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Kelowna tech startup marketing media content wins pitch challenge

Many heads are better than one and Alison Yesilcimen (above right) and Bryce Cutt, of Media Cooler Innovations, know it. Working with their mentor, Raghwa Gopal (above left), with a couple extra heads on their office walls, they won the Jump Start Challenge at Accelerate Okanagan to get their company pitch-ready for investors.  - Jennifer Smith
Many heads are better than one and Alison Yesilcimen (above right) and Bryce Cutt, of Media Cooler Innovations, know it. Working with their mentor, Raghwa Gopal (above left), with a couple extra heads on their office walls, they won the Jump Start Challenge at Accelerate Okanagan to get their company pitch-ready for investors.
— image credit: Jennifer Smith

A local company is looking to take the concept of a newswire service and open it up to the public has won Accelerate Okanagan’s Jump Start Challenge contest and will pitch its product to large American investors, leveraging the knowledge of the mentors available in the business incubator.

Media Cooler Innovations, founded by former Kelowna Daily Courier publisher Alison Yesilcimen and her partner Bryce Cutt, is a technology company that partners with media companies to allow businesses an avenue to purchase stories and photography produced by journalists for use in newsletters, presentations, websites or other social media marketing platforms.

“It’s connecting the publisher’s valuable content to businesses that see the value in it from a marketing perspective,” said Yesilcimen in interview from her office in the Accelerate Okanagan technology centre.

Yesilcimen has an ambitious goal to change how the media operates by applying a direct value to editorial content and the work of reporters, photographers and feature writers. Rather than news sources drawing revenue primarily from advertising, or by selling the product directly to consumers for minimal profit as paid-subscription newspapers do, the Media Cooler model allows every businesses to sell that content as part of their own marketing machine and leverage the value of journalism’s reputation to back a product.

The company’s first client is the Toronto Star. The Toronto Star’s reporters write articles for the newspaper, which are then filed online and fed to Media Cooler to sell.

If, for example, a plastic surgeon finds an article on a surgery they are introducing and believes it might be useful to explain and promote his or her work, it’s available for purchase at $30 an article and the surgeon can then publish it on a website.

His or her customers see that it was originally an article from the Toronto Star and the Star’s brand lends legitimacy to the surgeon’s claims if the Star’s reporters had found those claims to be true.

And this has a positive impact on journalism as well.

“I’m a big believer that if all of a sudden your editorial department is a revenue generator, resources get applied. That’s my big audacious goal is to have publishers really reinvest back into their editorial,” Yesilcimen explained.

The so-called death of the newspaper industry is now so well documented bloggers have developed sideline careers and hobbies of counting the number of layoffs, particularly in small to mid-size city subscription newspapers like the one Yesilcimen once ran.

Yesilcimen sees a way that Media Cooler might stop that bleeding.

Based out of a community where the economy is predominantly buoyed by small businesses, Media Cooler is also offering stretched small business owners a solution to the increased demand for marketing material to feed websites, blogs and Twitter.

“I am actually a customer,” said Raghwa Gopal, the Venture Advisor who worked with Media Cooler over the course of the 12-week competition.

Gopal’s daughter has a skincare business and he purchased an article for her website.

The Jump Start Challenge is designed to attract promising technology companies to the area for an eight-week training program with mentors who have owned and operated successful technology companies.

Gopal owned a software company focused on local government, which he sold when after getting his software into every municipality in North America.

Yesilcimen and Cutt are now off to Seattle to pitch before a major investor and then likely to California to do the same.

The top 10 companies in the field of 22 awarded the right to pitch for the Jump Start Challenge all pitched before panels of investors locally.

Some have started talks about investment, though Accelerate Okanagan marketing coordinator Fiona Campbell could not give specific details.

Yesilcimen says her company is talking to another major media content provider and hopes to sign the company soon.

All transactions are instantaneous, ordered through the website www.meidacooler.com, and paid upfront through PayPal. The content provider, currently just the Toronto Star Newspaper, and Media Cooler Innovations have a private profit-sharing arrangement.

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