Q&A with Jyrno.com’s Daren Copely
By Stephanie Forshee
Jyrno.com’s mission is to help aspiring journalists, or “jyrnos,” connect with others in the industry – whether it be to land a freelance gig or internship, to be matched with a mentor or just to showcase their clips all in one place. The online hub is the brainchild of 34-year-old Daren Copely, a newsman turned entrepreneur.
To date, he’s recruited more than 53,000 jyrnos to his site, formerly known as The College Press. Jyrno.com just welcomed 15 new interns this semester, so it’s a busy place in his Orlando office and for the scores of writers who contribute remotely.
The website is updated daily with posts from young jyrnos on topics in line with just about any traditional news publication. Coverage ranges from news and business to sports and entertainment, with several categories in between. But the big difference is that this news is generated by young journalists – mainly in it for the clips and exposure.
Jyrno.com ranks its top stories and top reporters right on the front page, so that’s one approach for writers to gain recognition. There is also a place within the site where reporters can network and view others’ writing samples as well as video and audio clips.
I recently had the opportunity to chat with Jyrno.com Founder Daren Copely. Here is a segment of that enlightening conversation:
(Q) In Other News: How did the idea for Jyrno come about and how long has it been in the works?
(A) Jyrno: The idea for Jyrno (previously called “The College Press”) came about in 2001 right after 9/11. I was just getting into journalism school, and I found it hard to connect with the media scene and have my content published. Using Jyrno, I developed confidence and content that landed me an amazing internship at Fox News at the age of 22.
Q: Very impressive. What else can you share about your background in journalism?
A: In a nutshell, I always loved writing, talking to people and traveling. Journalism seemed like a perfect fit. I attended journalism school at (University of Central Florida) UCF in Orlando, Florida. While in school, I used Jyrno and the content I created to land an amazing internship at Fox News Channel in New York City, as well as a full time job, after graduation, as a national news producer with CBS.
Q: Jyrno.com has some pretty significant testimonials professing how innovative your concept is. How did the reviews from outlets like FOX come about for the site?
A: The guys from FOX have worked with several of our writers on certain stories. We know many people in the industry and connect with many – for instance when we publish stories and give credit to photogs, etc. So, when it came time for site blurbs, we asked if they could speak of their experience with Jyrno and our team.
Q: Tell me more about the business venture behind Jyrno.com. In a previous conversation, you mentioned Jyrno almost failed four times. What’s the story there?
A: Wow! It is a massive adventure. (Maybe one for my book one day.) I can say, in a nutshell, it has been wild. We worked very hard to raise our initial investment to begin Jyrno, only to have it all stolen by shady web developers who promised the moon. We like to say it was a $10,000 “learning experience.” But it stung…bad. These various people came into our lives as Jyrno was being built and we just had to learn to end it quickly before too much damage was done and move on. We had to change passwords and so on. We now have an amazing team and are rolling well. The horror stories are now things to laugh about.
Q: Is the business now on track for what you had in mind?
A: Yes. We are now launched in beta form. This means we tell our current and new users to expect bugs and if they find any, let us know. This is definitely the state where Jyrno needs to work out the kinks before our final and full launch. But as it stands, we are happy how the company looks today.
Q: I understand Jyrno raised $400,000 in capital. How did that come about?
A: Again, this is a huge adventure story, but I can say in short that we begged everyone we knew in the business, as well as personal family connections. We found people who believed in our idea and wanted to see it succeed. We are very lucky to have these people backing Jyrno. We would not be here today if it weren’t for them.
Q: When do you expect Jyrno will be out of beta?
A: We are hoping for summer of 2016 for a final, out of beta launch. We want to make sure the network is perfect before saying it is “done.” We feel we owe it to our users to provide them with the best features in order to land that perfect job.
Q: Speaking of the perfect job, have you had any success stories from jyrnos connecting with others on your site for jobs, freelance work, etc.?
A: Our students are always emailing us after landing a cool job to thank us for the experience at Jyrno. One of our favorites was Margie Monin a few years back. She landed a job at Random House publishing and then broke away to write her own series of books. This is the reason we are in business. We love helping our kids succeed.
Q: I would imagine stories like this help Jyrno.com’s credibility. What else is it going to take to make the company successful?
A: Well, I would say the main reason companies fail is due to under-funding. As long as we keep showing growth and potential, we should have the funding to make this company flourish. Beyond that, the main way for Jyrno to succeed is our reporters. Without them, nothing is happening on our pages. We want to keep them interested and will do whatever we can to make this happen.
Q: What are your main challenges at this point?
A: (Laughs) If you looked at our bug list, I would say a million. Each day we find code bugs, sign up issues and other things we need to fix. It is a never-ending cycle. But any great business will always have these types of things happen. You just have to stay on top of all of them and make sure it doesn’t hurt your users and their experience.
Q: Have you run into any competitors in this space?
A: Right now there is no direct threat to us. Of course we cannot know every website on the net, but we haven’t been able to identify anyone who is in our zone. So we feel amazing to be the only ones currently. Outside of this space, in general, there are a few companies talking about their own beta. But more often than not, they don’t understand the start-up costs and many times fold before launching.
Q: Is your company yet profitable and how does Jyrno make money?
A: Yes. We are currently making money with ads and membership fees.
Q: How many full-time staffers do you have?
A: Since we re-launched in beta, we currently have 15 active staff members – some in-house, some off-site.
Q: How can people start writing for Jyrno?
A: It is very simple. Simply go to jyrno.com/register and fill out the application form.
Q: Anything else we should know about you or Jyrno?
A: There is a ton you should know about Jyrno! But, we will wait for your next article for those goodies. All we can say for now is that your readers should visit our website and social sites. We have a ton of useful info about Jyrno and our mission there.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.