Courier :: Q&A

The fall of Lehman Brothers on September 15 2008 officially marked the beginning of the current recession. Five years in and we’ve had several false starts of ‘the recession is over’ and politicians evangelising over euphemisms of growth, more commonly known as ‘green shoots of recovery’. Historical precedents suggest that recessions are good times to start a business, see Hewlett Packard, Microsoft, Electronic Arts, Adobe, Disney to name a few. Add the rise of new technologies and flexible working conditions, and the owner of a laptop, mobile and broadband have the basic tools for 21st century business at their disposable. Jeff Taylor and Soheb Panja are founders of the free business newspaper Courier. Both are capturing the current start-up zeitgeist of doing more with less. The paper reads like the FT for a start-up generation less concerned about stock prices and more interested in useful information that will help their business grow. We caught up with these new-age publishers to find out more about their own burgeoning start-up. Q) Tell us a bit about the Courier? Courier is a free newspaper distributed in over a hundred locations around London. We focus on interesting modern businesses and the people behind them. We try to cover ‘business’ and work related stuff from the angle of smaller, younger businesses. We’re not so interested in the corporate and financial stories the business press generally fixates on. Q) Courier is produced by creative agency, Tomorrowland, what motivated the launch of the newspaper? Tomorrowland came about because of our backgrounds (Jeff is a former Advertising Planner and Client and Soheb worked as a business journalist and latterly in communications). Clients asked us to work with them, initially on small pieces of work but increasingly with big brands in the UK and abroad. We were creating different kinds of content, including print and digital magazines for our clients, and started seeing an opportunity to create a new consumer title around the area of modern business that we were quite interested in. Q) Courier is the like the FT for the creative and tech start-up generation, what has been the feedback from your target audience? People have responded really well to it. I think the massive interest we’ve had in Courier reinforces that there is a whole new group of smart, curious people interested in business, many of whom even own their own company, but have very little interest in Vodafone’s share price or bond markets. Some however struggle to understand who Courier is for and feel it is not as SERIOUS as what they’re used to. We’re quite happy with this-its certainly not for everyone and we’ve never set out with that broad a target in mind. The FT and business press are great for some people. We’re trying to appeal to an audience who doesn’t dovetail so neatly with those titles and who value the role of creativity, innovation and less qualitative/measurable factors. Also I think our definition of ‘luxury’ is very different to theirs. Q) ‘Start- up’ culture is the current UK zeitgeist, what do you think has been the main impetus of the culture change? It’s a mixture of things. Starting a business has become a less risky option as a result of fewer job opportunities and less stability in employment. Digital and social media have also made starting something up easier and cheaper. There’s perhaps also been a fresher sense of the kind of person who typically starts a business. Now anyone with a brain, a laptop and a sense of adventure can give it a go and whilst startup culture may be the current media fad, we see self-employment and small, startup business is a much broader, longer term societal shift Q) Is there a danger that the positive spin on entrepreneurialism – from policy level to press – is building unrealistic expectations of setting up a business? Absolutely. There is a romanticising of starting a business that emphasises the teenager who sells the company he set up from his bedroom for an astronomical sum, rather than the reality that 25% of businesses fail after their first year and over a half after four years. We’re also acutely aware of the spin propelling fledgling tech companies in London. The hype machine risks creating a bubble with inevitable consequences for this important but fragile sector, but also does a disservice to new businesses in other sectors. We try really hard at Courier to avoid all that and focus instead on real people and real stories. Q) What do you think are the key elements needed in a ‘start up’ to thrive and make it into a successful business? Persistence; a sense of balance; a willingness to work fucking hard; and a capacity for self-reflection and analysis. And, of course, luck. Q) What’s been the most interesting thing you’ve learnt since setting up the Courier? That people aren’t just self-serving but will help you just because they like what you do and are generous. We’ve had so much support from people we never dreamed would have the time or interest in doing so and we now try to do the same for others. It’s been really inspiring. Q) What are your top three trend predictions for the UK economy and start-up culture? -‘ Boring’ startups (i.e. ones that don’t attract attention in the tech and mainstream media) in areas like medicine, law, finance and public policy will increasingly do very well. There are so many opportunities in these sectors and they are often ignored in the race to build a better location app or photo sharing site. – Taste as a differentiator. So many of the businesses we see doing well combine a really great sense of ‘taste’ in their aesthetic, their content and their point of view with operational excellence and innovation. We see this coming to the fore. – An increasing fusion of quality of life and quality in the way we earn our living. What’s great to see amongst so many of our readers is that money is not the central reason for doing what they do. Instead it’s a love of the freedom, creativity and independence from working for themselves. Q) What’s next for the Courier? We’re hard at work on Issue Three for October and have a load more things we want our editorial and reporting to stretch to. We’re exploring opportunities for events, doing some cool partnerships on the Tomorrowland side and also focussing on increasing Courier’s digital presence over the next few months. :: IN CONVERSATION w/ COURIER // TUESDAY 25 MARCH 2014 // 19:00-20:30 // £10 // BOOTSTRAP COMPANY, THE PRINT HOUSE, E8 3DL // BOOK TICKETS Pick up a copy of Courier from available vendors]]>

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