I got out of bed very early this morning in order to prep for a live interview on an Internet TV show called Bootstrapping in America. I speak about HistoryIT pretty regularly now so don’t get as nervous as I used to, but I was this morning. I’m not sure why. I hadn’t previously been familiar with the show and wasn’t sure what direction the conversation would go. Turns out, I had a blast.
The idea of a history business continues to befuddle many business folks. I marvel at the disconnect between the world of archives and research that I inhabited for so long and the mindset of how to build, grow and sustain a viable business. In the interview, I described how I founded and grew HistoryIT as a company funded by pure profit (we haven’t yet sought investor backing). The immediate response was surprise that anyone could make money working with historical records. I pointed out that ancestry.com is valued somewhere around 3 billion at the moment. (That ends the questioning pretty quickly!) While Ancestry proved the business model as a viable one, I also underscored the real value that they bring to HistoryIT as a business. They’ve created a public expectation to be able to search historical records in a meaningful way. This means that institutions must digitize their materials in a way that makes them widely searchable by diverse audiences. Because this is our specialty, we’re forever grateful to Ancestry for forging this path.
With the morning interview behind me, I raced through the pouring rain to the Chicago office. Much of my afternoon was spent preparing for an upcoming announcement about a new partnership. I wrote yesterday about the critical role of choosing the best partners. Today, I’d like to add that we should not only be smart in selecting our business partners, but we must never limit the number of partners we have. Multiple and nonexclusive partnerships are a way to grow a better suite of services.
Next week we are going to announce our partnership with an organization called Pop Up Archive, which has built a very cool tool to organize and make findable digital sound. HistoryIT and Pop Up Archive are aligned in our beliefs about the need to harness technology to build better and more accessible historical collections. Our partnership is the best kind to make in the business world: one that is grounded in the same mission and that produces a result that adds value to both of our customers. Because we offer a “soup to nuts” digitization service, we already digitize and catalog audio, but working with Pop Up Archive allows us to really streamline this step of digitization. We harness their expertise and technology to produce metadata (which is what makes us able to find materials via search) for audio files. With a more efficient and thorough process for these elements of a digital archive, HistoryIT is going to be able to pass on a cost savings to our clients.
I dedicated my afternoon to promotional tasks relating to this new partnership. I met with our marketing team and reviewed their terrific advertisement samples. They came up with the tag line, “Together, we give history a future. And a voice.” I love it! I allowed myself to silence the cell phone and turn off email alerts (okay… only for two hours, but that’s pretty significant!), and just focus on writing and thinking about how to describe and frame this partnership that seemed so intuitive from my first conversation with Anne Wootton, co-founder of Pop Up. She started blogging about the partnership here.
Between the particularly early morning and this surge of creative planning time in the afternoon, I’m ready for an early bedtime this evening!