George Sehremelis, 22
Company: Overlooked Inc.
Title: Co-founder and chief executive
Business: Social media news network
Location: University Park
Employees: 1 full-time; 4 independent contractors
Financials: About $110,000 raised to date
What led you to start this business?
In college at USC three years ago, I saw how fake news was driving the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya people in Myanmar. My hometown of Distomo in Greece was the site a major massacre by the Nazis in World War II. That was triggered by a false report, so I grew up realizing what harm fake news could cause. That’s why I and my co-founder Piotr Rojek decided to start a business dedicated to stopping the spread of fake news and false narratives on social media.
The business has changed somewhat since then, right?
Shortly after we launched the business in late 2017, we saw how local and student newspapers were being hit by the loss in advertising, so we started helping them to grow their digital business. We send out push notifications to mobile phone users, and that makes it easier for advertisers to connect with the newspapers.
How did you fund the business?
We raised $100,000 from an angel investor, Jill Higgins, who has two sons who are journalists. I raised $5,000 from my family and another angel investor.
What are the advantages and disadvantages to starting a business in your 20s?
The advantage is that many of our customers are young, and they understand the problem that we’re looking to solve. But we also have older customers who like traditional newspapers and are somewhat wary of the digital side. We also don’t have years of industry experience.
How has the pandemic or economic downturn impacted your business/role so far, and how are you responding?
Since Covid hit, we’ve been able to attract more customers, especially on college campuses where newspapers couldn’t be distributed in print form.
Does social responsibility play a role in your business?
Absolutely. We believe that people should have the power to share information without the fear of spreading false information. Also, with print circulation down more than 50% since 1990, we’ve been telling newspapers local news is important to society and that we can help them through bringing in more digital ads.
Do you feel that your business is particularly tailored to the Los Angeles market?
We could have launched anywhere. But L.A. is a hub for media companies and is one of the largest media markets itself.
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