Journalist, entrepreneur, and Explo alum, Amanda Gutterman cofounded the startup Slant — a crowd-sourced journalism platform where anyone can submit content — and earned her place on this year's Forbes Magazine’s “30 Under 30” list. We're thrilled for her, and excited to share Amanda's thoughts on Slant, her time at Explo, and her advice to young creatives and entrepreneurs.
What is Slant?
Slant is a crowdsourced journalism platform that creates access for anyone (this includes you, Explo students!) to have their articles professionally edited, packaged, published, and get paid. You just log in and start creating content. If it meets our minimum standards, it gets published and the best pieces rise to the top and are featured on our site and social channels. Our writers keep 70% of the revenue generated by their submissions and they retain the ownership of their own work. I see it as a democratic revolution in news publishing!
20+ Explo Alums Crack Forbes' 30 Under 30 List
Every year, the editors at Forbes Magazine feature individuals who are the most innovative in their fields in their 30 Under 30 issue. To date, 20+ Explo Alums are among their number. To all of them, we'd like to offer our most enthusiastic congratulations!
What was your first indication that you had hit on something big?
In our first eight weeks of beta testing, we had over 1 million unique views of content that otherwise probably would not have seen the light of day. That was exciting!
What prompted you to start your own business?
Well, until about a year ago, I never thought of myself as an entrepreneur. I was following a pretty traditional journalism path. I had worked for The New Yorker and The Huffington Post. I saw that most of the people that I worked with looked just like me. Not only physically, most of us had all gone to the same schools, done the same internships — moved through the same funnel to get to where we were. To a large degree, our success had to do with our academic pedigree and connections. It felt arbitrary and unfair to me; I really felt that more people deserved this opportunity. I also kept hearing that journalism was a dying business due to all of the free content on the web and I was seeing really high quality work being done by unpaid writers who were outside of this ecosystem. I just realized that something was wrong with my industry and that there had to be a better way.
Did you always know that you wanted to start your own company?
No, I had always gotten feedback that I was a good writer, so I thought that I would be a journalist and that was the path that I was on. Looking back, I wish that someone had also said that I would be good at starting a business. Today, entrepreneurship is so important. There are so many big companies that are just unwieldy and ripe for disruption. That is where opportunity exists.
What do you mean?
People are going to need to be more creative to find work. I think that the people who are going to be the most successful are the ones who end up making up their own jobs. If you think about it, there are already tons of people that do existing jobs well, so it is hard to stand out in those fields. Also, more and more jobs are being lost to computers. The work of the future is going to require people who are flexible and have good social skills, these are the things that distinguish us from machines. People who can identify a problem and come up with a good solution are not going to be replaced by robots.
What should students today be doing to prepare?
The pace of change is so fast and there is lots of pressure on students to be “pre-professional.” But who knows what is going to happen? Here’s the thing — digital media did not even exist when I was in high school. There is no way that I could have been “on track” for this kind of career. The best track is to cultivate your interests. Developing problem solving skills, being able to think and speak on your feet — these are some of the things that I experienced at Explo and they are the things that will make you nimble and adaptable.
What do you remember about your Explo days?
My most vivid memory is participating in a debate in my logic games class. I remember my instructor taking me and what I said very seriously. That is something that I had always craved as a kid — to be treated like an adult and I really felt that happen at Explo.
What mistakes do you think that kids are making?
Learning things is what matters, not grades. No one has ever asked me my GPA. That said, you have do well enough to get yourself to the next level. The grade is a means to an end, not the objective.
What advice would you give to your Explo self or our students today?
Be a nerd! Dive into the things that you like to do and never be apologetic or self conscious about liking those things. Make sure that what you choose is fun for you. If you find something that you are good at and that interests you, that is where you will be successful.