I am the cofounder, CEO and publisher of Technically Media, a news organization that publishes Technical.ly. Our independent newsroom reports on how tech economies are shaped, including the investors, entrepreneurs, technologists and community builders who do the shaping.
First as a journalist and a community organizer and now in leading an organization that does that work, I’ve focused my entire career on how cities can foster dynamic and inclusive economic growth. From the outset, that has included a special interest in Black wealth creation — I was reminded recently of our collaboration in 2012 on the “What It Takes to be a Black tech entrepreneur” summit.
For me, journalism is a tool to make the communities we serve better, so I’ve had a personal goal to find more direct ways to contribute to our organizational mission. That’s why I’m proud to disclose that I have become a small limited partner in the first fund from RareBreed Ventures, a pre-seed venture capital firm founded by Maryland-based Managing Partner McKeever Conwell II. Conwell is completing the raise of a $10 million fund that will focus on early-stage companies from underrepresented backgrounds, including those building outside Silicon Valley and New York City. This will feature, though not be limited to, a special focus on Black-founded companies.
Technical.ly has long reported on Conwell — it is how I first met him eight years ago — and our newsroom will continue to track RareBreed’s work, as we do with all investors deploying capital for economic growth in our communities. In my role as CEO, I am already removed from the daily editorial decisions that our newsroom makes. That means I won’t know if and when our newsroom is reporting on RareBreed or Conwell any sooner than any of you would. Still, because we are a news organization that takes our independence and ethics seriously, I want to be upfront about my personal decision to do business with a source and subject for our newsroom — and how I consulted with my team about it.
First, as many of you know well, the average fund’s limited partners are definitionally far removed. I will not be involved in any of RareBreed’s operations or investment process.
Second, as fewer of you may know, a news organization like Technical.ly has an editorial wall. I won’t know in advance, nor will I be able to control, what our newsroom hears or reports about RareBreed. I’ve known Conwell for a long time, and since I am not involved in our reporting on him, I feel comfortable saying I consider him a friend. He is inquisitive, competitive, intellectually honest, thoughtful and smart. When things go wrong, he adapts. When things go right, he knows there’s still work to do. In short, he’s someone I want to invest in; I am confident in Conwell’s high standards. But I also know all sorts of unexpected things happen, and I cannot have my personal alliances unnecessarily complicate the work of my newsroom.
To review the ethical considerations of my decision, I consulted with other publishers; Technically Media VP Vincent Better; and our newsroom editors — Technical.ly Managing Editor Julie Zeglen, Assistant Editor Stephen Babcock and Generocity.org Editor Sabrina Vourvoulias. They have decades of newsroom experience among them. We concluded that my mission and personal reasons for doing this outweighed any perception of bias, given that our newsroom feels strongly about our commitment to independence.
Each time Technical.ly reports on Conwell or RareBreed, that article will include a disclosure at the top that reads, “Technically Media CEO Chris Wink, Technical.ly’s publisher, is an LP in RareBreed Ventures. He was not involved in this report.” This high-level of transparency has been consistent since we began publishing in 2009.
Third, don’t let any social mission or cultural goals of mine fool you. This is an investment decision, not a philanthropic one. I believe in Conwell and his investment thesis, which is that investing in under-indexed geographies and in underrepresented founders, including Black entrepreneurs, is at least as much a market opportunity as it is a moral imperative. Startup investing is a risky behavior, so funds are evaluated on their ability to produce above-market returns. (In the latest season of Technical.ly’s Off the Sidelines investor education podcast, Brian Brackeen, another influential Black startup investor I know well, told audiences that investment pattern-following looks a lot like fishing in the same over-fished pond as everyone else.)
Journalism practitioners, like myself, are deep in a years-long professional debate about how much distance both newsroom and non-newsroom staff must be to the subjects on which we report. I do believe in newsroom distance — I don’t so much as hold an individual stock of any publicly traded company with a presence in a market in which we publish. I believe that in my role, I can find other ways to advance our organizational goals, while also learning to advance my own career. This decision is just such an investment.
I take very seriously both the reputation and functional independence of Technical.ly’s newsroom. If you ever feel we are falling short, please let me know: email@example.com.
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