Founded by tech journalist Alex Williams and his wife Judy Williams in 2014, The New Stack produces content on developer communities, how software stacks affects enterprise and enterprise startups, and various tech business models. In addition to its online written content, The New Stack produces a podcast, a variety of tech-focused ebooks and a newsletter. It also hosts networking and educational events for developers.
The company’s name is a play on what’s known as a “tech stack,” or a collection of independent softwares on which an application is built. It’s called a stack because the various components — such as an operating system, database, tools to support a programming language and more — are stacked atop one another in a hierarchy.
In a blog post announcing the acquisition, Alex Williams reflected on The New Stack’s founding and how the founders honed its editorial strategy.
The company’s vision is to provide a “deeper understanding of the development, deployment and management of technologies [that] software developers, engineers and operations professionals required for their increasingly complex work,” he wrote.
How the Williamses grew and sold The New Stack
Unlike other media brands, The New Stack didn’t run traditional ads to generate revenue, Alex Williams said in an interview with Startup.Info. Instead, The New Stack generated its revenue from more than 75 corporate sponsorships from large tech companies, including Amazon Web Services, Confluent, Docker and Oracle.
“In some respects, we are a cross between a media company, an analyst firm and a marketing agency,” he said.
Alex Williams was a tech journalist for the likes of TechCrunch, SiliconAngle and what is now known as ReadWrite before co-founding the New Stack in 2014. In the publication’s first year, Judy Williams juggled a full-time job as a nurse and served as The New Stack’s copyeditor, accountant and operations chief.
The publication’s in-depth coverage on technology topics helped drive deep engagement with its content, Alex Williams said in a 2020 interview with the Look Left @ Marketing podcast.
“The read time on our posts is, especially for the ones that we get a lot of [pageviews] for, is very, very high — five minutes or longer on a post. There are posts that have averages of eight minutes and there’s [5,000 or] 10,000 people who viewed it,” he said. “That to me says what we’re providing people does help them, does provide some value back to them when they’re reading it. And people do tell us that they come back to The New Stack because they can get that in-depth kind of perspective.”
The New Stack differentiated itself from competitors by maintaining a casual tone. It also prioritized diverse perspectives, Alex Williams said.
“In a space that can often feel buttoned up and stuffy, we try not to take ourselves too seriously,” Alex Williams told They Got Acquired. “We enjoy what we do and hopefully that comes through in the content. What we do take seriously is making efforts to promote diversity and inclusion. Involving everyone and sharing different perspectives is the best way for the DevOps community to reach its full potential.”
Their podcast, Makers, drew more than 1.5 million total listens as of May 2020, Alex Williams said in his interview with Look Left @ Marketing podcast.
When they started The New Stack in 2014, the Williamses agreed the company would be a 10-year project. And with a highly engaged audience, they were able to land a buyer — the software investment firm Insight Partners — two years before that goal. They had a staff of 10 at acquisition, according to Andrew Tillery, a representative from The New Stack.
“With Insight’s support, we’ll now be around for years to come with The New Stack, building the culture and our brand with broadened and deeper coverage for our community,” Alex Williams wrote. “Our partnership with Insight aligns with their goals and provides The New Stack with the opportunity to be more deeply embedded into the technology ecosystem.”
The New Stack joins Insight Partners’ expansive investment portfolio of tech companies, which includes giants like Shopify, Twitter, DocuSign, monday.com, HelloFresh and Salesloft. The firm has roughly $90 billion in assets under management.
Alex Williams’ advice for founders of content businesses? Build your network.
“Producing great content is a solid start, but it’s so important to put yourself out there,” he said. “Show up to industry events, shake hands, connect people, facilitate conversations, and just be a real person within the community you are writing about. Growing your network will help grow your business.”