About a year ago, a former client of ours learned Chelsea Handler wanted to collaborate with a Bay Area startup on an app for the “Chelsea Does Silicon Valley” episode of her Chelsea Does reality documentary series. He told Chelsea about our company, Yeti, which builds digital products, and from there our strange Hollywood dream began.
After a few quick calls, Chelsea headed for San Francisco with videographers in tow. Before we knew it, cameras were rolling, and Chelsea was explaining her vision for “Gotta Go,” an excuse generator app designed to help users escape life’s sticky situations (something close to Chelsea’s heart).
Working with Chelsea and her team was a journey we won’t soon forget. Here's what we learned:
1. Get outside your bubble
Hollywood is a bubble, but so is Silicon Valley. Working with Handler helped us step out of our tech-nerd boxes: We had to take our process -- which we usually apply to create consumer-focused digital products for companies -- and apply it to create a just-for-fun app.
Frankly, we were a bit nervous when we learned we’d be working with Chelsea, whose sassy reputation precedes her. We faced moments of paranoia, wondering to what extent we were being left in the dark about how the film was being shot and edited.
But, contrary to our expectations, entering a comedian’s world gave us energy and helped us unleash our creative selves, pushing us to think in terms of entertainment before business value. Tackling a humorous, lighthearted project that still addressed people’s needs was a great exercise in user empathy.
2. Tap into the celebrity’s secret sauce
For better or worse, a celebrity’s personality holds people’s attentions. Chelsea’s promotional power comes from her fun-loving, sardonic sense of humor and quirky mannerisms. You know what you’re getting when you tune in to watch her, and yet she’s still pretty unpredictable.
Working in product development, we’re primarily focused on the technical side of things. But Handler reminded us how important it is to effectively promote, market, and infuse ourselves into our apps. Whether it’s with Hollywood star power or intriguing in-app features, be sure your products have personalities that consumers can connect with.
3. Geek out about a new industry
To our delight, the project offered us a rare, behind-the-scenes glimpse into a new industry. We were curious to see how the film industry worked and how a production company would bring its big-screen skills to bear in our product development realm.
Lesson learned: Let out your inner geek and share expertise in exchange for insights into a new world. When another opportunity presents itself to work with a Hollywood star, we’ll be prepared for the cameras, the personalities, and the production styles we weren’t previously.
4. Know your elevator pitches
Particularly when you’re collaborating with a production company whose currency is sound bites, make sure you know how to describe your company, your mission, and how to answer some essential CEO questions: “How did you get the idea for your company?” “Why are you passionate about what you do?” “When did your company get started?”
It can quickly drain the energy from a room if you can’t describe your own company, so it’s your job to rehearse that stuff. Whether you’re speaking with investors, clients or just somebody who’s interested, don’t underestimate the value of being pitch-ready for yourself and your company
5. Prepare the company for launch
When the big debut comes, your company has to be as ready as your product. Once a celebrity’s name is attached, the product will be big news. Double-check for discrepancies across your blog content, website copy and FAQ pages.
Next, be sure your company is technically prepared. While we expected a bump in site visitors when the documentary was released, the app’s servers were downright bombarded with traffic. We spent much of the following day attending to our overtaxed servers.
For our team, breaking out of the mold of our day-to-day business and trying out this new experiment was like taking a Hollywood vacation. We did more than create an app and documentary -- we learned new skills, took new risks and became a more creative, adaptable company.
Related: 6 Steps to the Perfect Pitch?