Tuesday, October 4, 2011

"Want to do digital? Stop watching TV!"

As a follow up to last week's event at Time Warner, Tania has asked me to write a short article for all of you entrepreneurially minded ladies (and gentleman) who wish to make a career switch to the digital field.

After a stint in the pressure cooker aka Wall Street, I decided that life is too short and that I had to follow my real interests and heart. The self-starter that I am, I launched my own NYC based digital media company (www. reissomnimediagroup.com) and am currently developing digital assets for the company’s portfolio, such as online magazines and mobile apps.

Now, how does someone like me make such a huge career shift you ask? I say “passion and knowledge”.

You may not have much power over the things that you are passionate about, but if you already care about digital media, you need to get knowledgeable about it. Here are a couple of ideas on how to do it:

- Stop watching stupid TV programs and stop surfing the web mindlessly for hours. Instead, use that time to learn about the industry and products. Here are a couple of sites I read everyday and strongly recommend: www.mashable.com, ww.techcrunch.com, www.wsj.com, www.nytimes.com. The last two are important because you cannot understand the relevance of developments in the digital industry without understanding what is going on in the world politically and economically at-large. Context for your newly acquired knowledge is key here.

- Read! I got a lot of heat during the wimlink event for suggesting that you also read a (business) book or two while you are preparing your transition into the new digital space. Books totally rock in my opinion and can give you the breadth and depth of information, analysis, and ideas that no blog or website can.

Here’s a business book I totally recommend “Rework”. If that’s the only book you’ll ever read, then my job here is done. It will change the way you look at the world of business and your potential place within it.

Plus, having a book peek out of your chic handbag makes you look smart instantly :)

- Try to attend as many relevant conferences and other digital media / social media events as possible to gain a deeper understanding of the industry and trends. I know that some of those events can be very expensive, so get in touch with the event organizers and tell them about your situation; Ask for a deep discount or even a free ticket in exchange for your help at the event.

- Before diving into an entrepreneurial venture, apply for an (unpaid) internship at tech / media start-ups or digital media agencies to get an inside scoop on what it takes to run your own company. On top of that, internships are awesome networking opportunities. Those of you who currently have a job can try to consolidate all the vacation days and use that time toward such an internship. I wish someone had given me that idea before I launched…

- If you are thinking of raising venture capital or angel capital, keep three things in mind:
1) you will need a partner in the venture. Investors want to see a team with an eclectic mix of skills and experiences and not a lone wolf, even if it’s Einstein.

2) Getting funded is a numbers game. The more you pitch, the better you get at it, the higher the chance of getting funded. Don’t stop or get discouraged. It won’t be easy, you may cry along the way, but keep in mind that the guy who launched Pandora radio pitched to over 100 VC firms before the money hit the bank. What works in your favor is that investors don’t have many options to invest their funds in this highly unpredictable stock market these days, and they are aggressively looking to find other investment options - you app or website may just be it.

3) “But how will I pay my partner? I am not making any money yet?” you may ask yourself. These days, people work on start-ups initially for an equity share. Research well how much of the 100% pie you are willing to give up in return for a potentially big payout one day, and don’t forget to put everything in writing. I suggest you get a very, very good lawyer for this step and onward. Maybe you can find one who’d accept an equity share in the project for her ongoing legal work and advisory services? See a pattern here?

- Lastly, shake the fear, stop talking and just go for it.


Good luck!
-Karolina

Twitter @karolinareiss

1 comment:

Tania Yuki said...

Thanks for the contribution Karolina! I think I may have been the one giving you (friendly) heat on reading books - to clarify, I definitely agree book-learning is important, but to your later point at some stage you just have to roll your sleeves up and give it a try.

What I have found is that reading about digital is one thing - and am important thing to grasp the basics and special skills/tips - but doing it is a really different experience, and one that you learn rapidly from.