By @, enjoyable interview and insights from Steve O’Hear Tech journalist
@TechCrunch. Recovering CEO. I learn from my mistakes so I can repeat them all perfectly. #COYS. Image above courtesy of TechCrunch.
How was 2016, what went well? What were your highlights?
Professionally, in terms of tech journalism, I think 2016 was probably my best year yet. That’s slightly odd because it was a tough year in my personal life, which meant at times I threw myself unhealthily into work and at other times was a little disconnected.
Even though I’ve been back at TechCrunch for nearly 5 years — after taking a short break from journalism — and have been writing professionally off and on for nearly 15 years, last year it felt like I’d really found my voice and sense of mission.
For a long time I’ve stuck steadfastly to covering European startups — even when it’s probably been detrimental to my own career — and in that way I have played a small part in helping grow the ecosystem.
Most of all, however, I want to bring as much transparency to our industry as possible, and I believe a little agitation can go a long way in doing so. I’d be the first to admit that I don’t always achieve this but I’m never going to stop trying.
Last year’s writing highlights include breaking a number of stories, such as Amazon bringing restaurant delivery to London, the implosion of Delivery Hero’s Valk Fleet, and Badoo’s majority ownership of dating app Bumble.
I also wrote a fun piece challenging the major U.S. tech companies to include disability in their diversity reporting, which turned out very differently to the story I originally intended to write.
Another highlight was attending our very own TechCrunch Disrupt in London, where I interviewed ex-Googler and Accompany founder Amy Chang on stage. I moderated an assistive tech event at Campus London, and appeared on a panel discussing AI at the Penrose Awards. Not all writers enjoy public speaking but I relish getting out from behind the keyboard.
It was also the 10th anniversary of the documentary film I wrote and directed: In Search of the Valley. We put on a screening in London at the co-working space Second Home and I got Business Insider’s James Cook, who can be regarded as a competitor, to moderate a Q&A with the film’s three producers, including myself. As I told the audience afterwards, it was nice of him to agree to do it as, professionally, “we basically hate each other”.
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— Steve O'Hear (@sohear) November 21, 2016
I loved your line about being a recovering CEO. What did you learn / do you draw on to not do again? Or are you tempted to do something again in the future?
Until you have quit your day job, spent a bunch of other people’s money, and dedicated all of your waking hours to trying to make your startup work, only for it to ultimately fail, you have no idea how it feels. Failure is par for the course, but being that I was already relatively well known in the European tech industry, it was a very public kind of failure.
What did I learn? In a sense, lots of the things that went wrong I already knew: don’t fundraise when you desperately need to because by then your negotiating position is far too weak, pick your co-founder wisely, etc.
The whole fundraising process was an eye opener, as was the portrayed “exit” of the company, which experiencing first-hand has undoubtedly helped me be a better journalist. I also learned that all the PR in the world — because we got tons of media coverage — doesn’t always move the needle in terms of acquiring users. That was a hard one to take at the time.
Would I do another startup? I’d never say never, but I kind of feel that ship has sailed. I don’t think you should ever do a startup unless you have a burning desire to solve a particular problem and a belief that you are best-positioned to help do that.
Right now I’m really enjoying journalism again, and in my down time I’m working on an album. Music was my first love and even though I don’t really distinguish between various creative pursuits — writing, filmmaking, web/app development etc. — it has been really nice to get back into the recording studio.
— Steve O'Hear (@sohear) February 1, 2017
What are you excited about for 2017, the UK and London in particular for Tech?
The thing about covering tech is you never really know what is next and that in itself is exciting. Obviously, things like AI, robotics etc. are starting to get interesting and have so many possible applications, some of which will be life-changing and also kinda scary.
We are at the stage where AI is starting to augment rather than replace jobs (e.g. AI helping to pre-screen medical conditions or give a second opinion on a medical scan). I wonder if we’ll look back at this period and the next few years as a kind of AI honeymoon before the tech becomes truly disruptive and creates its own problems in terms of its effect on the labour market or its scope to do things a human could never do that may or may not be desirable.
Are there any tech related positive outcomes to come out of Brexit, or is it too early to tell? (or worse?)
I don’t see any, at all. Most of the tech community, including myself, voted Remain. That said, nobody yet can be sure how this thing will turn out. The biggest single issue for the UK will be losing freedom of movement within the EU. So many startups here and particularly in London are founded or built by EU nationals. The tech industry is inherently outlooking.
Forbes writes up TechCrunch's moving of Disrupt to Berlin thru the prism of Brexit: https://t.co/ZkcTRSeCuO
— Mike Butcher (@mikebutcher) February 1, 2017