For almost 8 years, I have been blogging about technology and critically reviewing hundreds of startups and apps (until recently in German, only). Between 2010 and 2014 even as my main job. But a month ago, for the first time since I began my tech blogging “career”, I joined a startup: I become Head of Curation at Newscron, a Swiss-based company that recently released the iPhone and Android app Niuws, which offers hand-curated news by experts for professionals (for now, D-A-CH only).
So how does it feel to “switch sides”, moving from tech blogging (which I obviously continue with here) to working with a tech startup?!
Overall, those many years of covering new technology and Internet companies seem to have prepared me well for working at a startup. Thanks to many interviews I have conducted, tons of email conversations with founders and startup representatives as well as thousands of consumed articles and blog posts about startups, I more or less knew what to expect. However, some mindset and habit adjustments were necessary to make myself compatible with the startup life.
Here are my insights and learnings so far:
As a tech writer, one is trained to quickly find weaknesses and bugs in a new software and to prominently point them out. Even though simple bashing without any empathy is not my thing, I never hesitated voicing constructive criticism and demands for quick improvements. It’s the beauty of tech blogging: You can say what you think and do not need to worry too much about the product team’s or engineer’s workload, or whether they get enough sleep to function. That changes once one is part of a startup and realizes that not every issue can be fixed asap and not every feature request can be fulfilled as fast as one would like. Learning to cope with that reality and becoming more patient is a task I am still working on.
As a long-time tech writer I am used to be very opinionated about all kinds of things. At least if one does not have any other assignments that require discretion and self-restraint, (independent) tech writers enjoy quite a high level of freedom of expression. When I joined Newscron that did not formaly change a lot. But naturally I to some extent became a semi-official spokesperson for the company. Especially if one has built up a significant followership on social media, an added level of responsibility arises. For most people the situation I am describing is likely the default mode. But after years of essential being opinionated as a profession, this is a new situation. Nothing major, but something that I keep in mind.
It has only been some weeks, and I am not even physically present but working remotely. Still and despite my theoretical knowledge about startups, my learning curve about processes, problem-solving approaches and internal communication is steep. I expect this to continue that way. I cannot stress enough how valuable this experience is. Not that I am surprised. I would not go as far as to say that tech writers need to have experience from working at a startup. But the additional perspective won’t hurt.
For the moment, I could not be more happy with my decision to try startup life. Being closely involved with the launch of a consumer-facing app when one has covered these kind of events over and over as an independent observer is an exciting and insightful experience. Of course it helps that I believe that Niuws, even in its early stage, is a pretty cool app.
That actually was my precondition to even consider joining a startup: Apart from my preference for remote-working, a crucial criteria was that the tech writer in me needed to be instantly convinced about the concept. Because truth is, I could not work for a company whose product I would not get excited about or whose product I even would pick to pieces as a writer.
(Photo: Flickr/dierken, CC BY 2.0)