As featured in the Albany Business Review
By Justin Dawes
Richard Lin had been working for about three years part-time establishing his media production studio, Agora Media, when the pandemic hit.
When he added virtual event services in response to the changing needs of his clients, that led to profitability for the first time and his transition to working on the startup full-time.
“It’s only been profitable for the past one or two years. It’s taken about five years to build up to that point and to build up the clients and the projects. But it feels really good,” the 25-year-old said.
Lin expects revenue for the company to hit $100,000 by the end of 2021. It was about $50,000 in 2020. Next year, the plan is to jump to a quarter of a million dollars in revenue.
Agora Media, based in the Troy Innovation Garage, had been providing mostly digital photography, audio and video services for various startup and business events, weddings and conferences. When those sorts of events could no longer meet in person, Lin said the natural progression was to learn how to help the organizers run the events virtually.
“It’s a whole brand-new skill set that we had to pick up and learn. It’s not just showing up with a camera at an event anymore. It’s actually running the whole event,” Lin said.
He’s done roughly 20 events since the start of the pandemic. That’s included a multi-day conference for the Future of Small Cities Institute, during which Agora ran 73 meetings for 500 people.
One of his current clients, the Raleigh-based nonprofit A Cure in Sight, is hosting a virtual seminar of 17 livestream talks for 250 people on the topic of ocular melanoma.
Lin has hosted events for the local Google developer group as well as a virtual wedding sponsored by OkCupid for the co-owners of The Lazy Axe in Albany.
As events continue moving back to in-person, Lin said he’s developing ways he can plan hybrid in-person and online events.
“I think people have realized the power of online events,” Lin said. “People have realized that online events let us reach out to way more people across the world and across the country.”
He’s also working on establishing more recurring revenue deals, like podcast and video production retainers. As a traveling competitive axe thrower, he’d like to get more involved with other axe throwing companies and events.
Lin works with contractors around the country to help carry out these events. He said it makes better financial sense to continue using freelancers rather than hire employees because then he can scale up and down easily as needed. And that allows him to pay freelancers higher rates, he said.
Lin started his company with another idea in mind, and then he got one of his first live event jobs for Startup Tech Valley in 2018. From there, he got other jobs by word-of-mouth, and the production company was born.
He said he was prepared to start offering the event planning services this year because he spent three years planning events while working for the accelerator program IgniteU.
As a self-proclaimed “community connector,” he’s been involved with multiple other local and national startup events, including 1 Million Cups Albany and Startup Weekend by Techstars, something he plans to continue.
“I think it’s really powerful because you can build a company and you can do great, but if you create a better environment for everyone, then everyone benefits. That’s one way I can see myself making an impact,” Lin said.