5Q Friday with Adda Birnir, Co-Founder of Balance Media (NYC)

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By Mandy Gresh (Consultant, Six Months Off) 5Q Friday profiles women who took a leap of faith career wise to start their own business and create the life they wanted.

This week, Adda Birnir shares her story with us.

5Q Friday: Why do you love it? Add Birnir: There are many reasons to love and to hate being in business on your own. I read a great quote by Joel Splosky, founder of Fog Creek Software which is the company responsible for Stack Overflow. Writing about when he decided to start his company he said: “I had always wanted to start my own company, and I finally reached the point where my mind had tricked me into thinking it was going to be easy.”

I laughed when I read this because it’s so true. I think if most entrepreneurs knew what they were getting themselves into, they would probably never leave their cushy and stable corporate jobs. I think back on the calculations and projections Kate and I made as we were planning our exit and just laugh. We were so unrealistic! (Quick tip: take the amount of money you think you will need to start a business and triple it.)

But I love what I am doing because for the first time in my life I am not encumbered by business initiative or program mandates sent down from above. Kate and I are able to sit down, decide on our priorities, examine what resources we have on hand, and find a way to make things happen. We also are blessed to have gotten to work with some of the best media companies out there, and the coolest part is that we get to work with them all! Prior to having gone into business on my own I would have told you that my dream was to work at ProPublica, WNYC, or The New York Times. And here, one year into business, I have had the chance to work for all of them. Nothing can beat that!

5Q Friday: What do you do & what’s your business? Adda Birnir: I am the founder of two New York City startups, both focusing on aspects of the digital news and media business. As the owner of two small businesses I wear a number of hats, including lead product developer, project manager, head of legal, front-end developer, client liaison, business developer, marketer and sometimes, even designer!

I started Balance Media with my partner Kate Reyes about a year ago. Our goal with the company was to spend 75% of our time working for clients and 25% creating our own products.

Our clients run the gamut from one-person blogs to research institutes to huge, media conglomerations. Our specialty is the development of interactive news applications. We have been incredibly lucky with our clientele and have worked with MTV, VH1, ProPublica, and Manhattan Neighborhood Network. We are currently working on projects with the interactive news teams at WNYC and The New York Times.

The first product that we have created is Balance Digital Publishing, which we spun off into its own company with a third partner, Jonathan Soma. Balance Digital Publishing makes it easy for publishers to publish their content to tablet optimized websites, served to users in the browser rather than through an app. In November we will be launching a tablet optimized site with our launch partner WNYC.

5Q Friday: Where do you do it?

Balance Media has inhabited quite a few office spaces in the last year, including a borrowed office at Techspac, and two rented desks at the Architect’s Newspaper. In the spring, we moved into our own office located in the Flatiron on 27th Street between Broadway and Sixth Avenue. It’s a pretty funny block, tons of watch and wig wholesalers, but our view of the Empire State building can’t be beat.

5Q Friday: Who are you? Adda Birnir: My name is Adda Birnir and I am 26 years old. I was born in Iceland, moved to California as a kid, came out east to go to Yale, and then migrated right down to Brooklyn/New York when I graduated in 2007. In college I got an art degree so I came to New York with hopes of working in arts production and media. I soon realized that the best way to get consistent work in media was to get some serious tech skills, so I set out to get some.

5Q Friday: When did you decide to take the plunge and “create the life you want”? Adda Birnir: About two years ago Kate, Soma, and I collaborated on a project called Big Apple Ed, that won third place in the inaugural BigApps competition sponsored by the Bloomberg administration. Big Apple Ed aggregated tons of data about New York City public schools and displayed it in a friendly, easy to understand way. The process of making the app and then winning was incredibly encouraging. The experience taught us that we worked well together as a team and that people liked what we produced.

After that, Kate and I were working together at a big media company where we both felt frustrated by the corporate bureaucracy. Kate had experience working on her own as an independent contractor and convinced me that we could make it happen. When I was offered a full-time position at the company it wasn’t too hard for Kate to persuade me to say no thanks. In August of 2010, I went full-time freelance and Kate joined me a month later. Shortly thereafter we incorporated Balance Media as a LLC.

This post was originally posted at My Six Months Off.

Photo by: Tom Starkweather.

About the guest blogger: Mandy Gresh is a consultant and coach at Six Months Off, working with a number of organizations on the strategy and execution of business development and marketing projects. Clients have included Devi Kroell, Maletzky Media, Sugarfly Marketing, Travelzoo and Wanderfly. Additionally, she provides guidance to women-owned startups as an Incubator Leader at Ladies Who Launch and as a private business coach. Waglee gets whatever time’s left. Follow her on Twitter at @mjgresh.