competitive industry, but we are targeting people who simply do not have time for lengthy article. Because of that, I don’t think there’s anything in Canada similar to what we do right now.
G: Could you describe the moment when you decided that you should start your own company and left you 9-to-5 career behind? Was this decision made with any fears or doubts? Or was it a well-thought career path?
J: I would say it took me about 5 full months of thinking about it and constantly planning what to do next before I quit my job. So, we started with all the planning.. Actually, talking to people and validating the idea just to see if there were other people like me, who don’t follow the news and who would like the product I was about to introduce. When I discovered that there actually were people like me, I decided that it was definitely worth putting my energy into it. After that we got some traction and PR, we got our first followers, who were not our friends or family, just strangers. And that for us was enough validation. Shortly after that I started to plan out how I could … basically put the money in the bank. Of course, I had a ton of fear in terms of how I was going to pay my bills, what if this would not work out, and I would fail, and so forth. But once I planned everything out, and found out how much money I would need each month for all of my costs, and how much I would need to put aside that really helped me structure everything and make my mind.That way I was not just wasting my mind, but preparing myself for a career change.
G: I admire people like you a lot, who are not afraid to take a risk, because starting something new always has some risky component to it. People like you are true inspiration with a sprinkle of ongoing motivation, who are not afraid to do what they really like.
J: Thank you.
G: What was the biggest challenge to your mind as a female-founder in fundraising? Would you do anything differently?
J: Last year I remember going to a meeting with a white male, and he asked me how much money I was planning to raise. So, I told him, and he said, “Oh, so little. You can raise it within weeks”. And I remember leaving that meeting and thinking, “Well, I haven’t been able to raise it within a week. So, what’s wrong with me?” Men, women, young, old, white, racialized - all that are simply assumptions that we make hoping that other people will like us. Personally I do not come from a wealthy family. I have certain privileges, but not similar to what Mark Zuckerberg has, when you are going out to raise money. As soon as I walk into the room I am at disadvantage. And I felt that way in a few situations already.
Another thing I noticed people do not talk about a lot is that there are so many programs out there specifically to help women. And I don’t know yet if that’s actually helping or hurting them. Otherwise, you are making women compete with each other for a certain number of spots. And that is the problem. I want to be part of the whole pie. I want to be on the same playfield as male, female, white, ethnic, everyone! Not just in the same aisle as women. Anyways, I’m still juggling with that one.
G: Do you plan to raise capital outside of Canada? In US for example? Do you expect the process to be any different? Why?
J: We are already pitching to investors overseas. And I am already seeing a huge difference. In Canada people tend to ask how we are going to make money, and that’s a fair question. In US, however, they care about the growth. The difference is obvious. I cannot speak generally, but so far Americans showed that they think bigger, more of your potential. Whereas, Canadian investors would like to know how you are going to make money right now. It’s a little bit more guarded here [in Canada].
G: Did you and your team have to pivot while building Pressed News the way we know it today? What would you say to encourage teams, who had to step away from their initial idea?
J: I would say that we were too early then. But I know that we wanted to make a big pivot. We started out as a Canadian version of a big American publication. But very fast I realized that it was not the actual focus of Pressed News. There were so many problems we were trying to solve. When I say “news” I mean there might be an interesting story regarding some political topic but it should be written in a different way because, for example, I’m not good at politics, but I want to understand what this story would mean for me from a political perspective. Because of that we decided that we would not be a simple publication, but something different offering our news via podcast too. That became a foundation and judgement form of the app, which is developing right now. The definition of our brand and how we are growing has changed as well as a consequence of our pivot. I don’t think our mission has changed at all, we are now just developing the ideas, which we did not think of at the very beginning.
When it comes to pivoting, I’d love to recommend new entrepreneurs to find our what their big vision is and stick to it.. To my mind it should be something they believe in versus something other people think they should do.
G: How many active users/followers did you have at the moment when you thought to yourself: “Omg, it is working!”?
J: Oh, we are not there yet, haha. Everyday we get more followers, and I don’t think there will ever be a number to determine the beginning of success, so to speak. I’d actually think of engagement rather than a number of followers because we just started. For example, for the last few months we had 44%, which is pretty high than average, which makes us feel like we are doing something right
G: What is you long-term goal for Pressed News? Do you have a certain milestone(s), which would be a sign for you that you have made it?
J: I think our goal this year is to raise money. If we can make that happen by the end of this year it will mean for us that we made that happen. Our long-term goal is to become a news resource for Canadian people, who are young like us, who don’t follow the news, who will know that if they did not get something, they will be able to look it up on Pressed News, where I will teach them what it was all about. I want to be there to help household people, when they are simply caught up with their busy schedules.
G: Why 5 top news only?
J: Well sometimes we have 4 or 6, but most often we do have only 5 top news, that’s right. We did a lot of testing at the beginning. We asked people when they stopped reading, and based on all the data we concluded that 5 was a good number before people’s attention was blocked.
G: Toronto is a multicultural city with a lot of languages spoken. Are you planning to offer Pressed News newsletters published in some other languages except for English? Maybe French, Spanish, or Mandarin?
J: That is a really good question. I think at this point all we are offering is English. But who knows? Maybe things will change in the future.
G: What is the best advice you were ever given?
J: My Dad told me once: “If it does not scare you it is probably not worth doing”. Every time I go to speak at an event or do something else that scares me I feel that it is the right decision.
G: That is a very good one. I may steal it from you, actually.
J: Haha. Go ahead, please
G: Is it true that there’s no work-life balance in the startup world?
J: Haha. At this moment it’s hard for me to say because I do the work that I really love. So, the work is part of my life, which is part of my social because I found a lot of friends in the startup world. I will say though that your work should not be your life. I did have to start break in other things I love. I love dogs. So, I went back to volunteering in a dog shelter. I used to do yoga once a day, but now it’s just once a week. I find that you should take of yourself as hard as you take care of your business. If you break down or you get sick you business will also fail. So, I look at this like that now. I don’t know if the work-life balance does not exist. I think it should. I’m just not very good at it yet.
G: Where do you find inspiration when life becomes too hectic?
J: I run a lot. I also go for a lot of walks to think about things. And then I realize that the world is so much bigger than the problem.
G: Jacqueline thank you very much for the interview. It was a pleasure discussing with you how Pressed News may help your platform users understand news better, and have a lot of their time saved on the jargon decoding.
For those, who haven’t signed up yet, and are looking for time-efficient ways to follow the news written “in real words”, please check out Pressed News