Collab/Space Atlanta Workshop Offers Platform for Startups to Work Through Challenges

by Kelsey Mallahan
October 16, 2013

Editor’s note: This is a live blog from the Collab/Space Atlanta workshop. We’ll be updating throughout the day. Stay tuned! 

The Collab/Space Atlanta workshop kicked off this morning, focusing on nine cutting-edge media startups from across the county. Media innovators came together at the Atlanta Tech Village to discuss challenges for startups, and ways they can break through, survive and thrive.

The businesses, all at different stages of development, gave five-minute presentations. Each group also had a chance to answer questions from the audience, which included key people from local media organizations, journalism and communication schools, investment firms and others who are active in the entrepreneurial and media scenes. Then, everyone made a list of the challenges facing each business. In break-out sessions, participants discussed solutions for these challenges.



Participants discuss solutions to Clear Health Costs' challenges.

Participants discuss solutions to Clear Health Costs’ challenges.

Groups break-out into small groups to help startups work through challenges.

Groups break-out into small groups to help startups work through challenges.


Here’s a quick rundown.

What is it?
System that allows advertisers the ability to place their own ads next to content they like.
What are the challenges?
1. How do you scale properly internally?
Possible Solution: When adding staff AdGlue must consider product development and customer service. The startup could consider graduate students or interns for building their product. They can also consider self-help portals to take over the customer service aspect.
2. How do you absorb national publisher with 1,000 sales people to train?
Possible Solution: AdGlue needs to not focus on the 1,000 employees that need to be trained. They should focus on the handful of people who they will train, who will then train sales people locally. This will also help with overflow of feedback coming to them as the product is rolled out.
3. How do you make advertisers want to glue their own ads?
Possible Solution: The company needs to show advertisers the research behind why it’s beneficial to choose their own ad placement. They could also consider producing a light-weight app for advertisers to use that’s really simple.
Other Issues: Is it possible for AdGlue to blow up the model they already have and instead offer more partnerships and less advertising?

Carolina Public Press 
What is it?
Unbiased, investigative journalism for Western North Carolina, focusing on public interest reporting.
What are the challenges? 
1. How do you double revenue in one year?
Possible Solution: Carolina Public Press should hold fundraising events, and offer training around gaining access to public records to increase revenue. They could offer customized research or investigations. They could also syndicate their content or partner with other media outlets (public radio or community newspapers).
2. How do you partner more closely with legacy news outlets and make money?
3. How do you market to a largely sparkly populated area?

San Francisco Public Press
What is it? 
Print publication focusing on local public interest investigating reporting.
What are the challenges? 
1. How do you succeed at a Kickstarter? (Pedal Powered News)
Possible Solution: San Francisco Public Press should build a brand campaign around the Kickstarter. The campaign could include bikes around town, or some sort of event.
2. How do you go from 190 members to 500 in one year?
3. How to do you hone your message for major fundraising conversations?
Possible Solution: The startup needs to consider what its core initiative really is to create a concrete message. They should point to the impact of their previous stories, and give donors specific options to fund. They should also try to up-sell their current donors.

Clear Health Costs 
What is it?
Website that provides real costs of health care that is provided by crowdsourcing, partially by partnering with WNYC.
What are the challenges?
1. How do you expand to new cities?
Possible Solutions: The coding on Clear Health Costs’ site should be targeting where users are come in from geographically. That information can be used to crowdsource new prices for procedures.
2. How do you build on WNYC success?
3. How do you build a software service company?

What is it?
Gmail email newsletter for personal branding with content curation feature.
What are the challenges?
1. How do you break into the internal corporate newsletter market?
Possible Solution: FlashIssue could invite PR professionals from organizations to join a Google+ Hangout to give a tutorial of the product and demonstrate expertise.
2. How do you figure out clients’ unmet needs?
Possible Solution: The startup already has a large base of users to learn from. They should survey them to see what needs aren’t being met. That case study could fuel conversations for the Google+ Hangout.
3. Is the model content curation or email newsletter provider?

What is it?
System for communicating with groups of people through only SMS.
What are the challenges?
1. How do you build the network of “Groundsource?”
2. How do you establish pricing for a product still in beta?
Possible Solutions: Groundsource could establish pricing by asking the customer.
3. How do you size the market?
Possible Solution: The startup should look at their market on a smaller scale, by first thinking about who will use it to get information from users — news organizations, NGOs and researchers.

What is it?
System that allows users to create rich multimedia, with assets that are rights-approved.
What are the challenges?
1. How do you get bigger publishers on board?
Possible Solution: Get specific on what types of businesses you’re targeting. Possibilities include sports outlets (professional to high school athletics) and home improvement outlets.
2.How do you vet content?
Possible Solution: Offer companies, who are worried about spammers or inappropriate content, a series of questions users need to answer before they can submit, which could weed out unwanted submissions.

Social News Desk 
What is it?
Web-based software to manage social accounts for newsrooms.
What are the challenges?
1. How do you reach more television and radio newsrooms?
Possible Solution: Social News Desk needs a strong PR push, maybe focusing on the dynamic woman behind this venture. A YouTube channel could host tutorials or videos explaining the product and why newsrooms should use it. Social News Desk could partner with journalism and communication program students who might bring the product with them in the future.
2. How do you market, outside of conferences?
Possible Solution: The startup should try to sell to a large chain that has radio and TV news products. Social News Desk should try selling the contesting to commercial radio companies.
3. What would a Social News Desk “sales product” look like?
Possible Solutions: Social News Desk should think about getting a corporate sponsor to keep costs for the consumer down. They should also consider marketing and selling themselves as social media consultants.

Voices on the Record
What is it?
A digital cloud and website to store voice recordings of interviews, categorized by tags, topics, dates, etc.
What are the challenges?
1. How do you further distinguish this from other products like SoundCloud?
Possible Solution: Voice on the Record should offer additional media related to the audio files (documents, graphics).
2. How do you verify whose voice is being recorded?
3. What specific tools can help get journalists excited about this product?
Possible Solution: They could create specific forms so it’s easy for journalist to upload and tag content to keep it organized. Also, make it easy for users to retrieve content.
Additional questions: Should this be a specific website or a widget that users can add to their blog or other site?

John C. Yates presents the 7 Practical Pointers for startups.

John C. Yates presents the 7 Practical Pointers for startups.

After the brain-storming sessions, John C. Yates of Morris, Manning & Martin offered some advice for the startups. Yates reminded the businesses to know their audience best and be the smartest person in the room during a pitch to investors.

He also touched on the topic of patents by saying you must be the first to file. If you think it’s a good idea … file! Get the patent before someone else does, even if you haven’t started creating it.

When looking for investors, shoot for the stars, Yates said. He told the startups to super-charge their financial model and let the sky be the limit for who you ask to invest in your company. But Yates did warn, you should know who has the money and who doesn’t. Don’t waste your money asking an investor for money, when they really don’t have the funds. Do your research before you put in the effort. Yates said to look for the people who have invested in companies like yours’ before and start there.

And finally, according to Yates, how your team works together can hurt or help investment. Make sure your team has good synergy and that your investors know that. Invite investors into the work environment to see the enthusiasm.

We also heard from other media innovators including:


San Francisco Public Press and Carolina Public Press present solutions to that came from the breakout sessions.

San Francisco Public Press and Carolina Public Press present solutions to that came from the breakout sessions.

So, what did we learn? Across the board, no matter the subject, startups need to know what their core goal is. As we saw today, these goals can change, but they always needs to be defined. Startups also need to know who they’re targeting. Who will actually use this product? Why should investors care about it, and pay for it? And lastly, know which investors have the money to support your company. Don’t waste time barking up the wrong tree. Do your research.

Many challenges went unsolved today. We will follow our nine startups over the course of the next six months to see if they’ve been able to find solutions. Will they break through, survive and thrive? We’ll see.

Kelsey Mallahan is the Web supervisor and social lead at ABC 6 and FOX 28 in Columbus, Ohio. Before moving to Columbus, Kelsey worked for CBS Television Distribution is Los Angeles, PBS NewsHour in Washington, D.C., and KING 5 in Seattle.

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