Emily Forbes – Democratising Storytelling!
An exclusive film industry. The explosion of user generated content. Big enterprise losing relatability with their audience. A perfect storm of trends that inspired Emily to found Seenit! Seenit is on a mission to transform employees, consumers, audiences into mobile film crews – revolutionising the way corporates tell their story in a more interesting, engaging and authentic way. Emily and I had a meeting of minds on our motivations and purpose, and over coffee discussed crowdsourcing trends, inspiring teams and the many achievements of Seenit! You can’t help but feel positive after reading her interview 🙂
Current Job CEO and Founder of Seenit
First Job Sales assistant selling fossils in a fossil shop (I still have a fossil collection yes)!!
Education Chelsea Art College
Go to meeting spot Bills in Soho
Necessary extravagance Great food
Favourite productivity tool Slack – I’ve been pretending to like it for months but now I am fully into the swing of it 🙂
Recent inspiration My recent SV2UK trip with 12 other female founders! I was blown away by the people on the trip as well as those we met out there. I also recently met the Paralympic GB team to train them up on Seenit before they head out to Rio, it was such an inspiring experience, I left buzzing and with a completely re-energised outlook on life. Some Seenit <> Team GB videos here and here 🙂
Top networking tip I think everybody can help with another introduction; if you are in a meeting or at an event ask if you can help them get to their dream contact or client
Hottest tech startup in the UK right now The Tab – I love how it is changing journalism and empowering students to become storytellers, I think Seenit share similar values! Also a platform which is so powerful is LiveBetterWith founded by Tamara Rajah who was actually on the SVC2UK trip with us. It is a platform recommending products to make living with cancer a little better.
Can you tell us briefly about your background prior to founding Seenit and your biggest learning from these experiences?
My first job our of university was at Working Title, after which I did some freelance work before I took a production job in Cape Town for a year. In that time I met some amazing people as well as some not so amazing people. It taught me the power of making your team feel empowered, motivated and inspired. I had superiors that did that and the impact on my life was game changing. So that was the biggest lesson I took into Seenit.
What is Seenit & what was the motivation behind it?
Seenit enables companies to create videos by engaging the most passionate and knowledgeable people about their subject or their brand – activating their own employees, fans, customer experts to shoot content on their phones. It’s all about building mobile film crews!
I think the motivation was having worked in feature and long form production and seeing the way that the demand and consumption of video was totally changing in the industry – and I thought there has to be a new production model. Everyone is a storyteller and deserves to have their voice heard and there was this new transition where everyone was filming on their phones. It was democratising storytelling.
The vision is to build the worlds most trustworthy and powerful film crews
What’s the single best piece of business advice that helped shape who you are as an entrepreneur today?
Be positive and to grab the silver lining in every moment!
Who do you surround yourself with for your support network?
I surround myself with people in the industry who know the space really well and other founders going through similar pains or who have just experienced them. But recently I have begun to surround myself with people who are simply passionate about anything. The buzz that being with inspiring people gives you is incredible. It is refreshing from the occasional tech overload where people can freak you out if you are approaching something differently to them.
What has been the evolution and milestones to date of Seenit?
- Founded in January 2014
- Raised initial funding through Collider
- Subsequently we have raised two angel rounds
- Grown the team to 18
- Brought in more revenue than we have raised
- Our content has been on broadcast TV
- When we hit over 100,000 videos received!
How do you learn CEO skills as a young founder – any tips?
Talking to other young CEOs and the more experienced ones to really understand what the role means. It is a massively evolving role from the beginning when you are only two people and you are the CEO doing everything, transitioning to an expanding team where the role splits out and you begin to sit more on top of the organisation. Tips – don’t be afraid to say I don’t know or speak up. Most of my team are doing our roles for the first time so we can all learn together.
What technology trends excite you right now?
100% VR and 360 video – that complete immersive storytelling! It freaks me out how involved you can feel yet when you take things off how removed you can feel.
What are some of the KPIs that you measure success by for both the business and your team?
A new one which I adopted after my trip to Silicon Valley is encouraging all of the team individually to go speak at events, write a blog and to find their own voice. I think it is really important to start putting yourself out there as an expert in your field. In terms of content, obviously there are the views, the clicks, the shares but what we are so excited about is the feedback that we get from those that star in the videos. That is what we gauge success on. If you can empower and change the way people think about storytelling – that’s massive and we are starting to see that in the industry and with the clients that we are working with.
What is the long term vision for the company as well as more imminent milestones?
The big vision is to enable companies to build the most powerful and trustworthy film crews in the world. All the thinking into the product revolves around inspiring and empowering people to know they are a creator. Working with global enterprise clients is intrinsically global but we want to work with the biggest companies in the world and change how they tell stories at a global scale.
Over the next 12 months we are working on automating the product further and putting an education factor into the product such as filming tips and how to videos. We are also developing search capability to allow you to search emotion in the content or what you can see in it. The third we are investing in is developing our self-serve functionality to enable previous clients to continue telling stories!
Women in Tech
What advice do you have for women looking to raise capital?
- Build relationships early when you don’t need money.
- Research what options you have – there are so many ways to raise money, it doesn’t have to be VC so find the right investor for you.
- I don’t know if I have been looked at differently because I am female. When I was in Silicon Valley speaking to female founders who have raised huge rounds and exited companies, they did say they got more grilled on the data and the numbers. So also get behind your numbers, learn them, know them so you can go into that room with real confidence.
Do you consciously think about building a diverse team and how can we do better to attract and retain more women in those teams?
I definitely think about building diversity. I have made sure that when we are doing the interview process I am talking to a diverse enough group. We are now about 50:50 organically bringing in the right people every time.
So many of the brightest graduates continue to go and work for a big bank or consultancy. What would you say to them to cut through that rhetoric and consider joining EF/a startup?
If you have the passion, drive and determination for an idea just run with it. But I also couldn’t recommend joining a startup more. In a startup you fail fast and the wealth of experience you get in a small amount of time is also 10x more than you would get in a larger organisation.