Dennis Keohane joined Silicon Valley’s PandoDaily in April to cover startups and venture capital nationally. Keohane joined from BetaBoston, where he was part of the original team of writers who launched the Boston Globe’s tech blog last year. Dennis recently discussed with InkHouse his move to Pando and what types of stories he’s most interested in covering, among other thing
Q. You cover startups and venture capital for Pando – that’s a huge beat! How do you manage such a large coverage area?
A. It is massive and doing it in Boston was one challenge – but now it’s massive on a national scale. The hardest part is trying to figure what is a Pando story – what fits into the structure of our mission.
Q. What is Pando’s mission?
A. Our mission is covering power players and keeping them in check – and making sure they’re not using their power in the wrong way. And promoting the little guys, who no one’s heard of.
Q. What are your favorite types of stories to do?
A. I like telling the story of the company that nobody knows, the founder who has struggled. Personally, I like the human side of the story. The best stories I’ve done are when people have let down their guard. Those are my favorites and I think people like reading those stories.
Q. How do you find your stories?
A. I try to build as many solid connections as I can, usually by in person meetings. I understand that the way the tech industry works, every meeting needs to have some value-add, but that's not the case with good writers. You might meet with someone for 45 minutes and get nothing out of them that is worthy of a story. However, if you've started to foster a relationship with them, you might connect with them somewhere in Boston for 10 minutes and then they may tell you something newsworthy.
Q. What does Boston bring to the innovation/startup world?
A. Boston VCs get less credit than West coast VCs. West Coast VC’s get the glory round. Also, there is so much innovation around MIT and Harvard and the other schools that no one else can compare. The difficult thing is keeping [the talent] here. There are companies that are doing well but they’re not Facebook. Wayfair, TripAdvisor, and HubSpot are all doing well. Drizly, Jana Mobile and DraftKings are some of the hottest startups in Boston right now.
Q. In terms of tech publications, which are Pando’s biggest competitors? Who’s doing a good job?
A. Re/code is a major competitor. We’ve grown up together. I think Re/code more than anything has similar numbers to us in terms of page views. [Pando Founder] Sarah Lacy’s thing is that the people who read us are the influencers. … It’s going to be interesting to see what happens to Re/code, post-acquisition.
Q. What prompted your move from BetaBoston to Pando?
A. Before the Pando thing came to fruition I was looking at a few different options, including going inside a company, but I wasn’t really excited about it. I reached out to Sarah… and she said ‘we have a job opening.’ For me I love to meet new people and learn new things - so at Pando I get a better understanding of what’s happening on a national tech level and learn about the world of VC. That was really appealing about the job.
Q. What’s your biggest challenge as a journalist today?
A. Figuring out what to write every day. There are so many good companies. I have to ask: is it worthy of the coverage and what we’re trying to build with Pando? We’re evolving … so, it’s going to be more like we’re going to cover a few small stories really well … and really get away from the TechCrunch press release model. On a day-to-day basis it’s hard to figure out how to do that. I look at, what’s the angle, what’s the issue? The challenge is taking business stories and making them interesting and sexy.
Q. How much are you actually thinking about clicks and SEO when you’re crafting stories?
A. Very little. At Pando it’s more about what’s the impact of the story? I’ve been able to see what goes on at BetaBoston, but Sarah holds the controls and so I have no idea how any of my stories do. I think that’s a good thing.
Q. How do you measure impact at Pando? Social media traction?
A. Definitely measure social media, at least I watch how many clicks something gets on Twitter or Facebook.
Q. Biggest PR pet peeves?
A. I don’t even acknowledge [embargoes]. If I’m going to write the best story about this, the time shouldn’t matter … let’s do this the right way. I love exclusives if I can get them but it’s not necessary. I just want to have a good story that has something that people will generally care about on a large scale.