Jacqueline Leung

Jacqueline is the founder of Pressed News, a Canadian digital media startup that makes the news easy to understand. Their goal is pretty similar to Btchcoin’s: remove the jargon, add context and fun, and make world issues more accessible for a millennial audience. Today, Pressed is a community of thousands of women, typically 25-34-years-old, slight female skew. Their mission is to help people join in on important conversations, make informed decisions at the polls, and understand different perspectives.

Where did the idea for Pressed come from?

To be honest, I never followed the news. It was too convoluted, too boring, and I felt like I (my demographic) was being left out of the conversation. What news I did follow was mostly American based. I remember when Justin Trudeau won in 2015 – all the coverage was about how good looking he is; it didn’t cover any of the issues I was concerned about. I really liked the daily newsletter format – short and sweet – but there wasn’t anything out there for Canadians, so I started it myself. Two years and thousands of subscribers later, here we are!

What do you think the biggest challenges (or opportunities) are in the Canadian news/media landscape?

When you hear about the Canadian news industry, the conversation skews towards heavy layoffs and newsroom restructuring. I see that as an opportunity.

I never read the news because it wasn’t (and still isn’t) made for me. It’s as if news outlets are intentionally keeping me out of the club. In order to make it in media in 2019, we need to bring the news to our audience and speak in their language. I wanted to create a new and inclusive community with Pressed, where it’s ok not to know everything. We’re always trying new things and seeing what sticks with our readers.

Jacqueline Leung (left) and Claire Halley Robbins (right)

What has been the biggest challenge in building Pressed?

Put simply: not knowing what I don’t know. Every day we’re faced with a new hurdle that we have to address as fast and as inexpensively as possible. Finding funding is also a huge battle.

Speaking of funding, how do you make money?

We have funding coming in from a number of avenues, but I’m always looking out for new opportunities because I want to be able to pay my employees and contributors fairly.

Government grants and accelerators have helped but applications take a lot of time and require such precision. One small error and your application gets thrown out, and days of work go down the drain.

Partnerships and Sponsorships within in our newsletter and podcast have been really successful. Because our audience is mainly young, professional, Canadian women, millennial brands achieve really targeted advertising through Pressed.

Recently, we’ve been seeking venture capital and angel investment.

Has being a woman, and a woman of colour, impacted the way you are treated in seeking venture capital?

The broad answer is yes, but it’s a bit intangible, and I don’t know how to get into it. I told one male VC how much money I needed to raise, and he told me I should be able to raise that in my sleep. Well, spoiler alert, I didn’t raise it in my sleep. There’s been a lot of talk lately about giving women a fair shot; people pointing at stats that say less than 1% of VC money goes to female founders of colour.

But what exactly is “fair”?

I’ve been on conference calls with men who boast about the steep ticket discounts they give to women for certain events. Does that make things fair? When VC’s say they have the same expectations for women as they do for men, is that fair? A friend of mine recently hired a man just so she could raise money, saying she had to “play the game.” Even I know that’s not fair.

Since starting Pressed, I’ve witnessed and experienced the many ways in which women (and women of colour) are treated differently when raising money, speaking up, or just simply trying to lead. I have been very intentional in the way I support other women and how I react to men and women who don’t support me. I refuse to “play the game” and hope that one day it won’t be so difficult to recognize what’s fair.

What advice do you have for other women looking to start their own business?

Sometimes I think women are told to cover up their ‘feminine’ traits and take on traditionally masculine leadership qualities. I think that’s wrong. Don’t try and be like a man. Women are great collaborators, and we like to help each other out. Don’t cover that up trying to come across as the stereotypical male leader.

What has surprised you most about building your business, or maybe about coming from a non-journalism background?

The thing that surprised me the most is how cutthroat it can be. I used to work for a larger corporation, so I always had managers who protected me from the not so nice aspects of the business. I’m learning how to fend for myself and my business more than ever before.

In terms of the news industry itself, I think that coming from a non-journalism background has actually been an asset. We’re outside of that bubble – and I think we can see some of the things legacy newsrooms can’t.

What has been the most gratifying experience of building Pressed?

When readers email, DM, or walk up to us on the street to tell us how valuable Pressed is in their lives. We’ve had people say to us, “you saved me in a meeting”, or “my mother-in-law was so impressed”. Those notes make all the hard work worth it.