In 2009, Christopher Wink joined hands with two other fellow undergrads in starting a tech blog that has morphed into Technically Media, which today publishes local tech news and runs events networks in five U.S. cities, all on the East Coast.
Wink wears multiple hats – as a journalist that of the ultimate pessimist, and as an entrepreneur that of an eternal optimist. This dual role has defined both Technically’s journalism as well as its business, as he bids to build a sustainable media company.
“We want to go somewhere because we think we can have impact not because it looks pretty on a map. I think our footprint can expand under the logic that we are doing it for the right reasons and I am a naïve believer in the long-term benefit of doing what is right,” Wink, who studied political science at Temple University, told citybizlist in an interview.
“I do not talk about months I talk about years. I probably have since I was eight years old. I am not interested in short-term impact. I do everything forever,” he added.
Wink also runs the social impact site Generocity.org and sits on the boards of on the nonprofit youth coding program Coded by Kids, the project-based Workshop School, and the Pen and Pencil Club.
EDWIN WARFIELD: Journalism, clearly, is in search of new business models. How does Technically’s way forward look like?
CHRIS WINK: Right now, Technically publishes in Philadelphia, Brooklyn, Delaware, Baltimore and D.C. We expect to continue to have a larger footprint but we care a lot about those communities where we are now and that is our first and primary responsibility, and so more generally have lots of live conversations.
We are a bootstrapped organization up until this point. We have been built on our own revenue and our own desperation, and lots of hard work. So that means whenever we go to the next community we do it under the guise that this is a long-term sustainable decision. I have no interest in going somewhere and leaving. So I do not talk about months I talk about years. I probably have since I was eight years old. I am not interested in short-term impact. I do everything forever.
We have been in Baltimore for five years and I am like, okay, we are just getting settled. I do not think that local news specifically, but meaningful organizations generally, can have short-term impact that matters. I don’t think that even exists. I think you can start something, you can be a catalyst, there are lots of great short-term catalysts. But I intend on building something that can last or have impact far longer than my individual role in it and that's going to mean finding sustainability. Ideologically, I am super interested in understanding how local journalism can be supported by the market and that's what I have been doing for the last seven years of my life.
EDWIN WARFIELD: You eschewed traditional online advertising, you saw that there was not a model. Events make up 73% of your revenues, and you also have Studio, Creative and Talent. Can you tell us about the original business plan and how is has evolved?
CHRIS WINK: We are a 25-person team, growing revenue year over year. I think we grew by a third from 2015 to 2016, and we will do something similar to that in 2017. We continue to grow and we tend to be, I think our agency is shockingly open, which is strange to me. I think we lie to each other a lot as humans. I find it really strange, particularly among an entrepreneurship community, that we like to talk so much about collaboration and open source communities, I am surprised how much of that feels like a lie to me.
We are at the cocktail party, everything is up into the right, everything is working, all my metrics are perfect. So the more and more I found that as an entrepreneur and feeling, you know, relatively confident that we had reached some stability, lots of challenges and problems, I found myself wanting to be a lot more comfortable in those small talk conversations, to be the first one who says this is working, and this (is what) I am struggling with or here is something we are trying that is just starting and I have no idea if it is going to work. This is a lot truer to me, this story of building a company, than (saying) everything’s working.
I think I spent the first several years as a very nervous, very scared, very struggling young founder who could not understand why everyone's companies were thriving except for mine. Then as I got better about reporting them I found that no one’s were (thriving). It was an elaborate lie and people get in front of cameras and lie about everything working and everything is perfect and I am going to buy Google tomorrow. I would love if we got a lot real-er and I think it would be a lot better for a lot more people if we were more honest about how hard this is and how rare it is to work.
Yeah, I would love to be a part of talking about…$1.67 million in 2016, (being) on really tight margins. Everyone on our team knows it and anyone who wants to talk about it can talk about it. We are profitable but it is hard and we work really hard and we are not at the meaningful, thriving place that the halcyon days of mid- to late-20th century journalism was built on. I think that if you care about journalism, if you care about economic impact, if you care about entrepreneurship, we want companies to be meaningfully profitable because it allows for experimentation, it allows for risk, that is where you can take chances. I think we should talk about that a lot more and I will be happy to join that conversation.
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