Drawing courtesy of: Johngordonart.com
In an age where Netflix is king and traditional TV is losing ground, Layer3TV is working to re-imagine standard cable. At the helm of the cable crusader is Layer3TV’s Head of Marketing, Eric Kuhn, who’s been featured in Forbes’ 30 under 30, Fast Company, The Guardian, and has even won a Peabody Award for his role in CNN’s coverage of the BP oil spill. We sat down with Kuhn to chat about topics ranging from startups to adult play dates. Take a look at what he said:
In an interview with Fast Company, you mention the advice your father gave you to “be ahead of the curve.” Applying your father’s words to your work today, how do you stay ahead of the curve?
As a curious person, I’m always asking people questions and gathering information. In part, I use the information to decipher the trends of what the future could look like. It’s also important to always be speaking to a diverse group of people from a variety of fields and points of view—not just fellow entrepreneurs or media executives, but academics, politicians, scientists, store owners, waiters, artists, etc., in order to best understand what they are thinking. “The future” doesn’t only affect people in San Francisco and New York, but has profound impact on fields like farming. Each conversation about how a person uses technology or what the struggles of their business are today or anything else interesting that emerges becomes a data point that I use to map out trends in my head.
At 18 years old, you encouraged CBS Evening News to embrace social media at a time when it wasn’t widely adopted. What advice would you give young entrepreneurs attempting to change an industry stuck in its ways?
I would, actually, change your question slightly. I spent the beginning of my career in large companies and didn’t think of myself as an “entrepreneur,” but rather an “intrapreneur.” My advice to intrapreneurs—people who fight for change inside corporations—is it’s incredibly important to build allies at all levels of a company in order to get things done. And this starts at the top. Without a CEO who believes in innovation and change it’s very hard to move the ship. But moving a big ship doesn’t happen over night, it takes the buy-in and collaboration of many people in an organization.
While at United Talent Agency (UTA) you started a newsletter called “Startup Sunday” in which you featured promising startups. You also helped catapult the popularity of new talent born and bred on social media platforms. What factors make a startup more promising than others?
First is the team. Are the entrepreneurs driven, scrappy, and smart? Second is the product. Is the company trying to solve a problem people have or is this something a consumer would love and use? Finally, it’s the global environment. Is the world ready for a company like this? Sometimes there are amazing ideas and products that are just too early in their creation and, sometimes, they are too late. Timing matters.
In 2014, you made the move from UTA to now Denver-based Layer3TV, the self-proclaimed “next generation cable provider.” As head of marketing, how do you ensure your team works well together?
It’s all about how you communicate. It’s important to be transparent with each other about the strategy and vision of the company. Also, I try to cultivate an environment where people can collaborate and, at the same time, be accountable for their areas of responsibility. I am supportive of trying new ideas and approaches, even if they fail, because that is the best way to learn—the key is reaching that conclusion quickly so we don’t lose time on dead ends. We never hold a mistake against someone as long as they are transparent about it and learn something from it.
In 2015, Forbes ranked Denver as the best place to start a startup. Can you speak to why Layer3TV chose to move their offices from Boston to Denver, and how you are attracting top talent from the Mile High City and elsewhere?
We moved to Denver because the people in this city are awesome! We have, also, created a culture inside Denver that encourages hard work, but allows people to ski a run or two before they come into the office.
We, also, want to be an example of good corporate citizens. Layer3 TV has a commitment to sustainability and the environment. This attracts people to our company from all over the world, but specifically hits a chord for people who live in Denver and love the outdoors. We recently started rolling out our installation fleet with BMW i3s. The electric-powered vehicle, will be the first all green cable service fleet!
For the record, we are committed to making sure our company helps the environment because it’s the right thing to do—not just because it attracts talent. However, talent sees that in our DNA and is, therefore, attracted to being a part of the larger vision.
Your success is partly rooted in your ability to anticipate trends and apply that foresight to industries, companies, and even celebrities. What advice would you give fledgling companies to stay ahead of the curve, and what do you think will be the next big corporate movement?
My friend, Jordan Roth, recently invited me to participate in #MakingMondays, a weekly two-hour long “play date” with about 15 other adults. While there was an iPhone involved (as it was streamed on Periscope and Facebook), the goal is to let our creativity flow. We wrote songs from scratch, did arts and crafts (yes, even with crayons), danced, and had fun without technology. Another friend of mine invites people over to her house every Friday to “play” (think make-believe, not board games) without technology!
As a digital guy in an age of being connected 24/7 this might be ironic to suggest, but unplugging, both inside and outside the office, is important and becoming a huge trend. Put the phone down and have some fun … maybe even create your own playgroup and see what comes from it. The act of playing—for the team you manage or even in the boardroom—fosters collaboration, allows people to think more creatively and you never know where it will lead.
What trait is most important to a leader?
Finding and retaining the best people to work with you.
What books are you currently reading?
I’m always in the middle of a few books. Right now my friend, Alec Ross, wrote a fantastic book called “Industries of the Future” about the next 20 years and how to stay ahead of the curve. It’s digestible and useful to everyone from parents to C-suite executives. In a similar vein, everyone at the World Economic Forum this year was reading and talking about Klaus Schwab’s “The Fourth Industrial Revolution,” so I ordered it as soon as I came back from the conference. To continue deepening my knowledge of China, I am reading “The Age of Ambition.” Finally, I’ve been reading books written by Brené Brown, a leading social worker and researcher. Managing is all about people and the more you can understand about how people think and act, the better.
Your best piece of advice?
Be in the room where it happens (to quote “Hamilton,” the new Broadway musical)!
What makes a company a great place to work?
Talent. Selecting the right people is what’s responsible for creating a great culture.
How do you make time for work-life balance?
Not the best question to ask an entrepreneur trying to launch a business!
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