Introducing Project EPSILON: an engagement platform for local newsrooms

How it all started and where it’s, hopefully, going

Introducing Project EPSILON: an engagement platform for local newsrooms

It’s been almost a month since we decided to lift the curtain and finally launch the website of our news-tech endeavor: Project EPSILON. And now with this post, I’d like to introduce you to this new journey I’m embarking on with my friend and co-founder
Spyros Tzortzis along with the support of Starttech Ventures.

An engagement platform for local newsrooms (in the making)

For a few months now, we’ve been planting the seeds for an engagement platform, tailor-made for local newsrooms. We aim to build a platform to enable small newsrooms get quality feedback from the communities they serve. With the help of the tool we’re about to build, they’ll be able to spark meaningful discussions with their audience on their websites. And in doing so they’ll manage to further grow both trust and revenue.

Now a few background details. Our decision to name our research venture Project EPSILON was mere because we just wanted to have a working name in order to start off. We plan to curate the branding part of our venture a little more later, as we’re currently focused on more crucial aspects of our endeavor. Also, Epsilon (E) is the first letter of the word Engagement, so why not?

How it all started

Project EPSILON’s journey started almost a year ago. It was back in September 2020 when I quit my job at a weekly newspaper in Greece and rolled up my sleeves to focus on it. In fact, the whole idea of it had originally begun in late 2019, with the support of EIT Ventures. However, that first endeavor I was working on, was more a side hustle. You may find more details about this original idea and my thoughts on media in general here.

Now if you wonder what made me decide to turn this side hustle into a full-time job, I’d say that it’s more or less the people — my co-founders — and the problem itself.

Introducing our team

Most startups begin their journey as a team and Project EPSILON is not the exception. Besides, being a “solopreneur” was never in my plans, that’s why I decided to team up with Spyros Tzortzis.

Spyros is one of the co-founders of Sociality, a digital media cooperative in Athens. I’d describe him as a genuinely kind and creative person with a highly analytical mind. He’s also a huge independent media aficionado in various aspects.

Spyros is also a member of the AthensLive News community, my previous company, a pioneering crowdfunded English-speaking newsroom with a growing community of supporters, and that’s how we met a few years ago. Ever since we have kept in touch. Since we both live in the same neighborhood, it was a great opportunity for us to have meaningful conversations talking about media, technology, and democracy over coffee on Saturdays. At first, we thought we wanted to start a podcast or something relevant in the content-producing field. We finally decided to build a startup with the help of Starttech Ventures.

Another interesting detail worth mentioning is that Spyros encouraged me to join Starttech. As a matter of fact, Spyros had been a follower of our investors-to-be and their venture-building methods. When I asked him how it would feel like working with Starttech his reply was a big go ahead.

And off we went😊 !

Most of the time we’ve been working remotely due to COVID, but, either way, Google Hangouts, and Zoom calls would be the main platform to communicate because our potential customers are in the U.S. right now.

Joining Starttech Ventures

Building a startup from scratch is not easy, you need to reach out for help and guidance.

And so, with a quick research on the startup community in Greece, I decided to approach Starttech Ventures and start working on our idea with the help of the lean acceleration team.

Dimitris Tsingos, the founder of Starttech Ventures, an internet entrepreneur, serial-time founder, now investor based in Athens, had been very supportive and a true believer in our idea. Dimitris and the Lean Acceleration team have been offering a lot of motivation and inspiration together with valuable tips about lean methodology and entrepreneurship in general.

A problem worth-solving

For the time being, I won’t go into the problem in much detail. I promise to get back with a more technical post but there’s something very useful I’ve learned in the last year and I want to share it with you.

If there’s a problem that you keep on thinking about every single day for a long time and you feel like it’s been a lost day if you haven’t tried to find a way to solve it, then it shouldn’t be a side-hustle. It should become your day (and night) job.

And that is certainly something that Dimitris insisted on telling me ever since we met: “Entrepreneurship cannot take the form of a side-hustle project. Your focus should be immense!” Well, now I guess I’m right there.

Now that I’m done with the intros regarding my partners and the details of our story so far, allow me to give you a glimpse of the future of Project EPSILON, at least the way we want to shape it.

Our mission, our vision and where do we get from here

I’d like to make a confession: though I feel like I’m navigating in uncharted waters there’s one thing that makes me confident: I’m traveling with a good crew.

We are on a mission together. We want to help small newsrooms build meaningful relationships with their communities. Relationships that more or less are the same as the ones I’m sharing with my small team (up till now).

The research we’ve conducted so far, helped us realize that though business models in the media sector are shifting, there’s one thing that remains unchanged and that’s the relationships newsrooms built — or try to build — with their audiences. That’s the key to their revenue.

Our vision is that the product(s) that will emerge from Project EPSILON, will help create sustainable and quality newsrooms. Newsrooms where both journalists and community members do make change!

A message for you: Want to join us in our journey?

If you are an audience engagement editor, a community manager working in a newsroom, or an engineer and want to know more about what we‘re aiming to build we’d love to talk with you!

We’re open to connecting with people that want to be part of our endeavor. So, if you’re one of them you can simply book a call with us.

That’s all for now, we’ll be back with more details. Stay tuned!

Wanna get Qurio? Come on in!

Almost two years since we first began on this journey, dozens of interviews with audience engagement editors, community managers, and executives from local newsrooms and nonprofit media, we are ready for some big announcements: Qurio is ready for you!