How a Lesson From Her Son Inspired Elizabeth Sarquis to Build an Advertising Company for Social Good
'I thought advertising was terrible. Now I'm passionate about what it can do to help people rather than hurt them.'
In this series called Member Showcase, we publish interviews with members of The Oracles. This interview is with Elizabeth Sarquis, co-founder of Jukko, an advertising technology company promoting social good through targeted digital advertising. It was condensed by The Oracles.
Who are you?
Elizabeth Sarquis: I’m the co-founder of Jukko, a programmatic mobile advertising network that’s strictly focused on participating in a purpose-driven brand revolution. Our vision is that everyone considers everything they do and use: where it’s made, how it’s made, and how it affects our society.
What are you more skilled at than most people in the world?
Elizabeth Sarquis: I’m skilled at seeing things others don’t and connecting the dots between different industries. This skill serves me well in my position at Jukko because I can combine the whole ecosystem we work with — everything from retail to e-commerce, mobile games, and applications or news publications that use advertising.
What are the core values that guide your business, and why did you pick them?
Elizabeth Sarquis: Building community, connecting people, and creating empathy and joy so people can relate to everything around them. Community is so important to us, whether built around faith, ethnicity, or something else. For us, it’s a moral duty to do everything we can to make the world better for everyone.
What’s your favorite quote?
Elizabeth Sarquis: My favorite quote is by the Lebanese-American artist, poet, and writer, Kahlil Gibran: “You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.” I live by this essence.
What was your biggest challenge starting in business? How did you overcome it?
Elizabeth Sarquis: I came from the mobile gaming industry where you create, code, and design products for entertainment. Advertising is very different, and there’s a part of it that I don’t like. For a long time, advertising bombarded women with messages about how we should look and what we should wear. It told us that we had to buy or do certain things to be beautiful or cool, which made many people feel bad.
I wasn’t affected by these ads, but I saw how they impacted many others. I actually thought advertising was terrible, which was my biggest challenge starting Jukko. I’ve had to turn it into something different that I can get behind. Now I’m passionate about what advertising can do to help people rather than hurt them.
How do you define great leadership?
Elizabeth Sarquis: Great leadership is about surrounding yourself with smart people who know much more than you do. I am so proud of all those I’ve mentored. I have learned much more from them than they have from me. You have to be a great listener to be a great leader — because you don’t have all the answers. You also need compassion for those you work with and for.
How do you identify a good business partner?
Elizabeth Sarquis: Definitely by their values and egos. It isn’t scientific but I’m learning to trust my gut. Many people want to enter into a transaction with us, but whenever it feels transactional, I’m out. Partnerships are about relationships, not transactions. It’s about getting to know who you’re working with and understanding who they are. You just know when it’s right.
Before I founded Jukko, I started Global Gaming Initiative to create and host mobile games that give back. One day, my son, Alejandro, wrote on a Post-it note how much it cost to run the company compared to how much impact we had. “I don’t think this is sustainable,” he told me. “You have many friends in the mobile game space; let them continue making awesome products. You should figure out how to be a part of every single app and game so you can have an impact on a massive scale.” I thought that was weird, but I reflected on it and founded Jukko two years later.
When Alejandro graduated from college, he had offers from multiple Wall Street banks, but he wanted to work at Jukko. When I asked him why, he said that he didn’t want to do something that wasn’t changing or having an impact on the world. I was moved. Every single day, I feel honored that he works here. To me, he is leading the company.
How do you prevent burnout?
Elizabeth Sarquis: Nature is an integral part of my wellbeing. It doesn’t matter where I am, but I feel happy and enlightened every single day living in Salt Lake City, Utah. It was so cool to see snow on the mountains yesterday.
I also do meditation and yoga. I used to be a runner, but I have severe injuries after nearly dying in two car accidents. I still keep my body constantly moving, which is why I love hiking. I do all the things that help me connect with myself and a higher power. Music is another big one for me. In the mornings, I listen and dance to Colombian music.
What are three things you would like to be doing in three years?
Elizabeth Sarquis: My vision is to create sustainably built schools all over the world and use the computer science training company, Bottega, to teach people how to become engineers. Access to education is a crucial factor that can change the world. That’s what I want to be doing in three years.
What is the most exciting question that you spend time thinking about?
Elizabeth Sarquis: How can we fundamentally address education in our country? The education system in the U.S. could be better. Five years ago, I read Amanda Ripley’s book, “The Smartest Kids in the World,” which had a big impact on me. It talked about how the country with the best education was Finland, where I have strong relationships with many developers and companies. The country invests in teachers, pays them what they’re worth, and requires that students have high test scores.
I’m also perplexed why we have so much technology but so many people still live without food. It hurts my soul. I believe we all should focus on providing basic needs like food and education for everyone.