On Tuesday, I took part in a “Shark Tank“-style business competition in IUPUI journalism instructor Adam Wren‘s J409 class on media management. Seven teams of students vied to win the most funding for their media startup.
Joining me at the sharks’ table (the Mark Cuban to my Barbara Corcoran) was Jonathan Scott, digital media manager for Indianapolis Monthly. We each were given (theoretically) $2 million to divide up between the contestants, each of whom then had three minutes for a presentation, followed by three minutes or so of grilling by the “sharks.”
The teams and their ideas really impressed me. Here’s the list:
- Metro City Football (Cory Dawson, Antonio Hernandez, Jenna Spencer, Dylan Trimpe): A one-stop advertiser-supported website to provide football coverage of local high schools and colleges in the Indianapolis area, free of charge.
- Young Entrepreneur Insider Publishing (Dennis Barboza): Providing coverage of the Indy startup scene for entrepreneurs who have raised less than $1 million in funding. Besides a subscription-supported publication, the enterprise would also offer marketing services and events.
- Upbeat Indy (Amelia D’Silva, Kim Dunlap, Theresa Joyce, Kenyari Keith, Jenna Prewett): Billed as “Your source for good news” on serious topics such as the environment, government and business. Supported by a mix of revenues, including “sustaining memberships” in place of subscriptions.
- Circle City Chase (Ali Johnson, James Howell, Mark Tinsley, Xylon Dimoff): A subscription- and ad-supported website “chasing down Indy’s basketball phenoms,” but intended to focus more on personal stories of players and to appeal to a female demographic.
- Naptown Now (no names given on their materials): A subscription- and ad-supported service to cover Indy’s fine arts scene, aimed at a younger demographic. Most intriguing: it would focus on mobile and messaging-service users.
- Indy Poly Hub (Tatijana Marsee, Charlene MacDowell, Hannah Hall, Vincent Roberts, Miche Smith): Create a digital publication that would be the hub for all political news around Indianapolis. They would strike a fun, casual tone similar to TheSkimm.com — which I’m now a subscriber to, thanks to their mention.
- University Buckets (Jennifer Brugh, Seth Fisher, Toree Reed, Antonio Gomez): “Going beyond just the game” to cover all six Division I basketball programs.
Jon Scott and I grilled them on how feasible their funding models were and how completely they had thought out their plans of operation. Most students were wildly optimistic in how they priced subscriptions and in their projections of expected sign-ups and readership.
But everyone had identified an underserved niche of the local media market. My personal favorites: Upbeat Indy’s target of “good news” content, which isn’t a crowded space yet in the local journalism scene, in contrast to sports; and the Naptown News startup, for thinking beyond the desktop web to the real scene of digital media growth — mobile platforms and messaging apps in particular.
Congratulations to all the students for learning how to apply thoughtful analysis and research in laying out their startup plans. I hope they follow through with at least a few of these ideas!