Visiting the 614Startups website is like catching up with a familiar friend, meeting a really interesting stranger, and taking a crash course in entrepreneurship, all in just a single click.
Elio Harmon, consultant and entrepreneur, founded this fast-growing community of startup founders, investors, and small business owners as the cornerstone of an innovative media company, committed to tell the story of entrepreneurship in Columbus.
In this Q&A discussion, Elio talks about 614Startups, from concept to content, from affordable advertising options to innovation from head to heart.
EH: I started this company on a whim. I am extremely passionate about it, but I hadn’t thought about this all my life. I didn’t always think that one day I was going to start a media company from scratch.
Rev1: That reminds me of one of your recent blogs. The Best Founders Are the Unintentional Ones. How did you land on this idea?
EH: A friend and I had a podcast called Monetary Therapy. It was about the mistakes that we all make about money. It was a place to come and talk, like money therapy. It was about the time that CoverMyMeds had their acquisition by McKesson. That one caught me completely off-guard. It felt so overnight, even though it wasn’t. One day I was driving by this building in Columbus with their name at the top. The next thing was a big announcement that they were acquired for a billion.
It started me thinking. The story of CoverMyMeds started somewhere. The founders started somewhere. No one in Columbus was telling how those early stage stories became a success. I had the podcast equipment and my buddy had the experience. We decided to create a podcast that helps entrepreneurs tell their stories way before they hit it big.
Rev1: And in 2017, 614Startups went online.
EH: Yes. It was a biweekly podcast. I got on LinkedIn and started messaging people. There is that great Midwestern humility–when you call people, they will talk to you. After about nine months, we went weekly and have been producing about 40 episodes a year. Advertising is the way we have monetized.
Rev1: Your model is different from traditional advertising models for online content.
EH: Yes. instead of advertising on a podcast, we are testing a customer-controlled website where for an annual fee, advertisers can run their own ads and place them where ever on the site. They pay for impressions, not for clicks. This model is more scalable, there are more advertising slots available than in a 30-minute podcast, and advertisers can spend as much or as little as they want.
Rev1: 614Startups provides a wealth of original and curated information for entrepreneurs. Some of it is based on your own experience. Talk about that if you would.
EH: I’ve learned a lot about customers. In a media company like ours, we still need to sell to a person. There is no shortcut around that. At our stage of business, it’s a delicate balance between wanting to make an advertising sale and understanding that every customer has a buy cycle. My sense of urgency is not my customer’s sense of urgency. How do I pitch and make our case without prioritizing a sale over the relationship.
Rev1: Full disclosure–Rev1 is a client of 614Startups. For us, 614Startups provides targeted opportunity to reach the Columbus community via podcasts about entrepreneurs and their companies.
EH: Our relationship is a good example of what I’m talking about. Sponsoring podcasts on 614Startups is a beneficial outcome for us both, and a model that we are encouraging other advertisers to think about.
Rev1: By the nature of your business, you have a broad view of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Central Ohio. What do you see? What recommendations would you make?
EH: In order for Columbus to grow into its full potential as a place where people want to start companies, raise a family, and live, we have to prioritize founder help. It is important to have founders tell their stories. We are a platform for that, where founders can talk about the difficulties of business, about the tough conversations that you have to have, but also to talk about where founders can go to take the right steps to take care of themselves. It’s a solitary situation, founding a company. There is a big network of help out there. Founders here don’t have to go it alone.