Our latest New Founders operate out of the historical city of Philadelphia (Pennsylvania, USA) and grew out of the coworking environment at IndyHall (founded by Alex Hillman and Geoff DiMasi). Round3Media was founded by three partners – Alex Hillman, Ken Rossi, and Bart Mroz – who describe their new agency as “an experiment in scaling Indie culture into business process.” In the following interview with Round3Media, we chat about the Philly start-up scene, Round3’s future plans, and their current involvement with a venture called Seesmic.
Ken and I had been collaborating as freelancers for over a year already, and had produced a lot of of work we were really proud of. About halfway through our working relationship, I had taken a bit of a break to get IndyHall off the ground (with Bart as one of the partners in that venture). When it was time to hit the ground with projects again, we realized there hadn’t ever been a better time to seriously talk about the “Super Teams” that Ken and I had been talking about. You know, highly dynamic, highly scalable teams built around the needs of a project. Thanks to coworking and the resources we’d founded through IndyHall, we were surrounded by some of the best super-team material we could have been. Better yet, we had the best job interview process in the world: we got to observe other indies working and when they kicked ass, offer for them to play with us on a project.
What’s the biggest difference between running your own business and being a freelancer in a co-working environment?
The biggest difference between standard freelancing and freelancing out of a coworking envirnoment is the community. Most indies work from home, or from a cafe, and the only other human contact they get related to their job is if they happen to go to any meetup groups. Here, it’s like a meetup group all the time. You’re surrounded by a bunch of people who are like-minded, likely open to collaboration, and always willing to help. Never again do I beat my head against my monitor when I’m stuck on something. I just ask. Never again do I try to do something that I KNOW I’m not any good at. I just turn to someone who IS good at that skill, and ask if they can help. The human element gets put back into freelancing.
What are some essential tools for Round3? Why do you need to track time, and how do you guys use Harvest?
We’re Basecamp addicts. Since we’re a semi-distributed team (we’re not all ALWAYS at IndyHall), its important to stay on the same page regardless of our location.
As far as time tracking, even though most of the work we do is project rate, Harvest lets us set goals and see how well our team is meeting them. Thats crucial to make sure that our project rates are accurate and/or profitable. After all, we do this because we love it, but we do it to make money, too. And, as I said…being Basecamp addicts, it helps that they’re integrated.
Also, we use Beanstalk for source control. Beanstalk also happens to be run by a Philadelphia company, and the owner works out of IndyHall. They recently put in some sweet Harvest integration that lets our developers submit time when they’re checking in code. Now THAT is efficient.
We love our Macs. That’s about all I’ll say about that.
You spoke recently on a panel at SXSW about tech startups in Philly. What is going on over at the city of brotherly love? Please shed some light for those of us who are not familiar with Philly’s startup scene.
Philly is a funny place…most people think of us and think of cheesesteaks. Most business people think of us, and think of the Pharma industry. “High-tech” doesn’t get a lot of attention. That does not, I repeat, NOT, mean that tech isn’t happening here! We’ve got a history of being creative and innovative, and that absolutely still exists today. The problem is that a lot of it happens “under the covers” so to speak. The industry tends to be segmented, and even though people are doing amazing things, those amazing things don’t leave their basements (or, if they do, it’s not branded to Philly).
Besides our work at IndyHall to help make this a more desirable place to be an Indie, there’s a couple of other great grassroots communities that are doing totally rockstar things. Philly Startup Leaders is made up of nearly 200 CEOs, CTOs, small business owners, serial entrepreneurs, VCs, and representation from a wide spread of city-entrepreneurial organizations. This group, if it’s only done one thing (and it’s done more than that), has brought together a community who previously simply did not know one another existed. Founder, Blake Jennelle, said recently “Before PSL, most of our members could not have named more than 5 other startups in the area. Now, they’re tapped into dozens and dozens of their peers. And they’re working together to make this a better place for startups to happen. Our organizations had a lot of voice at a recent City Council hearing. So there’s a lot of buzz around this grassroots activity, mostly comprised of people who, like us, don’t wait for someone to tell them to do something, or ask for permission. They just go and do it. It’s a really energizing scene to be a part of.
Philly still has issues we’re addressing. But we love this city, and we are working hard to make this someplace that other people want to start their businesses, too.
Do you have any recent exciting project that you’d like to share with our readers?
We were really excited to get to do some work with Seesmic, Loic Le Meur’s newest startup. They came to us to do some branding work, putting some polish and finesse on their popular Raccoon logo. It’s always fun to work with the fast-paced Silicon Valley projects, and was nice to see them turning to some east coast talent for support. We’d love to do more work with them as their project grows.
On a more local basis, we’ve been working for a few months on a project called The Choice100. Choice Shirts, an existing t-shirt company came to us interested in building out a t-shirt community site, and before we knew it, we were knee-deep in a really interesting and exciting project that’s raised some very unique challenges, and some very cool results. We don’t have a set launch date for this yet as we’re still building out the integration between the community site and the fulfillment side and want to make sure that the process is smooth. In addition to building software, this project lets us do some community building as well.
What’s been really fun about this project, besides working with t-shirts, is working directly with the CEO of Choice Shirts, Matt Cohen. Matt’s a model CEO in my mind, with a progressive way of thinking about growing a business that’s pretty traditional. We’re pretty pumped about the opportunities of this relationship long term, as well as the Choice100 project itself.
Where do you hope to see Round3Media in one year?
Taking over the world, of course.
Really though, we anticipate keeping Round3Media a small core team, since our agility is our core strength. But while we plan to stay small and agile, we’d like to have our core clients be a innovative clients that we can help shape the direction of the web. We want to be disruptive (in a good way, and help in creating new emerging technology. At the same time, our views and experience collaborating makes us a great candidate for blending in to the right companies/partners and becoming a part of THEIR process, not just serving them as an agency.
Lastly, what are some memorable things you’ve consumed lately?
Ken Sez: a wired magazine, a sierra nevada, 3 cups of coffee, and 2 hours of xbox live around 1 in the morning.
Bart Sez: I’ve been reading 4-hour work-week by Tim Ferris and Kitchen Confidential.
Alex Sez: My RSS reader and Twitter feed usually keep me pretty full. I’ve had the new Nine Inch Nails album (the totally free one, The Slip) more or less on repeat.
Thank you for your time, guys!
To find out more about Round3Media and their service, please visit their website.
To help companies get on their feet, The Harvest New Founders Program gives one year’s subscription of Harvest time tracking service to a new company each month. Think you might be a good fit for our New Founders Program? Learn more and apply.