Awesome People List - Ep 27

Video, eng, product, COO, comms :)

Hi founders and fellow VC Friends!

Each week we deliver one awesome person to your inbox. These are the people you need to know—the marketers, sales gurus, engineers, ops wizzes— who give your startup superpowers 🚀. The best part is, everyone is hireable on an interim basis.

Today we have:

  • Jimmy, your engineering and product consultant 👨🏻‍💻

  • 2 FT gem recommendations 😍

  • PS - Things that might be helpful 🙏

Please meet Jimmy, your engineer and founder turned consultant 🧑🏻‍💻

How often does an engineer, founder-type show up in your inbox? Jimmy recently shut down Terrace, his video streaming and messaging company. At Terrace, he developed new video formats and hosted an interactive digital film festival. Their mission was to inspire people online to go offline (e.g watch an animated film and then find an art class nearby). With shelter in place, they had to shut down. Prior to starting his company, he was a senior engineer at Linkedin working on engineering R&D and mobile infrastructure, and at BlackRock building a robo-advisor. 

Jimmy is an engineer by trade, and loves thinking creatively about products and business. Fun fact: as a joke, he built an artisanal milk delivery service to compliment the YC-backed cookie delivery company Doughbies. They had autodesk engraved milk bottles, cow onesies, and more 😂. It turns out you’re not allowed to sell repackaged milk… that was the end of that.

If you’re working on an early-stage video or marketplace product, and need some extra engineering and product manpower, he’d love to help. Email me if you want an intro! 

Since many of you are working on products that involve video (hello Covid 2020!), I asked him for some video pointers. 

Don’t build your own infrastructure on Day 1.

As a founder, your first job is to validate your use case and user flows. Don’t start building until you know exactly what you need to build. At Terrace, we made this mistake and spent a year building video infrastructure from scratch. That time would have been better spent iterating on our core insights. For video, you have lots of infrastructure options, for example: 

  1. Leverage clever Zoom licensing and Vimeo hosting hacks. While I can’t endorse it, many startups start by purchasing ~20 Zoom licenses and rotating them among active customers. You can scale up by buying more licenses to accommodate your expected concurrent users. 

  1. Google Cloud and AWS have live streaming, video hosting, and messaging resources. They take some technical knowledge to integrate, and are far from user friendly, but they’re much easier than building in-house.

  1. Also, be sure to checkout for an out of the box, 1-click video API solution. There are more products launching every day so search “video infrastructure tools” before you start building. It could save you months! 

What’s your differentiation? Optimize for your use case.

Catalyzed by Covid, there are now tons of remote work and creator video tools that look identical. Video can be so much more than Zoomland (aka a video and a chat box). For example, At Terrace, we went after “couch time” and built a film festival where friends enjoyed the intermissions together. During intermissions we played vibey music, provided fun facts about the films, and let people chat. Users preferred to watch on our platform versus browsing Netflix or Youtube. Squad and Netflix Party have done a great job going after “couch time with friends” too. 

Innovate on new formats.

We’re at the beginning of a new wave of video. Most media is consumed on smartphones and companies are adapting. While their launch flopped, Quibi tried to do this with their short, 10 minute or less videos. I suspect we’ll continue to see the rise of creative, mobile-only storytelling like this. I also think we’ll see a Subsack for video creators soon (maybe via sms instead of email). Don’t be afraid to experiment with new ideas. 

FT Gems 😍

Since last week’s email blast, Uber made a fancy layoff list like Airbnb’s. I love the granularity of their skill tags.   

I also asked folks on Twitter for their favorite people who are job hunting. Here are two who caught my eye.

  • Cristin Culver (LI, Twitter) for growth stage comms. Previously at Opendoor, Trulia, and Pandora. She was recommended by Laura Du who was a GM at Opendoor with Cristin. 

  • Fiona Spruill (LI, Twitter) for COO and VP of product roles. She was previously the COO of Meetup and was there for 5 years. Before that she was an editor at the NYT for 13 years. She was recommended by Jason Jacobs, the former founder and CEO of Runkeeper (bought by ASICS) and now the founder of My Climate Journey (1 of 2 podcasts I listen to!!!). 

Feel free to reach out directly. 

Also, if you want to help your job hunting friends, tag them in the Twitter thread.

That’s all folks! Let me know if you want an intro to Jimmy and feel free to reach out to the FT gems directly.

Stay awesome,

Julia Lipton

Founder of Awesome People List

Founder of Awesome People Ventures

If you liked this, heart it below and share it with friends ❤️.

If someone forwarded this to you, you can sign up here 💌!

P.S. 🙏

Since Covid, the P.S. section has gone full YOLO - fun resources galore 🎉. If you’re looking for something in particular, let me know. It may magically show up ✨.

Building a community-first business? Check out this virtual event. 

“Community as a moat” is a hot topic these days. But building an active and engaged community is much easier said than done. To help us all get smarter, Sara Wilson, a digital strategist who used to run lifestyle partnerships at Facebook and Instagram, hosts weekly live Zooms with awesome community builders. This Thursday at 11am PT, she’s chatting with the Head of Community at Modern Fertility. If community is core to your biz, or you’re in the wellness industry, it’s worth checking out here

Want to provide remote wellness benefits to help your team stay sane?

My friends at JOON can help. It works like this: 

  1. Decide what you want to cover as a benefit, e.g. online workouts, lunch delivery, courses, ergonomic deskware, therapy, and more.

  2. Give your employees a stipend to use on those things, e.g. $100/mo.  

  3. JOON’s algorithm automagically approves and reimburses employees’ spending up to the stated amount. 

If this is helpful, let me know and I’ll intro you to the founders. Full disclosure: I’m not an investor, I just like the team and think their product is awesome. They also put together a helpful handbook here (sorry for their email gate).