CEO Q&A: Launching a Startup In a Pandemic
CEO Q&A: Launching a Startup In a Pandemic

The Perfect Storm by Krista Paniagua (April 28, 2020)

Even in the best economic times -- Coronavirus notwithstanding -- the odds of starting a successful business are rough. When it comes to startups, the odds are even less favorable. 

“There are 150 million startups in the world today with 50 million new startups launching every year. On average, there are 137,000 startups emerging every day. These are huge numbers by any standards.

But the question remains, how many startups tend to survive the violent waves of change that have completely transformed the very nature of today’s startups?” (7 Most Common Challenges Faced By Startups).  

Couple the “nature of today’s new startups” with the coronavirus pandemic for a perfect storm. Learn what it’s like to launch in the eye of the storm, in our Q&A with Citefull Co-Founder & CEO Kyle Grone. 

Q: Tell us what Citefull is all about?

A: Citefull is all about defining what I call ‘objective truth’. We often get personal truths and subjective truths mixed up with the objective truth. We categorize information in a way that is objective and irrefutable. Ultimately, this allows us to all be on the same page and then make better decisions in business and in our personal lives.

Q: What was the inspiration behind creating Citefull?

A: I began to notice that more and more of my conversations with really smart people were ending in “let’s agree to disagree.” These were not menial topics that were based on opinion—they were significant, earth- altering points of view, and yet, we were all operating on a different knowledge base, with no underlying ‘objective truth’. This simply made no sense to me and I knew there had to be a way to get everyone on the same page. While this is convenient for the sake of general conversation, it is imperative for the greater good. Many people don't understand what legitimate information should look like and that has led to an infodemic of epic proportions.

Q: How do users benefit by using Citefull?

A:  We want users to be able to determine the validity of information in real time. I am fond of the saying “just because you want it to be true, doesn't mean it's true” and yet, confirmation bias is a huge problem and most people don't even recognize it in their own behavior. By brandishing fake news as fake while rewarding information that is thoughtfully reported, it is our hope that we direct readers to sources that uphold journalistic standards with the most integrity.

Q: The pandemic wiped out a lot of big events. Given the massive platform the SXSW Pitch event would afford Citefull for awareness and fundraising  [real talk] how do you feel about not being able to attend the conference?

A: I can't tell you how excited we were to be a part of SXSW and being able to say that we were the only 2020 finalist from Arizona will forever be on my resume. Having the event cancelled 6 days before we left was a huge disappointment. This said, I still feel it was in the public's best interest to cancel the event. COVID-19 is a big deal and needs to be taken seriously. Citefull is doing the right things for humanity and democracy and SXSW does not diminish that; we will continue to grow and push for truth.

Q: Coronavirus aside, what are some of the biggest opportunities and risks in founding Citefull?

A: Our freedom of information, freedom of thought, freedom of expression are hard-fought rights—they will not be threatened lying down. While we in no way would ever question those rights, society at large often has a hard time with new ideas and, at the same time, questioning old ones. I still think it will be a challenge to convince someone that information is true or false if they have always believed it to be the opposite. Winning hearts and minds will always be the hardest part of the job. 

Q: How is Citefull different from the competition? 

A: We are fortunate in that the information verification space is relatively undefined. I’m glad I’m not trying to dethrone Amazon or Microsoft. Because there are only a few players in this space and they are all relatively young, we all have slightly different approaches to solving the problem, ours involves a direct-to-consumer news aggregator. The public is used to getting news through third party aggregators; ours differs from those in that everything is verified. Ultimately, the real value is in supplementing the content with a broad understanding of where news comes from. Even adamant readers will ask themselves “is this the best possible source of this content?” and by helping them answer that question, we can always give them the best possible content.

Q: In the age of endless information, how does Citefull qualify each source?

A: I like this question because it is what we do best. We verify meta-data on uppards of 50 different elements - from the outlet to the author and beyond. These elements are then compiled, analyzed, and scored. Because of this process, fake news can't get past the filters and the system is nearly impossible to “game”. Ultimately, this allows us to create verified profiles for outlets and authors that bring more value to their own brands when they are ‘Citefull Verified’. 

Q: How do you combat the skeptics?

A: We dont combat the sceptics, we embrace them. I truly feel that we all want the same things from life: safety, security, and comfort. The problem arises when we have different ideas on how to get there. By embracing sceptics, we broaden our lens to what the problems are and ultimately how to fix them. In other words, everyone wants a fix to fake news, we fix it by measuring objective elements that you can't argue with. If a sceptic really wants to argue a point, they will end up having to defend a negative, which is really hard, we never want to be in that position.

Q: Who is one of your favorite innovators and why do you admire them?

A: Elon Musk. He is the only person I receive tweet notifications for. Musk is not only a huge risk-taker, who is willing to lay it all on the line to solve a problem, but he is also only restricted by the laws of physics. He asks the really hard questions and then solves problems in really big and audacious ways—and he tackles LOTS of them. I feel like we could all learn from his drive, his ambition, and his desire to break old ways of thinking.

Q - What’s your ‘why?’

A - My Why?... Oy, the hard questions. I believe that we need to act as global citizens. In an increasingly global economy that is threatened by increasingly divisive political bases, we need to find common ground as a society. I guess I feel that if we can challenge everyone to trust science and trust the people who know the science best, then we can all make a collective effort that will benefit everyone. I just want to make the world a better place.

Q - Where yo do you foresee Citefull positioned in the next five years?

A - I am really excited for the next five years. We have the ability to verify people and that changes how employment and recruiting happens. Employment has a huge impact on an individual’s personal life, so that's exciting. We also have plans for a decentralized news application. Without giving away too many details, imagine an independent news service in places like China, Vietnam, and Iran. More than half the planet doesn't have access to objective information—we imagine the global implications of changing that!

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