Meet me, myself and I, a foreign entrepreneur in Columbia striving to change the media industry worldwide
In September 2015, I attended a networking session that brought together students from the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, College of Engineering and other departments.
I was too shy to talk to anyone, so I took advantage of constant phone calls from people who wanted various things from me to step out of the room from time to time. But, at one point, my mother gave me the “You’re doing nothing with your life” chorus and remix at once, so I got mad and went back in to give it my best and act all awkward.
My roommate, a designer with similar social skills, was talking to another girl who studied communication. Another colleague introduced us to a young software engineer in his sophomore year. We all got together in one corner and pretty much boasted about what everyone was good at in life, while I kept thinking, “Man, I’m so, so bad at this.”
Oh, yes. I suppose I should introduce myself. I’m Sintia. I come from Romania and study journalism at MU. I left my country because I believed I could do a better job in the media in the United States, since the media here has more resources and a longer tradition. Heck, in Romania we delved into this free press thing in the early ’90s. Before that, it was communism and propaganda.
This networking event was the beginning of a student competition that I wasn’t even sure I wanted to do. The competition focused on developing a media-related product for the Apple Watch and iPhone, and the idea of engaging in both product development and the media business sounded interesting. But I didn’t have much time, and I didn’t have a schedule that would allow me to plan much around it.
The four of us definitely didn’t have instant chemistry. Yet we decided to meet again and see if we had what it took to enter this competition. Winning was not something we were thinking about.
It took us around four weeks to come up with an idea that could improve a process we identified as problematic in the journalism world and that made us all go, “Dudes, good stuff.” It took us way longer to learn how to work with everyone on our team and find a place for our skills and passions in our little project that changed our lives slowly, but surely, every step of the way.
Before leaving Romania and coming to the United States, I worked in the media for almost a decade. I was no stranger to tight schedules, marathon newsroom shifts, never-ending meetings, and this constant, annoying feeling that there’s truly no time for anything in my life. I slept little, ate at my desk while working on assignments, and did whatever possible to meet impossible deadlines that only seemed to pile up.
It will come as no surprise, then, that the thing I dreaded the most was wasting my time. That’s why I’ve always looked for ways to make stuff more efficient in my life. Like delegating and trusting others more (I gave up the control freak thing a while ago), outsourcing work (I used to send my story drafts to India for proofreading) and using any tool, software or gadget to help me survive a busy schedule. No, I wasn’t lazy. I just truly believed people can focus on one thing at a time and that everything that gets in the way of their focus is completely counterproductive in the long run.
Transcribing was the No. 1 enemy in the media. Listening to and typing transcripts for hour-long recordings severely curbed my creativity and desire to work on my stories. I hated it so much that a colleague once paid me around 30 bucks just to sit at my chair and do it, without complaining. I lasted for 15 minutes and gave his money back.
So, when I started school at MU and heard about the technology competition, the first thing that came to mind was making some sort of magical tool that would show me instant transcripts of my interviews and leave the robots to take care of my pain.
Recordly was born out of this pain, and it has caused more pain for its founders — and lots of growth and joy in the process.
This new series, Startup Diary, is my personal story of struggling to build a company from scratch, and it’s dedicated to anyone who has ever dealt with the same difficulties. Throughout this series, I will share our experience and challenges with Recordly, and I’ll interview people who can provide advice on how to nurture entrepreneurial ideas. You’ll meet my team, as well as my mentors, and you’ll hopefully gain a bit more knowledge on how to make it all happen for yourself.
Sintia Radu is a multimedia journalist and graduate student at the Missouri School of Journalism. She wrote for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Esquire and various other media outlets in her home country of Romania. When she’s not covering business for news outlets, she reminds herself that she’ll one day write a book. And it will be sweet, and short, and funny.