Forget the hype: Hypepotamus thrives by covering Southern startups
Holly Beilin is editor in chief of Hypepotamus, an Atlanta-based website that covers tech news throughout the Southeast.
Founded in 2011 by Atlanta-based entrepreneurs Kevin Wallace, Heath Hyneman and Ashish Mistry, Hypepotamus was originally launched to provide an open collaborative space where entrepreneurs and early startups could intersect, work and build their businesses.
Hypepotamus transitioned from a physical space into a news publication and community advocacy platform in 2014.
Beilin joined the site earlier this year. She previously worked as a manager of social content and brand communications at Sharecare Inc. and as a digital communications associate at the Renaissance Computing Institute.
She is a 2013 graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, where she worked at The Daily Tar Heel student newspaper.
Beilin spoke by email with Talking Biz News about how the site covers tech news. What follows is an edited transcript.
Why did Hypepotamus start?
Hypepotamus (“Hype”) came about due to the vision of three Atlanta-based entrepreneurs and/or venture investors. These three friends came together with a shared goal to create a lasting, sustainable organization that would benefit the local startup ecosystem. They actually started as a collaborative co-working space in 2011, where entrepreneurs and early startup companies could work, learn, and build businesses.
As the region’s startup ecosystem matured and many more co-working spaces and startup hubs entered the market, Hype transitioned from a physical space into a news publication and community advocacy platform in 2014. Though the landscape of the ecosystem has grown and evolved, Hype has continued to maintain a mission of connectivity between entrepreneurs, students, tech talent, investors and creatives.
Through our news articles, company and founder interviews, resources, job board and event calendar, we generate awareness about the south’s innovative tech and startup community to retain local talent by connecting them with opportunities.
What attracted you to joining the site?
I had actually taken a break from journalism and was working in tech PR for a digital health company in Atlanta. I worked with Hype’s former editor on a story and interview with my company’s executives and was impressed with the mission of the site — to objectively, thoughtfully, and accurately cover Southern startups and technology disruptors that too often get glossed over by other media outlets. When that former leader decided to leave, I was asked to interview for the role. However, it wasn’t until I spoke to the founders that my decision was sealed.
The founders were very direct and upfront with their vision for the publication — to be a voice and a platform for the entrepreneurs, the founders, students, creatives, and investors that don’t have any other outlet to tell their stories. We discussed the potential for growth across the Southeast and I saw the opportunity to contribute to something much bigger than one company or one organization.
I also met the other members of the Hype team — individuals equally passionate about that mission and goal. That is when I decided to join the team.
Who are your readers?
A good portion of our readers identify as entrepreneurs, aspiring entrepreneurs, or those who may explore entrepreneurship one day in the future. Another sizable chunk identify as students or recent grads, and another as investors. Most are interested or work in the startup or technology space. Many are job-seekers, and I’m thrilled to say that our free job board continues to grow every day to provide those individuals with resources; our Tech Talent interviewees usually find a job within a few weeks of being featured.
As expected, most of our readership is based in the Southeast or has a tie to the region. However, it speaks to the quality of the companies and individuals we cover, and the stories we tell, that we also see subscribers from Silicon Valley, New York, and countries around the world.
What types of stories do you cover that other media don’t?
We seek out stories that haven’t yet been told — or that need to be told in a different way. Mainstream outlets often cover funding rounds, for example, but rarely take the time to speak to the company’s founders or executives and share what the product actually does, what the industry impact could be, and what pain points it solves in the market. We do.
We also cover companies and individuals that are making an impact, but in a way that hasn’t been deemed “news-worthy” by mainstream media. We take pride in the fact that our team goes through every single pitch we receive, and we also seek out untold stories — the best of which often don’t have time to craft a pitch email.
Finally, we write high-level trend pieces about the Southern startup scene. For example, Atlanta is quickly becoming a top hub for high-growth female entrepreneurs. We delve into the “how” and “why” of these trends, as well as explain why it matters for our readers.
Who do you see as your biggest competitors?
We actually don’t have a competitor that encompasses all that we aim to do within our niche. We cover subjects that overlap with local mainstream media, as well as tech-focused media outlets, and of course our job board and events calendar compete with other such offerings. However, I have not identified any other comprehensive source of news, events, jobs, and resources for Southern startups that has the subscriber base or audience of Hypepotamus.
Why do you think the mainstream media aren’t covering these types of stories?
There are many reasons. Firstly, the difficulty of monetizing journalism in today’s world. Many outlets have to devote a good portion of resources to obtaining funding, whether that be from banner ads, sponsored content, subscriber models, etc. That limits their time and ability to expand coverage. We have seen multiple outlets that aim to do the same thing as us close because of this reason. We are extremely lucky to be a privately-funded organization that doesn’t have this issue.
Secondly, we are still battling a pervasive perception about the South — that there isn’t enough innovation or disruptive technology in the region to make it worth basing a reporter or a media outlet here. Luckily, this is changing. Nothing makes me happier than seeing TechCrunch, Forbes or Mashable pick up a company or story we’ve covered previously.
Are there types of stories that you’d like to cover but aren’t right now? What are they?
My biggest goal right now is expanding our reach geographically. While it’s definitely possible to cover stories outside of Georgia with our Atlanta-based core team, I have found that it’s often much more authentic, and the article better, when we have “boots on the ground” in local communities. We now have correspondents in Alabama, Tennessee and South Carolina, with the hopes to place more across the Southeast soon (so if you’re an interested writer, hit up my inbox!)
That being said, it’s impossible to place people in every corner of the region. Entrepreneurs are making moves in smaller communities as well; I just don’t have easy access to them. If you’re one of those people, I’d love to hear from you as well.
How many stories a day do you try to publish?
We don’t have a daily minimum or maximum, but strive for 12-15 stories weekly. We publish every day, Monday through Friday. Our email newsletter goes out twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
How does the site generate revenue?
We are a privately-funded organization that exists to serve the community. We do not run banner ads or on-site advertising. That being said, we do have selective sponsored content partners that share our goal of empowering entrepreneurs.
How do you see the site expanding in the next five years?
I would love to have a roster of correspondents in every major Southeastern business hub. This would naturally allow us to publish more stories. I would like to include more regional events on our calendar, which right now largely consists of Atlanta tech and startup events (though I am 100 percent sure we are the most comprehensive calendar for such events in Atlanta, and probably in Georgia).
Other than that, I’m sticking with the philosophy that if it isn’t broken, we shouldn’t mess around too much.