Wildfire 2018: SEV7N

SEV7N is news for a new generation. Founded by two freshmen at Northwestern, the startup wants to change the way college students engage with their communities — local and national — by providing them with quick, relevant, and unbiased news.

The Garage sat down with SEV7N founders Olivia Hernandez (School of Communication ‘21) and Aishwarya Jois (McCormick ‘21), to learn more about SEV7N and the startup’s future goals.

The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What is SEV7N news and what was the inspiration for you startup?

Aishwarya: Even though we go to a school like Northwestern — one with incredibly engaged, talented people — a problem that we’ve noticed here on campus is that students don’t keep up with current events or local affairs, they don’t know what’s going on in the world, and they don’t vote. In short? They’re extraordinarily disengaged. Why? Students see that the news is inaccessible to citizens like us: there’s this incredibly insurmountable barrier to entry. For example, the New York Times is geared towards people who have been political from a very early age, who are very well educated about the political system already, and who really want to know the ins and outs of the process, as opposed to just the raw facts. Most political outlets are intended for those who already have some background in the subjects discussed. And then there’s the whole issue of bias- a lot of people who are moderate or conservative leaning as opposed to very liberal leaning feel like the media nowadays isn’t really reliable whatsoever for them. And so there’s no moderate outlet that’s out there that people can go to, to get the bare minimum facts as opposed to the sort of fluff and higher level political understanding surrounding it. And that is why we started SEV7N news!

Olivia: And although there are different sites that try to combat this issue, none have really perfected it in a way that actually works. Personally, I get an email in my mailbox every day. But do I really read it? No, I just delete because it’s way too long. It’s not short and concise. And then there’s the issue of news outlets either hyper feminising things or completely trivializing it. So we are trying to find a new way to engage the community with what is happening around the world.

What kind of news will you cover and how do tread the path of being a moderate news outlet?

Aishwarya: We will cover political, local and national affairs, for now. We want to stay away from all that information that’s already more factual, like financial news.

We want our outlet to be more of a compiling and condensing platform versus being a brand new news source. We don’t want to be another CNN, because we don’t have those political or anonymous sources that big outlets have. So we want to take news from outlets that span across the spectrum and compile all of that into one article that’s a lot more factually objective. And we would only go to sites that we know are reliable; they might be biased, but they should be completely correct on the facts that they are recording. So we wouldn’t go to small time blogs, we will just stick to the bigger outlets. Eventually, we are considering making this software based and having a program look at all of these different articles on the same topic and compile them into one. Ultimately, it will be much harder for a computer to be biased.

How did you choose the name SEV7N?

Aishwarya: I was briefly contemplating transferring into Medill, and in the introductory journalism class, the first thing that we were taught about writing an article is that you have to include seven different components- the who, what, when, where, how, why, and so what. And these seven things should be included in every single journalistic article, except sometimes they get mired in fluff. So our goal was to boil the news down to just these seven components, and to bring out the facts above everything else.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned so far?

Aishwarya: The most important lesson that we’ve learned is to not neglect your own vision in the process of trying to accommodate all of your users. Something that they teach you in entrepreneurship is to put your user above everything else, and go towards their perspective, not necessarily yours. And in doing so, we got so many perspectives that our own vision got diluted. And that made it so much harder to find a starting point to create and test out a product. So I think it’s really important to make sure that while user input is your primary driver, your vision should be underlying everything that you do.

How has The Garage helped you?

Olivia: Firstly, The Garage is a great community of like minded people who are all trying to do incredibly unique and challenging things. The space here is extremely helpful because it gets you into a certain mindset, which is hard to find in a dorm or library. We have also been fortunate to meet with inspiring mentors and advisors. I can’t imagine what it would be like to start a company without the space or community here. You’re so much more inclined to just jump in and start something with all the backing and support that you recieve.

Aishwarya: Billy and Melissa have been extremely helpful and are so responsive to our questions. And having that sort of fall back for us to rely on is really important. And the community here is so inspiring as well. I went to VentureCat last week, and watching everyone pitch, be so passionate about their startup, and be so good at what they are doing, is extremely inspiring. The attitude here towards failure has increase my confidence as well. If we didn’t have this community around us, we would have been very afraid of failure and not have embraced it.

Which entrepreneur do you admire and why?

Aishwarya: Sam Letscher, founder of Bossy, is someone I really look up to. Watching her run her company as a senior in college, and being able to manage a much larger group of people, inspired me to start my own company. It’s been great to be a part of her team, and watch the company’s vision being shaped by everyone running it, not just the founders.

Olivia: I am part of the NEST summit team that brings entrepreneurs to speak on campus, and we brought in Sima Sistani, who is the founder of a video chatting app called Houseparty. I loved hearing her speak about her journey of being a founder. She had this great idea for an app, but a lot of people didn’t believe in the product and how she was going to make money. However, she strongly believed that she was going to change the way people communicate and was very passionate about the issue on hand. I recently reached out to her over email to give her feedback on Houseparty’s new Mac interface. She was so kind to me, and even sent me a t-shirt for giving her feedback. I really like founders who take the time out to show appreciation towards people who reach out to them, and Sima is the perfect example of this.


This article is part of an ongoing series highlighting the startup teams admitted to Wildfire, The Garage’s Summer Pre-Accelerator Program. For more information about Wildfire, click here.