Updated 2/23 – video at bottom of post.
Scott is a Best-Selling Author, Entrepreneur, and Early Investor (slash Advisor) for companies like Pinterest, Uber, and Periscope. After 5 years at Goldman Sachs in NYC, Scott pivoted to the startup world with Behance, a network for creative people.
Scott, named one of the “100 Most Creative People in Business” by Fast Company, built Behance for several years and was then acquired by Adobe for a cool $150m. Scott became the VP of Product. His book is called Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming the Obstacles Between Vision and Reality. Check it out.
Pizza & 40s on the other hand is a free speaker series presented by The Hustle. Basically, get a speaker on stage and hand them a 40-oz beer and the rest is history. I’ll take you through some key learnings from Scott’s session in this post. Excuse the jumping around as I was in and out of volunteering.
Behance is a mission centric and medium agnostic platform for organized people. You might call it a “LinkedIn for the creative world,” removing the barriers between talent and opportunity.
After the 2006 launch, Scott grew the company for a while, and fast-forward 4 years later and the majority of his team was still on board. They genuinely enjoyed working together, which we’ll get into later. According to Gigaom, Behance raised approximately $6.5 million from Union Square Ventures, Jeff Bezos, Dave Morin, Yves Behar, Chris Dixon and others. It boasted over a million members and was host to over three million projects.
According to Scott, becoming a true Unicorn means achieving integration that actually works. A good monetary and work-wise outcome for both sides. Which brings us to Adobe. December 2012 – Adobe acquires Behance. Boom.
Let’s back up a little. At Goldman Sachs, Scott was fascinated with learning how the company operates and organizes itself. How is the framework designed? He found himself more and more intrigued with these types of questions, eventually connecting with Jack Welch who built the GE Crotonville Management Development Program and Center.
Prior to all of this, Scott was writing speeches for Henry “Hank” Paulson… Partner videos… Random, weird gigs. This allowed Scott to be the youngest person in the Goldman exec office, learning a ton over ~ 3 years. Perhaps the most important lesson Scott learned: Not to be at Goldman Sachs. He enjoyed organizational improvement and leadership development, applying what he learned at Goldman to business operations elsewhere. The Mission: To organize the creative world. Word.
A major issue Scott pinpointed in his brainstorming was a lack of attribution in the creative world. It’s damn near impossible to know who has done the design behind Billboards for example. Movies and shows have their credits to roll… but the design encouraging us take action don’t give credit to those who did the work. Scott’s plan was to expose this information and give people the opportunities they’ve earned. Opportunities for exposure, career growth, and perhaps even fame.
Scott’s Approach to Growth
“Make a bunch of shit and be ready to kill whatever doesn’t stick asap.”
According to Scott, it’s all about learning to listen to your gut and what you have built in your life. How to mold it your creations to match market and consumer trends. Entrepreneurs typically build out of passion, not empathy, which creates a greater vision for creation. However, with customer problems, being a tiny 5° off on the solution can make a massive difference. Anchor yourself repeatedly with the problem and the people you’re solving it for. There’s a gravity towards this process. It forces your team to spend tons of time with your target market and customers, and not in the form of formalized focus groups but daily life. You’ll pick up on the frictions, frustrations, interests, passions, and general vibe of the people you’re serving, which will result in a more empathic approach.
Scott’s Approach to Investing
Scott invested in Uber and Pinterest around their $3m valuations. So very early on in both companies, resulting in something around 20x investment increase. As much as he’d love to call himself a great investor, that’s just not the case (he claims). Look at the Google Analytics of a site like Pinterest (in the early days). Small traffic driver but Growth of Traffic is outperforming other sources. So Scott participated in a seed round, citing it as an excellent way to learn more about an other business. A great exercise in a lot of ways, if you can afford it. 🙂
In hindsight – Scott asks himself “should I have done X investment?” However, he’s under the mindset of supporting real friends when they supported him. The same mindset as supporting a Founder he believes in, regardless of product, to have some skin in the game since he’d be advising either way. For example, take Garrett Camp, the Cofounder of both StumbleUpon and Uber. He purchased back StumbleUpon following the eBay acquisition, and started doing some projects with Behance. In short, Scott slowly finds ways to get involved with his friends and their startups, for better or worse. A joke came up here — What do you do when you can’t raise money in Silicon Valley? Go to New York. (Look for Scott.)
“Heroin and a weekly salary are the two greatest addictions.”
Short circuit yourself, and make up milestones and metrics. For example, your friends are out doing amazing things and you’re in flux. Set personal metrics and milestones to achieve, like “5 coffee meetings this week.” Very relatable for me at the moment. 😉
A more personal example for Scott — Behance always was autocorrected to “Did you mean enhance?” on Google Search, so a milestone of theirs was making enough blogs and thought leadership / recognition that google wouldn’t think it was a mistake anymore. Perhaps even start recommended Behance as a search item.
On running a business and company culture…
Early business is not family, and should not be treated as one. Family puts up with the Drunk Uncle. Scott referenced Reed Hastings culture he’s built at Netflix being more like competitive sports team (with Patty McCord! I wrote a blog on their culture recently!). If they don’t pass the ball, we cut them from the team.
Next, Scott discussed his team at Behance, and the hunger and creativity of each employee. The first departure after a solid 4-year-run understandable “sucked,” according to Scott. However, it allowed Scott to make a realization in his mantra that everyone must move on. That’s just the way things go. When your learning curve plateaus in a specific company or role, you either have to leave the company or find a new gig within that company. Feelers [for new jobs] come out when an employee’s not feeling fully utilized and developed. If they’re fully engaged and bought-in, they’ll stay, sometimes even with less pay. Food for thought.
Over and out!
Thanks to The Hustle for another amazing event.
[cover photo credited to The Hustle, logo to Behance, Adobe and Gigaom, all other photos taken by Steffan at the event on an iPhone 7+]