Our goal is that one day we all read newspapers that represent the variety of people, cultures, ideas, and stories that make our world so unique. We want to read only the best stories, the ones that have been created by experts and people on the ground. If we’re going to save quality journalism and foster democratic societies, we need to support the ones who create great stories.
When The Story Market’s founder Lena was preparing the PR campaign for her book on interior design in Iran back in 2017, she reached out to foreign correspondents in Tehran. What she experienced, struck her: No German newspaper had a single journalist working permanently in the country. Having traveled to Iran since 2008, the limited and repetitive coverage in German media made sense suddenly.
Lena started bouncing ideas with acquainted journalists on how to combat the bias around Iran and balance the (accurate) reports on human rights abuses with stories that also needed to be told. Or did you hear until now about the new wave of modern Persian architecture that expresses the desire of Iranians for a revised, modern Persian identity? Lena first went with the idea of a platform for journalists and photographers to pitch stories to international editors. While working full-time on other ventures, one weekend in May 2019, she participated in a Startup Weekend. The goal was to pitch the idea and gain answers to the three big questions of any startup: Do people want the product? Can you build the product? Can you make money with it?
After some in-depth interviews, it became clear that the biggest challenge for journalists was not to sell their stories in the first place. The thought of outsourcing the pitching process made them even uncomfortable. The fear of theft of a story was apparent. Unique story ideas and exclusive access to sources are the secret sauce of journalists.
Then a simple idea popped up: Why are freelance journalists usually selling the story only once? It makes perfect sense that a publisher wants to cover a story first and exclusively in his or her language. But why should foreign editorials not publish it in other languages for other groups of readers?
During one of the interviews, Eric Randolph, Deputy Bureau Chief for Agence France-Presse (AFP) in Istanbul, Turkey, told Lena something surprising. He and his fellow colleagues’ had already discussed translating each other’s articles to expand their potential client’s group. But they never followed up because the translations would have taken up too much of their time. This seemed especially unfavorable as translating was not seen as a popular task by any journalist.
Three weeks later, Lena applied with The Story Market for the Media Startup Fellowship at the MediaLab in Munich, Germany. The only material she had, were a presentation, interview transcripts, and a logo and mockup made in Canva. At the end of July 2019, she competed three days with other startups over the eight available slots and a 40k payout without giving away any shares. Under the pre-condition to develop a prototype and look for a Co-Founder, both necessary requirements for any team, The Story Market made it into the accelerator.
Since then, The Story Market has undergone rapid development. Two months into the fellowship, German publishers joined as partners and Emilia as a new team member. After three months, The Story Market was legally incorporated. After four months, we will now see the platform go live. It may sound as if the team is enormous or composed of workaholics. The opposite is true. We believe in quality, quality in work, and quality in life. That is why we embrace the 80-20-rule and put in the extra 80% when we know the missing 20% of improvement is crucial. We love deep work (check out the book), our work, the work of our users, but also our sleep. We believe we can deliver better results when we see our partners for dinner, make it to our sports class or watch our family growing up and becoming old. The hustling startup culture is capitalism on the most personal level. We are part of a new wave of entrepreneurs. We want to build and challenge, but we also want to contribute to the better of the world.
#sleepisforlosers, #grindneverstops or #hustlehard are dead.
Long live #deepfocus, #80/20 and #happypeoplecreatebetterproducts!
The Story Market
Rosenheimer Straße 145c