Fresh off being selected by Google for Startups program focused on high potential startups from underrepresented entrepreneurs based in the U.S. we catch up with Forbes 30 Under 30 2021 award winner and Founder & CEO at CLLCTVE, Kelsey Davis. CLLCTVE is a platform connecting college creators and brands targeting Gen-Z consumers. We discuss Kelsey's passions, her upbringing, experiences at Syracuse University and much more.
We want to welcome all of our listeners to another episode of Minority Report Podcast with Erik and Kerel. Each episode we talked with leaders in business, tech and media. And today joining us is Kelsey Davis is the founder and CEO at CLLCTVE. Let's jump in and get to know Kelsey. Kelsey, welcome. How are you?
I'm doing swell and yourself.
Listen, it's exciting. The weather's been nice. pollens been not so bad. It was bad earlier. But all is good. All this good so far. It's awesome. So I want to start off, Kelsey, I see you got a Syracuse sweatshirt on. Tell us. Yeah. Tell us a little bit about where you're from, which is not Syracuse. And then I want to ask you about Syracuse. So tell us about where you're from?
Yeah, so it all started in Atlanta, Georgia. I grew up on the north side of Atlanta, in Cobb County, Kennesaw, specifically. And yeah, I just kind of grew up at the intersection of media and business. I had a parent, one who was a CPA, the other who kind of worked on the media business side of things at CNN. And so I kind of grew up kind of always wanting to learn how could I kind of use storytelling, but to kind of push things forward in a larger landscape. I knew that I hated journalism. And I didn't really want to get into that life. But I love the idea of being able to have an idea and a vision, visually, and then being able to take that from your brain, and then to be able to articulate that out on screen for other people to have been digest as an audience. So at the time, that then personified itself through film, I think, now my desire to do that happens through entrepreneurship. But yeah, that kind of desire for me then led an academic route towards Syracuse University, where I went to the Newhouse School of Public communications to study television, radio, and film, and then a minor in innovation design in startups at Syracuse, and I just really wanted to be somewhere that was a very holistic environment. You know, I'm someone who, you know, I like sports I, yeah, care about class, I care about social life. I care about, you know, learning, you know, how can I eat alone, whatever. And I wanted to a school that kind of personified all of those things. And that also was in a network that I felt like, I wanted to be a part of post graduation. And so Syracuse just reflected that, and it took me 1000 miles away from which I enjoyed.
Yeah, that's great. That's exciting. And I want to ask you a little bit about your family. You know, you mentioned having family kind of in the media space. And certainly, it sounds like they influenced, you know, a little bit about what you wanted to do early on. And you've taken it to absolutely where you want to go, which is exciting. How do you think that sort of impacted who you are today, and having those influences and some of that direction, so early on?
Yeah, for sure. I'm super fortunate and privileged to have two parents who, from the beginning, they were always very, hey, look, I don't, I don't really care what you do. But you do need to be the 1% of that. And make sure that like, you really put in your 10,000 hours, and I don't care if that's basketball, I don't care that film, I don't care if that's entrepreneurship, and I always felt like I had a safe space and a freedom to explore that playground of what, you know, efficacy around work look like for me. And so, you know, fortunately, I also went to a high school that gave me the opportunity to, you know, we had to have like a vocational like major, if you will, at our school. And so film was the route that we chose. And so it was the first time really even though my parents, yes, you know, we're in the industry in a certain type of way, it was the first time I got to experience my relationship with them and that type of capacity, right? Where it's, you know, you have your mom, your dad, and you know what that means to you as a kid. And that's kind of outside of the relationship of the value that maybe you think that you could be receiving based on what you actually want to do with your future. Right. And so, I think, for me, it was a great time for me to just learn a lot of things from my parents and to become a student, not only the material that I was learning, but really the environment around that. And I think that's something that my parents can be super, super helpful. I, you know, I started, you know, like an LLC in high school, like, my mom helped me with all the like tax and all of the information on that and I never thought that I'm really getting super value out of you know, my mom being a CPA in that way, but it came in close in that capacity and, and similar things when it came towards me, you know, selling things in immediate capacity having my dad operate in that type of role at CNN. And I think in a, in an interesting way, that actually became super helpful, and they were always very, you know, leaning in and to figuring out how they can be a resource and those more extracurriculars type of voice.
That's cool. Kelsey got a about CLLCTVE totally audience about CLLCTVE tell us what you what you got going on so many exciting things. Tell us about
Yeah, man. Yeah, so CLLCTVE. We're a portfolio platform that connects creators to the next opportunity. People like to coin us like LinkedIn for creators, right. So if you're a creator, and you're you're trying to kind of communicate who you are what you do professionally, and you know, yeah, you may be posting on tik tok and on Instagram and like all of that's great, but how are you quantifying that value and didn't get to employers in a way that they can digest in a way that they understand, right, I think LinkedIn was great, you know, 10 years ago when you know, any, and everybody was trying to figure out how am I taking my resume, and putting that online, I think we're at a point now where people are kind of like, I don't know, if LinkedIn really communicates and personifies who I am, especially as a creator, right, and we're looking at this Gen Z audience, you know, us and all of our, you know, horizontal network connections are not operating on LinkedIn, right. And it's kind of become more of like an interactive Yellow Pages for us to look up business people, right. And so I think us and looking at this new market is really an open door, when we're looking at the intersection of, you know, the Gen Z workforce, which is going to be around 30% of the overall overall global workforce, and the next nine years, they're going to be looking for a place to be connecting with each other to be connecting with employers. And employers are going to be wondering, you know, where are those people? Right? And I think that's already happened. And all these people blow up on all these platforms, where they're like, hey, how do I reach these people at scale? Like, where are these Gen Z'ers, and when were they connecting, professionally online, ideally, CLLCTVE is the environment, that activity is taking place.
That's great, you've worked with some amazing brands, global brands, domestic brands, and can you tell us what what makes that Gen Z audience so important?
Yeah, I think, you know, Gen Z is craving autonomy, right? in every sense of the word, right? We want to be able to choose, you know, where we work for who we were, when we work, where we work, why we work, and being able to have complete freedom and autonomy over that right, no matter what your trade is, whether you're a videographer, and our photographer, and so maybe you're a freelancer. And so you're used to creating a Wix account, and you know, having people operate with you in that way, right? Or if you're a finance person, or let's say you're a CPA, like my mom, and around tax season, you know, you're doing the whole, you know, neighborhood and the whole blocks like taxes, what does it look like for you to communicate who you are what you do be able to kind of, you know, have this way of conceptualizing a lot of this activity for people to be able to find you and connect. And so, I think we're all moving towards autonomy. And when it comes to Yes, I work for this company, but I am the real asset, right? Like me as Kelsey Davis, I independently have these skills, these values, these these interests, and I am choosing to license them to CLLCTVE during my position as founder, CEO, right, you're choosing to then license this as your skills as Erik and your role then as a as a podcaster. Right? So it's like, what does that day look like if we have the tools and the autonomy to be able to choose all these things for ourselves, and then give the brands the ability to tap into us? Right, like, I think it's a lot more, we're moving towards a way more bottom up structure than top down? Right, we used to be the ones banging on people's doors, you know, you know, trying to, hey, how can I find a job? How can I find talent, you know, and I still think that's the case. But there's so many more opportunities, you know, for brands to post opportunities for you to find opportunities, like this whole talent pool is being democratized. And so it's making brands and recruiters work harder to communicate their value now, to these people, right. And so there's an even playing field that's happening. So yeah.
You mentioned something interesting there, Kelsey, about brands and companies now marketing their value. And as a hiring manager, I see that a lot now where it's much more of a partnership between a potential person who's going to come into the company and a brand, right, in terms of they both have to now market themselves to each other for for that partnership to work. Right.
Yeah. 100%. And I think I think that's the goal. And I think that that's kind of that double consensual playing field, I think allows markets to scale. Right. And I think ultimately, that's all what we want, right? Like, we do want to work for these organizations, right. But we also do want to be able to have autonomy over our relationship with what that work looks like. And I think when you look at platforms like Uber, I think it's great because you're able to kind of dictate and decide when I want to work, okay, do I want to drive during these hours, and then when you want to drive, he's hop in your car, you start picking up rides, when you want to be done for the day, you just make the decision to do that. But Ubers technology and their marketplace framework gives both the driver and the writer complete autonomy over their experience when they choose to open the app. And I think in a similar way, we're going to be seeing that level of hyper democratization in a lot of different industry spaces. When there's a person that's like sharing the need, like hey, I have a need, I need a ride. And okay, I have a I have a job or I have a car. Right I think that relationship in across so many industries, right? You see that with Airbnb, you know, you see that Uber, I think that's going to continue also this recruitment workforce conversation as well.
Gotcha, gotcha. What do you love about being a founder and the CEO?
Everything we've talked about autonomy, right? Being able to just really kind of parallel You know, my mission, vision and values as an individual as Kelsey Davis with those mission, vision and values of then what we're building is CLLCTVE. And then from there, you know, we have our product team and our members who then inform The way that we take that mission, vision and values and we are taking that to the actual technology and the product that we're getting, right. So I think also having that autonomy of being able to step away from a give those stakeholders control over the direction it goes. And then for me, it's just a matter of, you know, making sure that we're aligned with that overall vision mission and the values with along the way that we're doing it, you know, culturally, so I think for me, you know, going back to kind of my love and desire and passion for being able to ideate and being able to see these problems into, you know, strategize around these solutions, and being able to literally see that articulated through the persona of a product that's built that then serves a larger audience, it's going to engage with it like that's, that's what made me you know, desire to be a filmmaker, and then be a director and go to one of the top film schools is what now desires me don't want to be a founder, and to make products, ideally, build a top product that services is larger creator, you know, economy. So I think that's what for me, I love being a founder, I love you know, me, my co founder, we live together here in LA, we just recently graduated from Syracuse University. And, you know, I jokingly say, as a 24 year old, like, what else would we want to be doing right now, you know, this is the fun life. So we're having fun,
I hear that I hear that so as You and your co founder, think about the future of CLLCTVE, what does the next 9,12,15 months look like for you all?
Yeah, you know, scale, right? Like, our goal is to be, you know, the number one platform where, you know, workers are going to effectively communicate who they are and what they do, I mean, to be that home base, where they go to then connect with any opportunity that they're looking for, I think right now, you know, it's great, we're hopping into this, you know, 2021 world where you can do all these different things online, and you can be on all these different platforms, when it's kind of fragmented our identity, so much so online, that a lot of that data is not being quantified into legitimate value that that employers or whoever can then use to make a decision, if they want to engage with you. They're having to kind of go to all these different places and see these fragments of who you are, and all these different environments. But that's not to digestible for someone, right? So how do we create that socio professional identity where we're taking all that activity that's going on for that worker and bringing it all into one place, like our goal in the next 12 to 9 to 12 months is effectively kind of being the leader on doing that is ultimately our goal. And and I think that that goes down into our name, again, as a CLLCTVE right? There's so many themes around that. One of those, you know, being literally being the place where you can collect and store all of this data that you have that exists online, and to be able to have that all in one place that communicates to you are and what you do effectively. So that's the the roadmap or things that get us there.
Exciting, Kelsey I want to ask you about some of your experiences, sort of coming up, and the experiences of working with a lot of different people in the industry, you know, so as a young CEO, as a young founder, have you ever handled issues of discrimination? And if so, how did you handle those?
Yeah, for sure. You know, I think that's just like part of the human experience. Right. And so I think the way that those have been classified, I think, have been even though they may feel a little less direct, or they may happen in more subtle ways, I think in this environment, they exist. Nonetheless, I think, for me, it's about how do we democratize and even the playing fields, where the decisions that we're making around engaging with someone are based on the variables that that the people actually want those decisions to be based based off of them. So let's say they're off of their skills off of their content off of things that are literal, like data points, and then say, Hey, is this person you know, qualified to do this job, and to do this task? And I think a lot of that really has to do intrinsically with the way that you're building your products, with culture, with integrity, and with scale in mind, right? And I think a lot of times, people will often try to say, Hey, you know, we're not focused on DEI today, you know, focus on that in year two or year three, right? Or we're not focused on, you know, whatever. But I think, you know, the cool thing about tech is that, whatever it is that you're building from day one, like is scaling, right, so we're not prioritizing that, like, yeah, we could potentially build that in at the 18 month, you know, 24 month milestone, but at that point, like, is this a crucial part of the infrastructure? Or is this just kind of a sidecar thing that we're doing? Because we know that we have to? And so I think for me, it's really about how can I create an environment in a space. Where Yes, we know that, you know, people are going to be people life is going to happen, and people are going to come into this environment in a way that maybe is it with our, you know, values that we try to personify and try to uphold and I think it's our responsibility at that point to take action, right to figure out how are we all the time like realigning, and even learning as time goes on, like how we could just be better do better and, you know,
yeah, that's great. So you live with your co founder, tell us about like, I'm imagining you're inspirational to each other a little bit and sometimes you I'll push each other. We were some other folks that like, helped to sort of push you along the way or or provided guidance as you can come up almost mentors, if you will.
Yeah, for sure. I mean, definitely, we have an incredible just like advisory mentor, you know, investor network from TechStars, who will, as well as some of our advisors in the early days, I feel he hates when I shout him out, but I'm gonna say John Jackson. He's like been is one of our most crucial people from day one. And I talked to him on a weekly basis. But yeah, I would just say, I think, you know, for us, we've been hyper intentional about plugging ourselves into communities and networks that just naturally support our growth by just natural existence in them. So for example, the Blackstone Launchpad by Syracuse, so college entrepreneur network, and that's across the country. TechStars was, you know, the way that we essentially made it out to LA, like, we knew that we wanted to move to LA, but we wanted to do it in a way and with a group that felt inclusive, and we really felt like we were co creating in the local environment that we were becoming a part of TechStars gave us the avenue to do that, then, and now we're doing that with Google Now. And so I think it's always better to just surround yourself with people that are better than you smarter than you and who have done things before. Because, you know, yes, you can learn things from experience. But you can also learn things from like, you know, presort data as well.
Yeah, that's that makes perfect sense. What are you reading? And what do you sort of following the sort of forums?
I'm James Baldwin, ride or die? So I'll like ride was anything he's talking about. Who else am I reading? I just searched his book on like ADHD, and entrepreneurship by one of my old professors at Syracuse, actually. And so that's really great. And Johns Hopkins, you wrote a book, basically, that's like, on that intersection, I have ADHD. And so I think, you know, being able to understand how you could use that as a superpower as a founder CEO is crucial.
What advice would you have to any other sort of young founder out there that's looking to start their own company?
Yeah, I think it's very important to like, know, yourself, that's what I'll say, like, do the work on like, really deeply understanding who you are, what are your triggers? What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses, doing all of those things, because like, that's so crucial, not only on a day to day level, to help you, like, just know how to engage with people, but also to know how to build around you, right, because I know I have ADHD, because I know that I operate in certain ways, whatever, like, I need to know how to build for that. That's like, something that's managed and controlled. If that's something that I'm not aware of, then it could be something that's still like, happening, but now it's like chaos, because we're not, we're not aware of that now, which is calling spillage now. Or it is it's like, I don't know. So it's like, you know, being able to know yourself also helps you be able to make clear decisions, you have more clarity across the board, when you're even doing simple things like ideating, on your product roadmap or thinking about, you know, hiring or whatever, I think if you're focused a lot on the internal work, I think it just allows you to help you getting past your own fears better, quicker, you know, the right things to think about and to entertain and not to, and I just think those are, those are really smart things. And this is a long race, right? Like, I think a lot of founders just like oh, let me come and try to start with ideas. like, yo, like, you could be in this thing for like, 7 to 10 you know, you got to really understand how to, obviously, yes, you know, run sprint to sprint to sprint, but how are you making sure that we like we win the war, and not just the battles, you know, so I think being able to focus on on yourself and your capacity to win the war and and figure out what that looks like, as opposed to just like burn out is super important also.
Gotcha. All right. Fun question. I love asking every guest that we have on the podcast, give me the top three apps that you use on your phone, but you can't name email, calendar, or text messaging.
Are those your top three apps?
No, no, no. They're their default app. Everyone's gonna name the default apps.
You said emails, text and calendar. So top three, I would probably say Twitter for sure. All right. I don't want to say Instagram, but I feel like I just have to Oh, no, let me say slack to slack count.
Yeah, that's good. That's fine.
And then some crypto.
Okay. a new one for us, Erik. Well, Kelsey, thanks so much for hanging with us and spending some of your time with us. It's been a lot of fun. A lot of times our audience likes to stay in touch or follow you
Yeah, for sure. You could follow me on twitter @humblykels is my Twitter so humbly like humbly and kels kels and then if you want to learn more about CLLCTVE or just be in the know about what we're doing, you could find us https://www.cllctve.com/, we spell that CLLCTVE CLLCTVE no vowels except for the E at the end. And yeah, excellent.
Thanks again and everyone. Thanks for listening to another episode So you can find more episodes where you find all of your audio and video, just search Minority Report Podcast and look for the logo. Thanks.