Chance conversation inspires new online magazine

Inspiration for a business can come from unlikeliest of places. A chance, offhand conversation with Boulder-based investors David Cohen and Brad Feld at their “Do More Faster” book signing in Palo Alto about the bewildering lack of local media attention to the Colorado startup scene led to the launch of Tekhne.

Yet, if I learned anything during my Knight Fellowship, it’s the cruel lesson that ideas are only interesting cocktail party fodder if you can’t execute.

Sure, we talk a good game in journalism about “killing your babies” during the editing process. But it’s also vital to clip your ideas if they don’t clearly solve a vexing problem for a known customer base. That’s not a concept we embrace as self-appointed guardians of the news. Monopolies serve the shareholders well but not the community that relies on us for delivering accuracy, relevancy and truth.

The d.school’s design thinking courses and Steve Blank’s ferociously challenging Lean Launchpad class were without a doubt the best part of my year at Stanford. Blank’s patented mantra to “get out of the building” and out of my preconceived notions of journalism as a business were instrumental in launching Tekhne in the 10 weeks after my return to Colorado. I’m using the creative process of the d.school with the customer development orientation of the MS&E program to reinvent the niche news publication business model as well as the storytelling process. Tekhne’s operating principle: Expect something different.

On Monday, Tekhne, an online magazine covering Colorado’s rapidly growing start-up community launched — barely three months after CEO and Publisher Wendy Norris finished her Knight Fellowship. What makes this even more impressive: Norris didn’t start putting serious thought into this idea until late in her time at Stanford. Watch Wendy Norris’ short Knight Talk about her efforts to develop a tool to manage crowdsourcing projects through networks of verified topic experts and user communities. Tekhne is on Twitter.