Philadelphia Media Network has had a bad week.
The company that owns the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News and Philly.com is wrapped in a controversy stemming from its possible sale to a buying group that includes former Philadelphia mayor and Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell.
However, among the all-to-familiar “newspaper for sale” news, nestled several floors up at PMN Headquarters are the three Project Liberty companies that are a major part of PMN CEO Greg Osberg’s marquee initiative to help modernize his media company. The plan: incubate technology startups and incorporate them into his company. And at least one of them, Cloudmine, is on an opposite trajectory of its landlord.
The mobile development framework and recent DreamIt grad has been steadily growing since its inception. The company has seen rapid growth in its platform, bringing total traffic to just under a million monthly API calls, up from tens of thousands in December. Additionally it has just hired two new employees and is weeks away from closing a round of funding.
We chatted with Brendan McCorkle this morning about his company’s future and what it’s like to be housed at a newspaper company.
As always, edited for length and clarity.
Last time we chatted, you were about to enter DreamIt Ventures. What has changed since graduating?
We got the Darwinian kick out into the wild, but we didn’t stay out for long. After DreamIt we were back to our nomadic coffee shop ways for the holidays. It’s surreal being here [at Project Liberty], the footprint of the space is identical to DreamIt but there’s three companies here instead of 15. A lot of us are fundraising so were not even all here all the time. DreamIt will probably kill me for saying this, but DreamIt feels a little more like camp and this feels a little more real.
What has the interaction been like with PMN?
It’s been interesting working with PMN on their backend needs. We’re guinea pigs, so the Project Liberty thing is just starting out and the Inquirer is trying to reinvent themselves. I really respect when big companies do that.
We’ve been interacting with their developers to get them to use our libraries. They are a big organization so it’s moving at a different speed than we’re used to, but that’s good practice. Not everyone can go a million miles an hour for 14 hours a day like a startup.
According to your about page, you’ve hired two people.
We have hired two people: Derek Mansen and Steve Berlan. They started in the past two weeks, so that’s pretty exciting. We are considering hiring a third.
So what’s growth look like for you guys?
It’s been good, we’re still getting of couple users a day, so that’s what’s nice about a Web 2.0 business. We have some sort of mindshare and people are mentioning us, so there’s a trickle of people coming to check us out. On the slower side, the larger customers have a sales cycle that is a glacial pace.
And you’re raising money? Last time we chatted you talked about how that was an all-consuming process.
It’s still all-consuming, I don’t think it ever ends. We do have a term sheet and we are soft-circled above the match for Ben Franklin Technology Partners (ed. note: BFTP requires companies to match its funding before investing). We’re trying to close by the end of the month. It’s tough finding a lead investor, but once you have a lead the dynamics change. You meet them at a networking event and you get an intro, then you see them again, then you come back and then we talk.
Usually 49 out of 50 say no, but once you get one yes to lead you can go back to those other 49. It isn’t just “I like you and your market, here you go.”
Whats next for Cloudmine? I know you guys have to leave the Project Liberty space when the company moves to its new offices on June 1st.
Well, there are provisions to extend our time here but we’ll look into that next month. We have guys who are we obligated to pay now. The bottom line is that we want a little more bandwidth so the three co-founders (McCorkle, Ilya Braude and Marc Weil) can with now turn our attention to sales growth while still working on the platform.
We’re also doing global sponsorship of Startup Weekend and other hackathons. Our customers are developers so we have to go everywhere where they are. We’re about to celebrate 1,000 users. We’ve done a good job at being aggressive but we want to be more aggressive and go to hackathons not just in New York, Baltimore and Philly but also in places like in Florida, London and Detroit. It’s a full court press on engineers.