#R3SET: Business owners use innovation to succeed

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PITTSFIELD — At first, #R3SET sounds like it could be the name of a droid in Star Wars and, in a way, it is. Like R2-D2 and C-3PO, this local startup, an interactive media company which bills itself as "the first member-owned media network for change makers," seeks to meld technology with organic human emotion and interaction.

Like their film counterparts, #R3SET's four founders — two of whom live in Pittsfield — are part of a band of rebels seeking to liberate themselves and others from what they see as an evil (media and advertising) empire by aspiring to a nobler ideal while simultaneously harnessing and capitalizing on the power of the small screen, which looms so much larger than the big screen in the current cultural cosmos.

When Star Wars first came out in 1977, the # symbol was still just a number sign. Nowadays, the hashtag is a way of classifying and grouping topics together in the digital multiverse, like a Dewey Decimal System for the 21st Century. It is also the coat of arms of the millennial generation, which is one reason #R3SET's founders — three of them millennials — chose to make it part of the company name.

According to 27-year-old co-founder and Pittsfield native, Patrick Danahey, #R3SET evolved from RESET for three main reasons, reflecting the 3 in the title.

- The first was branding. Substituting 3 for E distinguishes them from all the "resets" online.

- The second reflects the partners' belief in thinking on three levels — self, community and world.

- The third reason builds on the second one. #R3SET is incorporating as a benefit corporation, a type of for-profit entity authorized in 30 states and the District of Columbia, that includes positive impact on society, workers, the community and the environment in addition to profit as its legally defined goals. #R3SET's founders believe in the B corporation mantra of having a triple bottom line — profit, people, planet — as the bedrock of their by-laws. This commitment to core values permeates everything the company does and is, right down to its ownership structure.

REFLECTING THE MISSION

#R3SET's co-founder, Devin Shea, a classmate of Danahey's at Taconic High School, said he and his partners have allocated 33 percent of the company's equity as community equity to reflect both their mission and whom they see as their member-owners, which in their lingo, are known as "#R3SETTERS."

Shea defines them as "the community activists, the impact driven entrepreneurs, the disenfranchised creatives who, in a world of conformity, choose to think differently and stand out."

Together, these member-owners meet in a 21st century commons of digital democracy which, according to Danahey, seeks to use cutting edge technologies and tie them to an old idea, the co-op, with each member-owner contributing content on #R3SET's various media platforms.

"If you look at social platforms today like Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter, it's obvious media content has been decentralized and put into the hands of the masses by technology," says Danahey. "The future of media is in crowd sourcing and co-creating content with your community, turning content consumers into content creators." #R3SET seeks to provide multiple media platforms, and revenue streams for its member-owners to do just that.

Some of those platforms and revenue streams are already in place, while others will be rolled out soon. They include a live streaming TV show, a digital magazine and even a quarterly print magazine which, at first, seems like an odd choice for a millennial-minded company.

But the print option may be because of #R3SET's lone Gen Xer, John Lewis, an award-winning publisher who comes from the more traditional media and marketing world. Lewis, who lives in Northampton, plays Obi-Wan Kenobi to Danahey, Shea and the company's other co-founder, millennial Chris Fern, who lives in Springfield.

"I never thought I'd be partnering with millennials," laughs Lewis, who is nearly twice as old as Shea and the other co-founders. Now, however, he refers to them as the "Four Musketeers." The reason, again, boils down to shared values.

"Our goal is to build a community that catalyzes positive societal change by disrupting and rethinking outdated systems and ideas through impactful, change-driven stories," says Danahey.

This isn't just empty idealism. The founders marry that ideal with a real and evolving way to monetize it through their member-owner model. It gives #R3SETTERS voting rights over the stories that make it into its media platforms, a percentage of ad sales for stories that they contribute, and discounts on other services the company offers like helping other companies attract and engage millennials.

Time will tell how successful this model and the company prove to be. But for now, at least, The Force seems to be with them.

Reach Avi Dresner at Adresner@nycap.rr.com.


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