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Interview With The Tangent Agency CEO, Marc Becker

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Tangent Agency
Going by the motto “It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you,” The Tangent Agency has worked on many large projects, including Despicable Me, X-Men, Deadpool, Fifty Shades of Grey, and many more. Leading Tangent Agency is their CEO, Marc Becker. He comes with 7 years of experience as an Executive in the Global Brand Marketing team at Universal Pictures. Working closely with filmmakers, stakeholders, and brands, he helped develop campaigns for films across NBCU/Comcast platforms. Marc joined Tangent after using them as a trusted vendor while at Universal and now oversees business operations working for a creative powerhouse. The Tangent Agency brings big ideas to life by creating innovative content for their partners.
Marc granted us an interview to give us some insight on business and offered advice for those looking to advance their careers. He tells us about their new leadership team and how AR and VR is having a moment. 

What is your day like as a CEO?

When you’re running a company, you have to a wear a ton of hats. I always joke that I should change my business cards to read “Janitor to CEO” because that’s really what I have to be. On a typical day we’ll have a team check-in to talk about priorities followed by picking what music or movie we should put on in the background. My music is usually vetoed so our CSO, Daniel, has been on DJ duty for the last couple months. From there, I’m usually joining calls with partners ensuring we’re clear on all their objectives and deliverables. In addition to the account management side of things I’ll work with the team on brainstorms for ideation and reviewing material before it’s sent out to the partners. Another big part of my day is usually working on business development whether it’s chatting with partners/collaborators or potential clients who could use our services. I’m also a big proponent of mentorship and sharing my experiences whenever possible, so I NEVER turn down an informational interview - I tend to do them pretty often. It sounds very business school-y, but now that we’ve hired a couple more members of the team, I’m looking forward to working more ON the business instead of IN the business, which will enable us to scale a little faster.

What makes Tangent Agency different from other agencies?

At Universal, I used to hire nearly every agency under the sun. At Tangent, we are both a creative partner and thought partner, and all our strategy is insight-driven. We work with some of the biggest brands and on the biggest franchises, consistently delivering the quality and the marketing product you’d expect from a major creative agency, but also offer some unique capabilities like Strategic Sales Materials, Franchise Development, and Mythology. Our partners turn to our design team to develop a visual identity for their properties bringing their brands to life. Just as importantly, Tangent leads the way in deciphering data and creating a compelling story to pitch the property, often from scratch. Franchise development, while a critical storytelling and brand development device, is still a largely untapped part of entertainment marketing, and Tangent’s team is some of the best in this field. By breaking down the complex nuances of your favorite films and television shows, the process of mythology provides an avenue and a lens into the backstories of the characters and plot points to help our clients develop endlessly engaging story universes. The Tangent creative team has been both on the agency side and the client side and are truly some of the best in the business. I continue to be inspired by them on a daily basis.

What are some of the best projects you’ve worked on?

We’re proud of all our projects and they each present their own unique challenges and opportunities.  We like to say we’ve worked on everything from My Little Pony to Straight Outta Compton.  I find it exciting to work on independent films and Academy fare projects as well as the big global blockbuster franchises like the X-Men or Jurassic World.  Our resident super-geek and CSO, Daniel Barber, loves all things sci-fi and superheroes so I’m sure he’d say Deadpool 2, Logan, and Speilberg’s Ready Player One are a few he’d cite. On a personal level, it’s been special to be working on some of the Universal properties such as Despicable Me and Fast & Furious.  We’re under NDA so I can’t say exactly what we’re doing on the projects, but I spent so many years at Universal working internally with the brilliant filmmakers and collaborating with my old team and everyone around NBCU to help manage those brands, it’s fun to continue to work on them in this new capacity.

Who are some influencers that you admire?

I’ve always been a fan of the humble way of life Warren Buffet continues to maintain. Bill Gates has not only built an incredible empire and wealth, but continues to baffle me with his work through the foundation and his charitable contributions. Zuckerberg seems to be following in the footsteps of Gates, and I admire his commitment to making the world a better place. Sheryl Sandberg has become a voice of a generation of women and I appreciate the work she’s done to help break the glass ceiling. I know I’m leaving a bunch of people off, but I think you can gather the overall trend - successful people that seek to make a difference in the world.

What advice has helped you the most throughout your career?

I’ve been extremely fortunate to have mentors champion me throughout my career and sprinkle many insightful gems of advice throughout the years. One piece of advice that has always stuck with me is from my old boss, mentor and friend David O’Connor, who runs Brand Marketing at Universal. He always used to say “don’t be afraid to ask questions.” Too many people let their egos get in the way of being inquisitive for fear that they will be perceived as unintelligent or ignorant. It’s important to be strategic about asking questions and know when it’s appropriate and when questions should be taken off-line, but I’ve found it incredibly valuable to “be real” and honest with the people around me in both my personal and professional life. If I don’t know something, I ask and I remember, and then I have the knowledge going forward. If there’s something that isn’t my strength, for example graphic design, I can leave the work to the experts and allow people around me to shine.

What are some business tips you can give to startups?

Don’t be a jack of all trades and a master of none. Know what you’re good at and be the best at it. Or don’t be the best at it, just make sure you know what your value proposition is. In regards to people looking to launch a startup, I can’t tell you how many times entrepreneurs, friends, peers, etc. come to me with a business idea they “can’t tell me about.” Odds are, the idea isn’t an original idea and someone else has thought of it - it’s all about execution. You absolutely want to do your homework and discovery, but too many people suffer from analysis paralysis and never pull the trigger. The only way to make things happen is to actually execute. If something isn’t working, don’t let ego get in the way of being flexible, and don’t be afraid to make a pivot.Another tip is to always consider the end user. These fans are real people who are passionate about whatever brand/product you’re selling. In today’s world with social media being what it is, everyone can vocalize their opinion and has a pulpit by which to express it. Whether you’re marketing a multi-billion dollar blockbuster franchise or selling from a lemonade stand, it’s important to consider your customers.

What are some recent company milestones for The Tangent Agency?

We rebranded and restructured the company 18 months ago with a new leadership team: Ben Taylor (CCO), Daniel Barber (CSO), Mat Guillen (Art Director), and myself as CEO. We just completed our first year with the refreshed company and have seen incredible results and continued growth. Another recent milestone is we’ve expanded our Experiential, AV, and Digital capabilities.

What will make this year better than last year?

We’ve carved out a great niche for ourselves as one of the industry’s best kept secrets, working a lot behind the scenes. This year, we’re excited about becoming a bigger player in the experiential world and working on more consumer facing materials. It’s only January and we’re already having productive conversations with some of the leading content creators and key players in new technologies such as VR and AR. TV and Interactive Gaming are both having big moments, and we are excited about the opportunities for Tangent to collaborate in both areas. We’re looking forward to expanding our relationships with existing partners and working with new ones.   

Jie writes about influencers and startups in various industries. She is a designer turned techie, and when she is not writing, you can find her in her workshop working on her next big project.

Business

Q&A with Tobias Peggs: CEO of Square Roots

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When you think of farming, wide sprawling hills with rows of stalks and veggies comes to mind.  You probably imagine a farmer as a dude with a plow with denim overalls, not necessarily as an entrepreneur. Square Roots is a startup that is changing the way we think of farming.  Cofounded by Elon Musk's brother, Kimbal Musk, this company is disrupting the industrial food complex by closing the gap between the food that farmer's grow and the consumers who buy them.In the heart of Brooklyn in a old industrial parking lot sits a bunch of unassuming shipping containers.  The last thing you'd expect them to contain would be two acres worth of growing produce, but alas, that is exactly what's inside of them.Your typical apple travels a huge distance from where it was picked to the grocery store shelf.  In the process it looses the vast majority of it's nutrition.  Square Roots attempts to resolve this inefficiency by providing a place for produce to be grown in an urban setting.  It does this by growing produce in shipping containers hydroponically (a method of growing without soil).  Each shipping container is manned by a farming entrepreneur who is responsible for creating their own business plan, marketing and distribution logistics.  Once the produce is ready for harvest, farmers deliver the fresh goods directly to your office/home, connecting the farmer with the consumer in a more intimate and conscious way.A couple weeks ago I took a tour of the urban farm led by of Square Root's CEO Tobias Peggs.  Here's a look at some of the things I learned along the way:

How much produce can one shipping container yield on average?

One shipping container can produce about 50lbs of leafy greens.

How long does it take a plant to get from seed to harvest?

This varies depending on what type of vegetable is being grown but take for example a head of lettuce: it takes about 2-3 weeks for the plant to go from seed to harvest.

Tell me more about the tech that goes into growing food in shipping containers.

To replace sunlight, we use red and blue LEDs, which are really the only two types of light plants need for photosynthesis.  Each shipping container is modular with a controlled climate.  My background is in artificial intelligence, so every aspect of the conditions in each shipping container is controlled by AI.  Say we had an heirloom seed that grew in southern Italy in the 1800's.  We can look to see what the climate was at that time and replicate it's environment within the container.   This way, instead of literally shipping food from southern Italy, we just ship the data about that environment and use it to grow exotic foods locally.

What control do farmers have over what they grow?

Our farmers are 100% entrepreneurs.  They decide which seeds to use.  They also are responsible for their own branding and marketing and how to distribute their goods.  This is our first cohort of farmers, they don't have to use the Square Roots name, but most choose to.

Is there anything like this currently being attempted?

There's one in particular being attempted in Japan.  A large portion of farmland was rendered unusable after the meltdown in Fukushima.  Because of this Japanese consumers now have stamps on the food which literally says "Proud to be grown indoors".  So people are attempting it, all of them in different methods. I would say we were the most modular.After the tour I got to sample some of the shipping container-grown produce.  The picture above is from a mustard green.  Believe it or not it was really spicy!  I never thought of leafy greens as spicy, but regardless it was bomb as hell in my salad.As populations rapidly grow and change in cities, so must the way we produce and distribute food.  Not only does the current method of industrialized farming diminish the quality of our food, but it also disconnects the farmer from the consumer.  Square Roots presents us with a wildly innovative solution to these issues.  Where does your salad come from?  Mine came from a badass shipping container in Brooklyn.
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How this successful entrepreneur spent his 35th birthday

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Over the weekend I was going through my Twitter feed. Rather than seeing a ton of political "artistry" and random gifs, I stumbled across this incredible set of non-obvious business strategies (or better known as tweets) that may be some of the largest pieces of gold someone can read when they want to start a business.Twitter has received it's fair share of opinions within the past year, but it's safe to say that if used correctly; it's the most powerful social network on the planet.Scott Gerber, a New York based entrepreneur, best selling author, father, and straight up bad ass, celebrated his birthday in an unconventional way. The "Super Connector" took to Twitter to grace us with 35 "non-obvious business strategies and lessons" that he has learned over the past decade in business. Below are his tweets directly quoted from his Twitter feed. If you care to follow Scott, you can do so at @scottgerber.

Lessons From Scott Gerber

1. Beware of "boss metrics"

Macro trends are great IF they are based on the right micro trends. Macro trends can easily be manipulated to show a rosy picture while making major micro issues seem smaller or irrelevant. Ensure your KPIs align with your true performance.

2. Optionality is your life blood

Your job is to maximize optionality everyday in everything you do. There should never only be one path. In fact, try never to only have two potential paths. Always have a variety of obvious and non-obvious traditional and non-traditional options.

3. Bad Decisions

Bad decisions are due to failures to ask the right people the right questions. Don’t be “surface level”. Ask follow up questions. Don’t mistakenly believe what you want to hear. Instead probe deeper on what you actually hear.

4. Two rules

Two rules if your goal is to one day sell your business. 1) Be a revenue multiple company. 2) If you aren’t a revenue multiple company, see rule #1.

5. Anecdotal evidence

Never allow your team to use “anecdotal evidence”. First, anecdotes are not evidence of anything nor are they based in facts, science or statistical relevance. It's simply opinions on top of gut feelings and emotions. Poor decisions come from this sort of “evidence”.

6. Train with fake fires.

Train with fake fires. Your company needs a good fire drill once in a while. What happens if you don't raise money? What happens if your biggest client fires you? Get smart people in the room. Figure out how you would disrupt your own business and solve the issue.

7. Never give a “definitive yes”...

Never give a “definitive yes” to a contractual term without reviewing it in its proper context. A one line term can easily become 100 lines or be defined by 100 terms that you never agreed to. It can also mess up other terms if everything is not contemplated as a whole

8. Don't just listen

Don't just listen to what's being said--listen to what is not being said. More importantly, listen to what’s not being said on purpose. People that try to sell you something are often expert in the art of mindful editing.

9. Automating

Automating humans out of a process still takes lots of humans. Don’t be fooled by the concept of “automating a system”. It often takes more man-hours, money, time and technologies than the task itself is worth. Look at the full picture before you invest time or treasure.

10. Follow the bonus.

Follow the bonus. If you help others hit their financial goals, they are more likely to become an ambassador of your BD efforts with their colleagues. Building a partnership with someone who is top line revenue based versus quota based is different. Align incentives.

11. Never partner with adulterers or known cheaters.

11. Never partner with adulterers or known cheaters. If they are willing to screw over their spouse, they will have no problem screwing you ten fold if it suits their needs.

12. Sell with a “2-for-1” mentality.

Sell with a “2-for-1” mentality. Many companies get one big client name and are happy with that. BUT they forget the big client has dozens of divisions. One client could actually become 2 or 3 clients once you open the right doors. Don’t stop after the hardest one!

13. The 3rd party

Don’t let a 3rd party control your destiny, cash flow or your decisions. Whether you need an investment, a platform or a vendor, if a 3rd party becomes a vital piece of your plan you are taking a bet. Calculated bets can be smart, but don’t kid yourself. You’re making a bet.

14. Don’t be a conventional scheduler.

Don’t be a conventional scheduler. We’ve been taught to think in blocks of time (ie 30 minutes). Why have a 12 minute meeting, then burn 18? Think in smaller chucks like 2 or 5 minutes. When you adapt to this, you're capacity and efficiency will dramatically increase.

15. The Final Offer

Know the final offer you’d take before the first offer. Before you do any deal, know your absolute last stand deal--the absolute worst terms you are willing to accept. Having that thought out beforehand will stop you from making bad deals that aren't in your best interests.

16. About Acceptance

Don't ram your model into new industries and assume the other side will understand it (or accept it). Engineer your model to adapt to the lingo, structures and terms of the industry. Make the numbers work using the financial standards of that industry.

17. Always be the first salesperson.

Always be the first salesperson. If you don't know how to sell your product, no one will! Even if you aren't a professionally trained salesperson—or the tech guy!!—you need to learn to articulate your value proposition and see what people really need.

18. About Department Heads

Have your department heads always do every task in their department before they are allowed to assign it to anyone else. This will ensure that they know what success and failure look like beforehand.

19. About Sales Meetings

In sales meetings, always ask more questions than you answer. Answer questions with follow up questions until you have the most amount of detail possible before you fully answer. Most prospects will TELL YOU what they need and how they want it. You just need to ask and listen

20. Know your team’s real capacity.

Know your team’s real capacity. Break down your staff's tasks into units and total task costs. You would be shocked to see how “busyness” and real time communication gives the false impression of full capacity.

21. “Layer”

“Layer” your business over time, not all at once. Layering new revenue centers is certainly smart, just don’t try to do it all today.

22. Buying into passion and enthusiasm can be a disaster.

Buying into passion and enthusiasm can be a disaster. Don’t get caught up in hype and sexiness (or a good salesperson's spin!). Never make instant yes decisions no matter how good you feel. Even if they feel right, you should still do your diligence.

23. Train your brain

Train your brain to think about what is wrong, not right. What could go badly, not well. And why something won't work, not will. Your love for your idea, your process or your product can be your worst enemies.

24. Invest in the right systems BEFORE you scale.

Invest in the right systems BEFORE you scale. Failing to create the processes and systems needed when things are manageable will become incredibly costly longer term—and more time consuming and tedious.

25. Rules of the DM

Expect that anything you send via email or send via DM to anyone about anything will get out there and will be made public at some point. It will. Don’t be an idiot.

26. Surprise Yourself

No matter how “conservative” you believe your internal projections or goals are—LOWER THEM AGAIN. Surprise yourself, don’t be surprised.

27. Sell your way out of financial trouble

Sell your way out of financial trouble. The idea of “raising money” or “raising debt” is not a good mindset to be in if you find your company in a cash crunched position. You might end up getting financing, but relying on it is a fool’s errand. Sell! Sell! Sell!

28. Are your customers asking the same question twice?

If customers ask you the same question twice, you've failed them. When customers ask a new question, write it down, formalize an answer, and find ways to promote that answer (eg FAQs, call center scripts, website, etc.) so that another customer will never need to ask again.

29. Never blindly listen

Never blindly listen to someone who doesn't have to live with the consequences of the decision. Advisors are great but you must make final decisions. Getting an "I'm sorry it didn't work out" from an advisor without any downside won’t won't make you feel better in the end.

30. Unlock your entrepreneurial mind.

Unlock your entrepreneurial mind With everything that happens around you, go beyond the surface and ask "why", "how", "is it the best", "what's better", and "how would I do it." Feed on curiosity and your ability to ask great questions will be sharp when you need it.

31. User adoption isn't simple or guaranteed.

User adoption isn't simple or guaranteed. Changing user behavior is not easy. Remember: everyone is busy (life, family, work) and you want to add yet another thing. Remove as much friction as you can. Save as much time as you can.

32. Shut up after yes

Once you've got a 'yes' shut up and stop trying to further sell. You can't go further than a win, so shut up. I’ve met more than my fair share of people that lost deals because they kept selling past the ‘yes’.

33. Everyone always has an angle.

Everyone always has an angle. Know the angle before you react to the situation. Don't end up a pawn on someone else’s chess board.

34. Community is crucial.

Community is crucial. The power of association and coalition is more powerful than being a lone wolf. Build one. Be a big part of many. Give more than you take (and don’t be a taker or a sleepy networker!).

35. A Quote to End Them All

Live by this quote from one of my mentors and you’ll be better for it: “You can’t cheat real time. And real relationships take real time.” With my addition: “But your job is to find ways to cheat your time to create more real time.”Here's to liven out that last quote. Thanks for the free advice Scott and Happy Birthday.
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Costume Designer Janelle Nicole Carothers Interview

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Inside The World Of Costume Designer Janelle Carothers

Being the costume designer for some of the most beautiful women and biggest names in entertainment sounds like a dream job, and Janelle Carothers does just that. Dressing big names like Cassie, Ne-Yo, and Chris Brown, she is no stranger to getting up close and personal with celebrities. Janelle’s role in film greatly impacts the characters wearing her clothes. She looks into the finest details to create the perfect look, whether it’s for print, live performances, or commercials.
It comes to no surprise that she was born fashion savvy. Her personal style is self-described as “tomboy-chic,” with pieces that we can find in our very own closets. “So my day-to-day fashion consist of layers to pop on and off as I go in and out of meetings, in and out of malls, on and off sets, in and out of fittings. My fashion staples are, leather jacket, white T, great fitting jeans, boyfriend blazer, long scarf, big shades, shirt dress - I can get a million looks out of those 7 items. My personal go to brands are Celine, Madewell, Rick Owens, Adidas, Acne, Alexander Wang and of course I love piling on my SLATE accessories. I love to be comfortable and look effortless.” Versatility is key when it comes to picking out pieces for herself.An outfit tells a story about the person wearing it, and Janelle keeps that in mind each time she is on set. By studying the characters, she figures out their personality, their occupation, and so on, so she can style them accordingly. “It's more about How can I help the actor and the director tell this character’s story without saying a word. Does she make a lot of money? Is she happy? Is she insecure? What does she do for a living? All those things have a "look". What is that look? That look may or may not be "fashion". But, my job is to keep you entertained. Executing the vision of the powers that be into making you believe this character is who they say they are.” Her passion stems from the ability to tell a story through clothes, not just for fashion’s sake alone.Though her livelihood is her dream, it did not come without obstacles along the way. “The challenging part was all the different catch 22's. Get a job to get experience, no one will hire you until you have experience. Get into the union. Can't get in the union unless you find a union job. Can't get on a union job because you’re not in the union. It's almost like it's designed to make you quit, but you can’t. But, every obstacle you overcome bears a new obstacle. This is life. I look back and see how far I've come, I look ahead and see that there's still so much more to do.” Janelle has faced what many millennials are also facing today. Finding a career proves to be difficult, no matter the industry.As an entrepreneur, she has worked tirelessly to get to where she is today, each day to improve the next, setting up her future with each move. Creativity and entrepreneurship comes hand in hand, especially in the costume design industry. “This is something that you have to choose over again, almost everyday. So many things are going to come along (bigger, better, prettier, EASIER), don't jump ship, stay the course. Know that all days on this journey are not created equal. You got to take good with the bad. Keep going. Don't give up.” She began her career assistant a stylist for Chris Brown before he was a big name. When he blew up, she followed him on tour for three years. Her perseverance paid off, time and time again, as she has elevated her portfolio with television, music videos, working with Director John Singleton, and much more.One of her most popular projects was working on the movie The Perfect Match, starring Paula Patton, Terrence J, and Cassie Ventura. Watching the film, you can tell that each piece was meticulously thought out and chosen according to the personalities of each character. “Great and talented crew. I'm grateful the director, Bille Woodruff, entrusted me with his vision. And, I mean Cassie, Lauren London, and Dascha Polanco are too gorgeous and you can't make them look bad even if you tried. So all in all, when projects like that come around you just say yes one thousand times.“While there is no such thing as a typical day for Janelle Carothers, she stays humble and expresses her gratitude for being able to work in the competitive and demanding industry that is costume design and styling. She stays grounded by her son, who motivates her to continue chasing her goals. “ Knowing that God chose me to take of him. Knowing that I'm his sole emotional, physical and financial support. Knowing that God allows me the opportunity to feed us and provide us a great life by doing something that I love so much. That alone is worth its weight in gold. The least I can do to show God my ENTER all gratitude, is to stay motivated and keep going.” She has many more surprises in store, and whether we realize it or not, we’ll be seeing her work everywhere we go.carothers janelle
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