In the first of our Irish Startup Stories, Francis Fitzgibbon tells RTÉ Tech & Innovation how he left a pensionable, well paid job in the European Parliament to return to Ireland and found StoryStock...
I left Brussels on December 21st 2015 at 5pm. I had been paid five days earlier, and knew it would likely be my last pay check for some time. I had just turned 38 and had decided now was the time to give up my well paid, pensionable job in the European Parliament and return to Ireland to set up the media tech company StoryStock.
I had worked in media for 15 years, during which time I saw it becoming increasingly disconnected from local communities. Many outlets were cutting costs as Facebook and Google ate into advertising revenues. They needed more content to fuel growing digital arms, but they weren’t investing in creating content – rather rehashing content to fill space.
If media is to survive, it has to reinvent itself. It has to reflect the conversations happening in local communities – delving into the hearts of communities across the world to shine a light on what matters to people. I felt and still feel that the best way that media can make itself more relevant is to use a mixture of story and technology.
I set about creating a software platform to build a community of journalists and storytellers all around the world. I knew that the world is full of great storytellers who, with new mobile technology, could collect great stories from the communities they lived in.
If media is to survive, it has to reinvent itself.
StoryStock is not a breaking news platform. We are a story based platform that deals with 'why' things happen, not 'what' happened. Personal story is one way that helps us explain the 'why'. Media organisations are naive if they think they can compete in the breaking news space, because with new technologies and platforms such as Twitter, people break the news. Medias value now is in adding a layer of analysis – why did this happen?
We built the technology to allow our global storyteller community to upload hyper local stories to a digital bank of content. One month post-launch and we already have a vast array of great stories - like that of Robbie who is 26 and living with HIV in Dublin. Or Patrick who came out as gay at 54 and now lives with his boyfriend in rural North Kerry.
We want to partner with media organisations, and have also developed commissioning software which allows media to commission any of our storytellers anywhere in the world, to tell any story. Suddenly, we can provide media with an army of content creators and journalists, on the ground, delivering hyper-local content and stories from the hearts of local communities worldwide.
In the last month, we have also started to work with brands, agencies and PR companies who use StoryStock to connect with our content creators to create local stories for their brands and clients. From a video for the local corner shop right up to an online campaign for a blue chip company, we want to give brands a global storytelling capability.
Do I have any regrets about leaving my pensionable job in Brussels? Not one.
Find out more about StoryStock here.