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The View From Startup Island

Through impromptu encounters or coffee chats that inevitably take weeks to schedule, we've found inspiration, creative collaborators and a de facto family (not to mention a robust focus group).

By Noah Rosenberg

I’m racing through the British countryside right now, traveling via train from London to speak at the Sheffield Doc/Fest, a film and digital media conference. As an entrepreneur, much of my time is spent racing–between meetings, deadlines, ideas, even just racing against the clock. And the view’s not always this pretty. But none of us entrepreneurs do this simply for the glory–if we’re fortunate enough to ever taste it–and we certainly don’t do it for the relaxation. We do it because we’ve identified a problem we need to fix, and because our passion won’t let us stop until we’ve succeeded, or at least desperately failed trying.

As we try to build our storytelling startup, Narratively, into a successful and sustainable media company, my co-founder, Brendan Spiegel, and I often seem to operate on a wavelength that only the two of us can understand. Try sitting next to us late on a Friday afternoon as we burst into exhausted and uncontrollable laughter while struggling to come up with a headline for a story that just won’t cooperate.

So we relish meeting other entrepreneurs who can relate to the madness and the joy, people who, like us, understand that one emotion means nothing without the other. Brendan and I, and the rest of the Narratively crew, have found our people at the Made in New York Media Center, where we’ve worked since December. Through impromptu encounters or coffee chats that inevitably take weeks to schedule, we’ve found inspiration, creative collaborators and a de facto family (not to mention a robust focus group).

But because of our mounting to-do’s, it’s a rarity that we get the chance to digest all the ideas and feedback we’ve gathered. It all just tends to swirl in our heads until we finally have the time to download one another and formulate a plan, which may take weeks or even months.

That all changed when we participated in a recent Demo Day at the Media Center, at which Narratively and three other startups had the opportunity to show our stuff. Ask anyone who knows us, and we all think and breathe and talk constantly about our respective companies, but having a structured set of deadlines made progress impossible to ignore.

Brendan and I were paired with three phenomenal advisors in Reuben Steiger, Ryan McLaughlin and Heather Stuckey, who brought a wealth of media experience and a shared passion for storytelling and its transformative powers. They helped us perfect the slides for our presentation, think through revenue opportunities, and connect us to industry heavies. And they gave us real, honest feedback.

Through meetings, phone calls, emails and dinners, we are still benefitting from their advice, several weeks after Brendan and I got up in front of a crowd at the Media Center’s Demo Day and laid out the Narratively vision.

It was an important milestone for us, a chance to explain to everyone why we’ve been working so hard. And we’re pretty sure they understood.

So many of the entrepreneurs, investors and media disrupters in the crowd that night know firsthand how long and lonely of a journey building a business or a product can be. Which is why it’s all the more important for us each to stop and check out the view every now and then. How better to remind ourselves of what a stunning and singular journey it can be?

Narratively | Human stories, boldly told.

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