Digital Media graduate from the class of ‘05 shares her experiences on path to becoming an entrepreneur
Zuley Clarke is the co-founder of Humblee – a NYC based start-up that connects companies to a highly curated marketplace of video experts to quickly get video ads optimized for Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and other social channels to generate leads and boost conversion.
What year did you graduate, what have you been up to since you graduated?
I graduated from the Digital Media masters program in 2005. Since then, I’ve led UX efforts at a variety of companies including Showtime Networks, AOL, The Economist, and Shutterstock. Although the industries vary, I have been singularly focused on listening to customers, uncovering problems, and building products that people need and love. In 2015, I started working on my own tech startup called Humblee (www.sohumblee.com).
How did you come with the idea for Humblee?
My co-founder, Aneri Shah, and I were working at Shutterstock when we recognized the growing need creative teams had for video. They wanted short stories about their brand that they could share on social and other marketing channels but found it difficult to regularly produce these kinds of videos. Building a business that solves this problem combines so many of my skills and passions. I was already working on a marketplace for creatives so was able to apply my recent work experience directly to my own business. But more importantly, I have a passion for storytelling and a unique ability to create narrative frameworks and was able to develop templates that shorten the time it takes to create social videos. It’s awesome building a company around storytelling, technology, and interactivity. We’ve already had success working with well known companies like Trello and are excited to expand our business and help every company tell more compelling stories with us.
How has the DM program at Georgia Tech prepared you for founding your own media startup?
Georgia Tech’s DM program attracted philosophers, computer scientists, linguists and anyone obsessed with using technology to solve problems. It was such a diverse community. When I started, it was 2002. (ah, am I dating myself?). “User Experience” (UX) and “User Interaction” (UI) were very new disciplines, and no one really knew what the future held. But we were the kinds of people that were OK with that, excited by that, because we knew we were designing the future. When you have people from so many different disciplines come together, you come up with really unique ways to use technology and create cool things. I remember one time we used our flip phones to create a scavenger hunt around campus. That was pretty fun – combining mobile technology to create cool experiences. And now there’s Pokemon Go!
Because that’s the thing. The program at Georgia Tech always inspired me to think ahead. I never thought of the world as is, I imagined a blue sky scenario in which I could play to create the kind of world I wanted to live in. The program taught me that creativity and technology together know have no bounds. We talk about this a lot when we talk about our startup Humblee. What will the world look like in the future. More specifically, what will the world of video & storytelling look like, and how can we build a company that can quickly adapt to those changes? That’s what excites me about Humblee. The evolution of visual storytelling is still playing out, and we get to be part of it.
What advice would you give to current DM students who are interested in entrepreneurship?
I’ll share three pieces of advice. (1) Be prepared to play the long game when starting your own business. There is no such thing as an overnight success and you have to put in the work and time to build a successful, sustainable business. (2) Find a collaborator who shares your work ethic and values. Finding an awesome partner can be a huge challenge so build relationships with people that have different skills sets than you do, they make the best cofounders. (3) Grow a pair. If you’re thinking about starting your own business, don’t wait for the stars to align. There is never a right time to start your business. The idea won’t be perfect, you won’t have enough money saved, and the product won’t be ready. But you’ll figure it out as you go and that’s the fun part!
You can read more about Zuley at Georgia Tech, Digital Media, Alumni Page http://dm.lmc.gatech.edu/people/alumni/