Rosa Laura Junco – CEO and Co-Founder of The Knife Media

Set out vulnerably to do your very best, without regard to possible failures, without regard to how others will view you.”

Rosa Laura Junco is CEO and co-founder of The Knife Media, a digital platform that offers news stripped of the spin and distortion common in media today. The subscription-based publication also rates other media outlets for their level of bias and provides analysis that teaches consumers how the news is distorted. The company covers the most important national and global stories on a daily basis, as well as offering content that helps news consumers strengthen their critical thinking skills.

Born and raised in Monterrey, Mexico, Rosa Laura has also served on the executive board and community editorial boards of the family-owned company Grupo Reforma, which is the largest print media company in Latin America. Her family and its newspapers played an important role in Mexico’s transformation from more than 70 years of one-party rule to democracy, and through the process Rosa Laura witnessed firsthand the importance of freedom of speech and public access to information.

Rosa Laura is now based in the U.S. and is a mother of five children. In her free time (which is practically non-existent), you can find her playing classical guitar, reading novels and, of course, reading the news.

Where did the idea for The Knife Media come from?

I was raised in a family of journalists. By all accounts, I grew up having a deep respect for the profession, for how society is molded by it and the responsibility this entails. When I was growing up in my home country of Mexico, true journalists were fighting a heroic battle: they were pushing against the government’s long-held control over the media. Freedom of press was a right that had not been truly exercised, and then I witnessed the transformation and modernization of my country as we began to win that very battle.

When I was forced to leave Mexico in 2008 given the high level of violence against journalists there, I found a very different media atmosphere in the U.S. Freedom of press was freely exercised, yet it was also abused, and people seemed to not recognize it. Objective, non-partisan news was practically non-existent. I could see imminent dangers in this, and ultimately The Knife Media was formed as a way to bring standards of objectivity and ethics to the industry.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

Every waking second of my life is focused on being productive. You cannot be a mother of five, be the CEO of a startup company, and not be 100 percent focused on making it all work. My life is a set of intricate gears that all need to be fully aligned for them to work well together. It can be intense, and adverse at times, but very rewarding nonetheless.

I start my day by spending time with my children, with each of them in their own way, and making sure they have what they need for their day. Then I am free to focus on giving my all to the Knife and our team. Being a mother and CEO are both 24/7 jobs, so I experience myself as always “on-duty.” The news cycle is shorter and faster than it used to be, so this requires a high level of real-time focus on the content we produce.

How do you bring ideas to life?

When an idea forms in my head, I discover all its elements and intricacies while I explore it, and many times that’s when I discover where the idea fails the objective I’m seeking. Other times, I need to implement the idea to understand its benefits and limitations. I often do this with the Knife team members, who are incredibly flexible and talented and quick to implement new things. Many times, we discover our ideas fail, yet we continue to build on the successful ones. This is how we have built our system of rating the bias and objectivity of news outlets, for example. One of the benefits of working this way is that our team has become very wise and strong.

What’s one trend that excites you?

Technological advances excite me very much in general. I believe they reflect human ingenuity and drive in a beautiful way, bringing about incredible progress for all of us. I wish that they could more consistently reflect the noble aspects of humans. This is what most needs to be encouraged: that technology is used in a way that furthers human wisdom and that benefits of the population of the world as a whole, as well as future generations.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I always see possibility in people. My company is people dependent, meaning, we heavily rely on human intellect to operate and craft our product. I can almost always envision how people can grow to become the best version of themselves, and take their talent and skill to a new level. And this has served the company greatly, as we have been very successful at having people grow their talent while working with us.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Early on in life, spend as much time as needed understanding what you value and who you want to become. The best way to do this is taking on adversity. Don’t be scared of difficult things, nor of difficult times. They are the best teacher, maybe the only way to gather wisdom in life. Build your will, practice your will power, and use it to create what you most cherish in life, for yourself and for others.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

People, likely including those reading this interview, are very much unaware of their own prejudice and bias, and of emotionality that is irrational. People think they understand their bias – they don’t. They don’t understand how their belief system skews their ability to perceive life and human interaction from a more scientific perspective. We might not want to only live through science, but being aware of the differences between reality and our perception of reality would allow for a much more civilized, peaceful, respectful world. This is ultimately what the Knife wants to contribute to.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Set out vulnerably to do your very best, without regard to possible failures, without regard to how others will view you. You will find who your true friends are, those who truly appreciate you. You will find what you truly appreciate about yourself, and what you want to transform. This cycle of self-betterment is the best path for fulfilment in life.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

I have never given up, no matter how uphill the path seems. I work at The Knife Media not only because it’s a business I have set out to make successful, but because I believe in what we do. I believe critical thinking is a good thing to pursue; it’s the right thing to pursue. So, my commitment and conviction go far beyond the business, to what it represents for me and for our communities. This allows for my motivation, and my inspiration, to be at its peak level.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Believing that people do what they say. I have had to learn the hard way that people are not always honorable, and can become dishonest, disparaging and damaging in the blink of an eye. I have had to learn to be aware of people who aren’t well intended and find ways to handle their negative actions, while still staying positive and hopeful about people in general.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Generate and sell private reports to businesspeople that are a type of X-ray of their personal and professional lives, delineating where and why they are failing. People believe negative feedback is somehow bad. It is not! It is actually the thing that empowers us to be better and have the motivation to make better decisions. As humans, we tend to have blind spots in the areas where we fail, and if we don’t look at them, we can never transform them. Imagine if people no longer had these blind spots. From dating to making money, the path to success would be so much clearer – and more doable!

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

It was buying a train ticket to travel to an in-person meeting (instead of a phone meeting) with someone in the media world who has a lot of wisdom. I find that having in person meetings allows for deeper communication and the incorporation of wisdom that is sometimes limited when using otherwise amazing technology, such as conference calls.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?

News notification alerts on my smartphone! Being in the news industry, it is great to be able to go through the day knowing that I will be notified within minutes when important news breaks.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. This dystopian novel exemplifies beautifully how technological advances can be used to our detriment. Although written more than eight decades ago, it is absolutely current and relevant to the age and time we live in right now.

What is your favorite quote?

I just discovered a new favorite quote. It was shared by a dear person who has been very supportive of our work. It’s by Verne Harris, who is Nelson Mandela’s archivist, and is his response to being asked about the life lessons he gained from Mandela.

“One that I find that is particularly helpful is a sense that hope is not very helpful. If hope is defined as conviction that the future is going to be better than the present, then I would argue not only in South Africa, but globally, if we look at the challenges we confront, the future is not looking very bright. But the lesson for me from Nelson Mandela is that — you do what is right. You keep working for what is right. Not because you believe the future is going to be better, or that the future is going to be determined by your work. You do what is right irrespective of what happens in the future. And that’s a quality of endurance and, for me, is a quality of faith, actually. Because you believe that it matters, even if it fails.”

Key learnings:

  • Always see possibility in your team members and envision how they can grow to become the best versions of themselves and take their talents and skills to a new level.
  • A complex business life is compatible with a complex personal life. You can be a successful CEO and parent at the same time.
  • Don’t shy away from adversity. Don’t be scared of difficult things, nor of difficult times. They are the best teachers and help you gather wisdom in life. Build your will and practice your will power.
  • Do your work not only because you want your company to be successful, but because you believe in what you do. Your commitment and conviction can go far beyond the business, to what it represents in the world.
  • Seek out your blind spots and ask for constructive feedback. It will empower you to be better and give you the motivation to make better decisions.