Hard to Beat the ...


The San Jose Mercury News ran the feel-good story “From Strawberries to Startup” on the front page above the fold.

No doubt, the Merc’s editorial decision-makers – and for that matter publication bosses from around the country – figure the onslaught of negative news starts to numb the readership.

Check out the Merc‘s front-page headlines leading into the piece:

Our Shrinking ECONOMY (their choice to go uppercase), The “Worsts” Keep on Coming, Jan. 31, 2009

Closing in … housing crisis reaches wealthier valley communities, Feb. 1, 2009

Super Steelers (relief from the Dorito bowl), Feb. 2, 2009

Home Prices: bad to worse, Feb. 3, 2009

Needless to say, you don’t need the M.B.A. brigade for deep analysis to discern the trend.

To break the pattern, the Merc highlighted a story that never goes out of style: An immigrant capitalizes on America’s opportunities through old-fashion hard work. If this post was multimedia, you’d hear “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” playing in the background now.

What took the startup called Ooyala from the Business section to the front of the paper is the contrarian angle.

We’re not talking immigrants from India, China, Taiwan, Israel or Eastern Europe who regularly impact the tech scene.

The chaps who lifted Ooyala to stardom come from Mexican heritage and their parents were migrant farm workers.

From these humble beginnings, Bismarck and Bel Lepe gained entry to Stanford which led to a gig at Google and set the stage for their own undertaking.

Merc reporter Scott Duke Harris develops the compelling tale with ample use of anecdotes. I particularly liked:

“The Lepe brothers say their parents’ hard work provided them with privileges not common to working class kids, including piano and karate lessons.”

I think it’s fair to say that the children of migrant workers aren’t typically learning Tchaikovsky.

The quotes – unlike the typical generic filler – also enhance the story:

“To stay at Google would be like living in your parents’ mansion: It might be nice but it’s still their mansion.”

Lest you think serendipity landed the profile, the company has secured visibility in targets ranging from Global Burger to a Fortune profile penned by heavyweight Adam Lashinsky.

Obviously, the Lepe brothers learned a thing or two about building a company image from their time at Google.

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