Happy 1st Birthday, HackCville Media

It was the end of my first year when I first walked in the front door at #9 Elliewood, and I was immediately overwhelmed. HackCville’s space was cool – the members had transformed the beat-up old boarding house into a cool, modern…

The early days at HackCville
The early days at HackCville

It was the end of my first year when I first walked in the front door at #9 Elliewood, and I was immediately overwhelmed. HackCville‘s space was cool – the members had transformed the beat-up old boarding house into a cool, modern working space that screamed big things happen here. The people I met were confident and ambitious. I felt like they had it all figured out, and that they knew exactly what they wanted from the world. I didn’t, and I was intimidated.

But the more I learned, the less intimidated and more inspired I became. Here was a little green house, a stone’s throw from Grounds, where incredibly talented students hung out and hacked on their projects. They didn’t have the world figured out, but nothing was going to stop them from trying. I was intrigued.

First year was coming to a close. I had been volunteering for the Tom Tom Founders Festival doing video work. When I heard HackCville had an event planned at Tom Tom, I made a point to be there.

Super Demo was a showcase of the region’s coolest student startups from universities across Virginia. I still remember how incredible it was to meet so many people with such passion and drive. I tried to capture that feeling. I filmed interviews with a cheap camcorder, all while trying to emulate the filming style I had seen on sites like The Verge. Frankly, I had no idea what I was doing.

You can see the video I produced above – it’s loud, the footage is shaky, and my shots of the crowd aren’t exactly awe-inspiring. Even so, the video got a surprisingly good response. People had no idea that these startups were being built by their friend down the hall, or by their neighbor down the street. People were interested in the content, and so they paid attention. That was cool.

I learned very quickly the power of storytelling, even if it’s done with a cheap camcorder by a first year who doesn’t have a clue. This is a need I can fill, I thought. The creative, entrepreneurial people of UVA and Charlottesville need a storyteller.

So I built a team of storytellers, taken primarily from friends I had met and worked with at Enactus (another UVA student organization). I don’t know how or why I was able to convince 10 people to join me, but somehow, I did. I really had no idea what I was doing.

Our team photo on our launch day, February 3, 2014

But somehow, we all rallied behind the idea that the creative, entrepreneurial people in our community deserved a stage. We spent the rest of 2013 building that stage, teaching ourselves photography, videography, and web design while preparing stories for our launch.

We launched our website on February 3, 2014, with just 5 pieces of content. (Somehow, that included an interview with reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian.) Today is HackCville Media’s first birthday, and I couldn’t be more proud of how far we’ve come.

We now reach thousands of students, faculty, and alumni with our stories each and every month. We now have state-of-the-art equipment for our team to use and learn on, thanks to support from the Jefferson Trust. We’ve developed a training program where our upperclassmen teach our newer members basic skills in photography, videography, editing, social media, web design, and more. We released over 60 productions over the last year, highlighting dozens of incredible people and their projects. What a ride it’s been!

I know our stories have helped bring more people through HackCville’s doors to discover and join the incredible learning community we have on Elliewood Avenue. I wanted to take this opportunity to thank those who have helped us make that impact.

First and foremost, thank you to our readers. We do what we do for you!

Thank you to our supporters for helping us get to where we are today – we simply couldn’t do it without you. A special thanks to Spencer Ingram, Alan Webb, and Amber Karnes – y’all are the best!

And finally, thank you to our incredible student staff – you all were crazy enough to believe in my idea and work with me to make it happen. You all mean the world to me.

Today, I hand off the reigns to Brian Mitchell, our new director, and Riley Panko, our managing editor. This publication could not be in better hands. We’ve been talking recently about what the next year looks like for HackCville Media, and I couldn’t be more excited with what’s planned. One year may be gone, but we’re just getting started.


Signing off,

Daniel Willson
Assistant Director


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About The Pioneer + HackCville

The Pioneer is the publication of HackCville. All of our producers are either current students or graduates of HackCville’s media education programs.

Our producers develop skills in modern media production through publishing stories about creative, civic, and entrepreneurial innovators in the University of Virginia and greater Charlottesville community. Learn more →

HackCville develops the skills, networks, and entrepreneurial ability of talented U.Va. students. We accelerate our students’ ideas, projects, and startups through our experiential programs and tight-knit community. More about us →

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