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Making Great Ideas a Reality with 99U Director & Editor-in-Chief Jocelyn Glei

  • Broadcast in Entrepreneur
Kelly Scanlon

Kelly Scanlon


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Joining Host Kelly Scanlon on Smart Companies Radio is Jocelyn Glei,Director & Editor-in-Chief, 99U. They’ll discuss her latest book. “Make Your Mark; A Creative’s Guide to Building a Business With Impact”, called a 2015 MUST READ by Fast Company Magazine.

Glei is also the executive producer of the 99U conference, April 30th through May 1st 2015. The conference as well as the popular website focuses on creatives and the people who want to get creative with thier businesses.


0:32 Kelly Scanlon

Good morning. Welcome to Smart Companies Radio. I'm Kelly Scanlon, Publisher of Thinking Bigger Business Media. Our guest this morning is Jocelyn Glei. She is the Editor-in-Chief of 99u.com which is Behance's effort to provide the missing curriculum for making ideas happen. It's a very well-known website. It has won two Webby Awards for best cultural blog, has lots of what we in the business call evergreen content and I'm sure Jocelyn will talk to you about that. She's also the executive producer of the 99u Conference and she has a new book out called "Make Your Mark: The Creative's Guide to Building a Business with Impact". Welcome to the show today, Jocelyn.

1:16 Jocelyn Glei

Thanks a lot. It's a pleasure to be here Kelly.

1:18 Kelly Scanlon

So let's start with this. What is 99U?

1:21 Jocelyn Glei

Well 99U, the name actually comes from that Thomas Edison quote "Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration",

1:28 Kelly Scanlon


1:29 Jocelyn Glei

And so, 99U is really our efforts, kind of focused on 99% perspiration and what that means for us is, it's really a website that's target creative and, you know, where people will kind of wanna get creative with their businesses and our kind of perspective is that, you know, people have enough ideas. They don't really need more ideas and more inspiration. What they need is more kind of actionable help on how to execute on these ideas.

1:54 Kelly Scanlon

Absolutely. So, you were talking about not focusing on the inspiration because there's so many people out there with ideas and that's, that's what kind of hear is the problem. You know, anybody can come up with an idea, it's the people who actually take that next step and start executing against them and then make them happen, it is what really counts. And a lot of people have problems with that. They can see the idea, they can see the end result but they don't know how to get there. So that's where you step in, right?

2:23 Jocelyn Glei

Exactly and we do that, you know, through a variety of different channels. We have, as you mentioned, the website, at 99u.com, which has a lot of interviews and articles and tips as well as videos, on how to execute on your ideas. And then we also do a very large annual conference at Lincoln Center here in New York which is about a thousand people from all over the world attend. And then we have an ongoing book series, which we just released the third book last November.

2:51 Kelly Scanlon


2:52 Jocelyn Glei

And kind of through all of those channels, you really try to get into this sort of nitty-gritty of making ideas happen. I kind of call it a little bit demystifying the creative process. I think a lot of times when you had the success or you finished a project or you've gotten pretty far long in your business, there is this __03:12__ sort of tell people a rather patch story about how it actually happened.

3:15 Kelly Scanlon


3:16 Jocelyn Glei

And we try to kind of pull the curtain back on that and get into what really happened and then kind of share, you know, tips to people about how they can do the same.

3:23 Kelly Scanlon

Exactly and that learning from each other, especially among adults, is very valuable rather than some very strict curriculum-driven sort of learning. They like to learn from their peers. They like to learn from what's worked from others. So great concept. I wanna go through all the different channels because it's fascinating what you've put together. Let's start though with where these all came from. You -- this was actually born out of Behance. Tell us what Behance is and how it morphed into 99U.

3:54 Jocelyn Glei

Yeah. Well so, Behance is at behance.com and it is the sort of largest creative network for people to showcase and discover creative works from all over the world. Have millions of members now and it's really, you know, kind of a sort of shorthand for describing it is sometimes you call it the LinkedIn of the creative world.

4:14 Kelly Scanlon


4:15 Jocelyn Glei

You know, on LinkendIn you put up your resume. On Behance, it's for, you know, there are so many artists, you know, designers, filmmakers who have very visual work and so it's all about kind of taking a portfolio approach and displaying all of those creative projects that, you know, that people have. And the original idea behind Behance was, you know, yeah you could build a personal website and display your work but, you know, someone has to kind of stumble on it or already know about you to find it.

4:44 Kelly Scanlon


4:45 Jocelyn Glei

We thought what's gonna bring all these people together in one place, create this platform for people all over the world to showcase, discover, you know, and discover work. And then, you know, that would really raise the level of possible exposure for everyone and kind of help everyone in this creative community find more work. So, you know, Behance itself was always about empowering people in their creative careers.

5:07 Kelly Scanlon


5:08 Jocelyn Glei

And 99U kind of sprung out of that, essentially as, you know, sort of be education arm or almost think tank of Behance where we were kind of going out or really talking to creative about, you know, what they were doing in their creative careers and kind of, you know, trying to share insights with people on how to, you know, build a really great career.

5:27 Kelly Scanlon

Right. You have won as I said at the top of the show, the website has won major awards recognizing its content. What is your approach to the editorial? What are your philosophies towards the contents?

5:41 Jocelyn Glei

Well, I think we -- from the start we took a really different approach. The website launched in 2009 and at that time and it's still is very much sort of the prevailing approach to editorial is kind of a sort of like __05:53__ approach, you know, blogs could be doing like 10 or 15 posts a day. You know, it's kind of all about just putting out more and more and more.

6:01 Kelly Scanlon

Yes, quantity.

6:02 Jocelyn Glei

We kind of went just sort of ran the other direction and said, "You know what, we're gonna be all about quality over quantity". We're gonna publish about, you know, three really well-crafted features a week. And we're not gonna be about trying to be, you know, super current or newsy. That's not what we're about. We're gonna be about creating, as you mentioned before, this sort of evergreen content. So, hopefully, you know, in the article that we produced, you know, published this week will be as good three years from now, you know, as it is today and then we kind of really made a bet on that and then really doing a lot of work on the social media site, on Twitter, on Facebook to, you know, share our new content but also really help people kind of get into those archives into the depths of the editorial. And I think that's been really successful. I think that, you know, care that we take with the content really comes across to people.

6:59 Kelly Scanlon

Right. The, you know, so much of the prevailing content up there today is clickbay. It's engaging headline that gets you to click on it. But then htere's really nothing there once you get to the article or the information is so old. You find out it was something from two years ago. And that here's might be something from two years ago but it still has relevancy today. It still has merit for the reader however a lot of it -- like you've said a lot of contents that's out there today, its shelf life is very, very short, sometimes a minutes long. So, you do...I mean, it's very refreshing to encounter a site like yours. Let's talk about the conference. Tell us what that experience is like.

7:41 Jocelyn Glei

Yeah. Well, that's interesting. The conference is really, you know, I think kind of the flagship, it's the flagship event of 99U and it's really, sort of the full experience. You know, the conference itself is all about, you know, how to execute on your ideas and we take that very seriously in terms on how we execute on the conference itself. So, kind of, you know, tending to every little detail of the experience. But it takes over for two days. This year, will be on May 30th and April 1st here in New York at Lincoln Center. Really, one of the world's most beautiful concert halls and, you know, getting this kind of incredible group of thousands of people, really from all over the world, you know, people from the design world to media world to the tech world and they come together with this kind of amazing level of intention, you know, there are people who, you know, are in the midst of executing their own ideas or in the midst of running businesses and maybe they're ready to make the leap and they really come to, you know, be here for two days and kind of soak up all of these insights on the mechanics of idea execution and then, you know, go away and do incredible things and...

8:47 Kelly Scanlon


8:48 Jocelyn Glei

To help them do that, we __08:51__ about 22 or 23 speakers. We do a series of kind of 20-minute keynote on the stage. We also do some in-depth master classes that a lot of people interact more and go deeper and we also do a variety of studio sessions where people gotta go to some of the, you know, most of the amazing creative companies in New York and kinda see how they work, you know. So, it could be -- I think that we're doing one at MoMa. We're doing one at Quirky. We're doing one at IDEO. You know, really amazing range of companies. So, people kinda get that behind __09:29__ flow.

9:30 Kelly Scanlon

Yeah. It sounds like it. And the conference itself is growing phenomenally. What? This is its 5th year... 4th year?

9:36 Jocelyn Glei

Yeah. We're actually, this is gonna be the 7th year.

9:40 Kelly Scanlon

7th, oh boy! I'm behind for you sure. But it keeps growing every year.

9:46 Jocelyn Glei

Yeah. I mean we started out it was, you know, three hundred something people, you know, we did at the Klein Center. We've moved to a much bigger venue at Lincoln Center, now it is about a thousand people and you know, we'll see if we'd grow more. I think that's a really a nice side trip now...

9:58 Kelly Scanlon


9:59 Jocelyn Glei

but you know, we haven't even announced speakers. We're gonna announce our rooster probably in about two weeks and we're already almost entirely sold out. So, I think that's, you know, a real testament to kind of the trust that people place in the brand and the event.

10:14 Kelly Scanlon

Absolutely and you've broken a trend because a lot of conferences are losing attendees and you're actually building. So you're doing something right there and as you said it speaks to the trust and the brand and what you've been offering through your other channels. Where would somebody go to sign up for this conference? I know you said it's almost sold out but if there are some space available, where can they sign up for it?

10:36 Jocelyn Glei

Yeah. I mean you can just go to conference.99u.com and we still have tickets available. So...

10:43 Kelly Scanlon

Alright and it's all...

10:44 Jocelyn Glei

The earlier the better.

10:45 Kelly Scanlon

Okay, that's all in New York?

10:46 Jocelyn Glei

Yeah. (Crosstalk).

10:48 Kelly Scanlon

Around the New York area. Okay. We're gonna take a quick break. When we get back, I wanna talk about a new book and a little bit about Jocelyn's background herself. So, stay with us...

13:01 Kelly Scanlon

Good morning. Welcome back to Smart Companies Radio. I'm Kelly Scanlon, publisher of Thinking Bigger Business Media. We're talking here today with Jocelyn Glei. She's the Editor-in-Chief of 99u.com. It's a site which is one of many channels that 99U has for helping to bridge that gap between the conception of ideas and actually executing them. We've been talking quite a bit about the website itself, about the conference which is coming up in April and May. But Jocelyn, now I would really like to talk about your new book. You have three books in the series and this is the third installment. It's called "Make Your Mark: The Creative's Guide to Building a Business with Impact". Why the need for book? You've got the conference. You've got the website that is updated with blogs, articles and videos. Why the book?

13:47 Jocelyn Glei

Well, I think that kind of two reasons. One, we had each of the book of the three books kind of collects a series of essays, about 20 essays from some of the leading researches, designers and entrepreneurs in the industry and over the years of, you know, publishing a website and putting together the 99U Conference, we've really built this, you know, kind of amazing network of folks. So, the book series was, on one hand kinda of an opportunity to really pull in the learnings from all of these incredible people into kind of, you know, these small really beautifully-packaged resources. That kind of, you know, provide sort of a one-stop-shop for people on, you know, topics whether it's, you know, the first book, time management. The second book, kind of a careers. And with this new book, make your mark really on building a business. But the second reason was to, I think we really wanna kind of always expand 99U's channels to meet people where they are.

14:45 Kelly Scanlon


14:46 Jocelyn Glei

And kind of, you know, learn things and whether they wanna learn things and I think, you know, some people like to, you know, like to read a website or like to be on their iPad or they like to go to a live like the conference and some people like to read books. So, it's kind of a national evolution for us to kind of provide another way for people to take in some of the insights that we're trying to share.

15:08 Kelly Scanlon

It's a book series, three books, this is the third book. Did you -- when you get, when you decided to branch out into books as a channel, did you sit and sketch out each one ahead of time and know for sure you're gonna do three series of it or did you just -- or three installments in the series or did you just see that you've got the first one out and there was a natural followup and then a natural followup to that second one, how did that work?

15:34 Jocelyn Glei

We actually planned it initially as a three-book series...so, you know, we kind of envisioned, you know, and eventually maybe I think we'll release it as a box set, but we kind of envisioned it as, you know, three-book series that's kind of taking you through these three really core topics, essentially about kind of managing yourself. And you know the same level in terms of the way that books are designed, we kind of came up with this way to design and layout structure of the book that really carry out across three books. So, this was fairly premeditated though you know you always kind of have to navigate with some unexpected things when you're putting you know long-term projects together.

16:14 Kelly Scanlon

Right. You mentioned that the focus of the third installment, "Make Your Mark" is on building a business. What are some of the topics that you cover in the book?

16:21 Jocelyn Glei

Yeah. And I want to kind of clarify what that means. I think for us, we like to call and "Make Your Mark: A Business Book for Makers" not managers...

16:30 Kelly Scanlon


16:31 Jocelyn Glei

And so it's very much a business book for creative. You know, I feel pretty comfortable admitting that I'm not the type of person who really, you know loves to read sort of like a classic business book. But what we found is that you know we talked to creative bay and they out of 99U is that, you know in more and more businesses, they're not just standing the typical creative staff, you know they're really leading the businesses or going out and starting their own businesses. And I think that, you know it's really as likely that an MFA would launch a business as an MBA these days. And so it's really about speaking specifically that that kind of creative type of person who wants to launch a business and you know developing out a book that speaks to them and then in terms of the areas that we cover, we really kinda go through sort of four different core topics in each of the chapters which is really defining your purpose sort of mission in the world honing your products and then really finding ways to delight your customers and then the final chapter is really about, you know meeting and cultivating a team.

17:40 Kelly Scanlon

Uh-um. And again, you have multiple writers, you don't just have one voice through the entire thing. You bring in leading as you say researchers and people in the business. Why did you approach it that way? Why the multiple voice approach?

17:54 Jocelyn Glei

Yeah. Well, I think that, you know what's interesting, you know on one level as I've said with, you know, trying to speak to a creative audience, I think the sort of format of these sort of short very digestible essays is nice and provides a way for people to kind of get into and get out of the book as they wish. But I also think that you know everyone has really different things to share and our kind of idea was that, you know there's not like just one way to do things. You know, there's not one way to execute on an idea. There is not one way to execute on a business and so, it's really interesting for me to say what if we pick you know 20 people who have built amazing businesses and we ask each of them and say "You know what, like if you could share one thing with you know hundreds of thousands of creative about what you've learned building business, what would that one thing be?" And then that will be, you know and then that would be their essays. So, I think, you know different things are gonna resonate with different people and you know, of course the book is organized in a very sort of calculated way. So, it all hangs together...

18:59 Kelly Scanlon


19:00 Jocelyn Glei

But I think that, you know different styles are really gonna resonate with different people. For instance, there is an essay in there from Jane __19:10__ her last name __19:13__. I think I said that completely wrong, but she was a student in Industrial Design at the Royal College of Art and Design and she ended up inventing this product called Sugru which is kind of, they sort of call it the duct tape of the 21st century. It's actually this self-molding kind of silicon rubber that allows to, you know, basically hack getting different type of products and you know kind of -- you can mold it however you want, it's almost like Play Doh __19:42__ like hard rubber.

19:42 Kelly Scanlon


19:43 Jocelyn Glei

And took her like six years to invent this product. She just became obsessed with it. But she feels that's really amazing company out of it. You know, she is coming from a kind of, you know design background and kind of almost had to become like part chemist part engineer to invent this thing and you know to she has a really interesting perspective on how that happens for her and then you know you look at someone else in the book like Sebastian Rand who's, you know basically led Google __20:12__ a few years, lead the creation of Google __20:15__, lead the creation of the Google self-driving car and then you know you talk about kind of what he learned during that process. Not like a completely, you know different perspective and, so I think, you know, kind of different personalities and different approaches resonate with different people and so the book can really offer a lot of different things.

20:32 Kelly Scanlon

Yeah. It certainly sounds like it. For someone who would like to get that book, do they go to the 99U website or they are other places where you can get that?

20:40 Jocelyn Glei

Yeah. You can just go to 99u.com/books and all three of the series are there.

20:45 Kelly Scanlon

Where do you see 99U go in from here?

20:48 Jocelyn Glei

Well, I think we're definitely going to continue to extend the book series, that's something that we're talking about right now. We actually just also launched a quarterly magazine that kind of collects the best of best of the 99u.com that we produced. So again, kind of creating another you know different type of experience for the content.

21:09 Kelly Scanlon

Is that print or is that an electronic magazine?

21:12 Jocelyn Glei

It's print actually and we just opened up subscriptions, I think a couple of weeks ago. It's actually available at 99u.com/quarterly.

21:20 Kelly Scanlon


21:21 Jocelyn Glei

Really beautiful, you know we kind of demo-ed it by giving it away to subscription for year away to all in Dalton conference study last year. People are just loving it. So we're kind of moving forward with that and extending that. And then we're also launching this September what we're calling 99u local. And that's gonna be a series of kind of small local events we created 30 ambassadors in cities all over the world to lead them. And all of these ambassadors are actually gonna come and attends the conference this year in May kind of see how we do it and then kind of, you know take those learnings back to their cities and kind of build out their own events that they lead and it's all gonna happen in one week in September.

22:07 Kelly Scanlon

Wow. That will be something. And this is worldwide, you are not just taking 30 cities nationwide across the U.S. You are talking about globally.

22:15 Jocelyn Glei

Yeah, globally. I think it is 30 cities on 6 continents, so that should be pretty exciting.

22:20 Kelly Scanlon

Yeah. We'll have to get you back here to talk about that. Jocelyn how did you get involved in all of these?

22:24 Jocelyn Glei

Well, it's kind of interesting a little bit you know happens __22:27__ as many things in life are. I had been helping, my background is really in editorial, and content and publishing kind of, from the get go and I have been helping a friend launch a blog and I interviewed Scott Belsky who is the founder of Behance and we kind of really connected and we stayed in touch and then he had actually just gotten a book deal, which is the book "Making Ideas Happen" which came out in 2009 and he was running Behance, you know doing the start up thing, you know had a lot of things going on and he was like, you know I really need like a partner to kind of help me, you know essentially like kind of help me execute on this idea. Be like a, you know sounding board for ideas and so we kind of worked on that and I helped him, you know just really be like a kind of first line Editor and offer a lot of feedback about it. And, so we worked on that together and we really enjoyed working together and then right after, when that kind of wrapped up, we we're like "Umm like how are we gonna keep working together and Behance had done with basically the first 99U conference had just happened...

23:34 Kelly Scanlon


23:35 Jocelyn Glei

And I did really resonated with people and it's kind of interesting the conference actually came before the editorial. So we had done the event the first year, done in meeting reception but as often happens the first year the people do an event, you know a little bit hard to get people to pay attention at first...

23:53 Kelly Scanlon

Of course.

23:54 Jocelyn Glei

You know, and it difficult to kind of fell out we eventually did but we thought you know people really like this idea of focusing on the execution but you know how do we kinda make sure that, you know it's a little easier to kind of get people there next year. We thought well what we kind of basically bring in this editorial components that were you know kind of sharing this idea and sharing pragmatic tips with people 365 days a year and then when we do the conference next year, you know people will kind of -- we're really build this credibility in the brand and build this trust in the brand. And so that's when we kind of, you know I basically came on to lead the brand as we built it out as an editorial property and so, then we kind of did that and that kind of lead in to the fact that we are doing the conference and that's, you know that plan that we can see was actually incredibly effective. In terms of you know kind of selling out the conference and really building awareness for the following years.

24:50 Kelly Scanlon

Yeah. So, really it was just quite of an organic approach with relationship and then one that grew organically and now here you are (laughs) and there's a lot of more on the horizon too. With all of your work with the articles and the videos and the conference attendees in the workbook, if you had to point to one or two things that keep people from actually executing on the ideas that they have, what would you say they are?

25:19 Jocelyn Glei

Umm. I would say try to pick two things I would say probably the first one is just sort of, just confidence you know. I think that -- actually one of my favorite essays in "Make Your Mark" is by __25:36__ and it's the final essay and he is, you know sort of speaking few people who are about to make the leap to start businesses and he says if you wait until you're ready it's already too late.

25:50 Kelly Scanlon


25:51 Jocelyn Glei

You know, I think that's really true like a lot of us feel like oh you're waiting for that moment or some sort of, you know divine signs that, you know you're ready but it's really just much more about getting started and figuring it out along the way and we see so much about it, you know the conference talks and every interview we do it everyone, you know. For the most part it's kind of like nobody knows what the hell they're doing and they figure it out along the way and you know once they are successful it kind of sounds good when they look back in retrospect but you know ultimately if you're passionate about something you know, and you're determined and you're willing to persevere you know, you probably gonna figure it out.

26:26 Kelly Scanlon


26:27 Jocelyn Glei

So, I think that confidence is the first one and then the second one is probably really just, you know it's really distraction and time management you know...

26:34 Kelly Scanlon


26:35 Jocelyn Glei

I think we have so many things coming out of emails, social media working in open plan offices that so many of us do where anyone can kind of __26:45__ over and interrupt you at any moment and I think, you know just managing your attention so that you can even find the time that you need to go you know __26:56__ into a topic whether it's you know writing a book or writing a business plan or whatever you need to do to get that idea off the ground I think just really being able to shut out all that stuff and focus is really like the biggest challenge everyday for everyone right now.

27:12 Kelly Scanlon

Absolutely, great advice. And again, if you go to 99u.com you can get to all of the different channels that Jocelyn discussed today and a lot of great information, a lot of great lasting evergreen content out there for helping you execute against these ideas that are rolling around in your brain. Thanks so much for sharing with us today Jocelyn we really appreciate it.

27:33 Jocelyn Glei

Yes. Really great chatting with you Kelly. Thanks.

27:35 Kelly Scanlon

And if you'd like to learn more about how to grow your business, please visit our website at ithinkbigger.com. Follow us on Facebook Thinking Bigger Business Media or on Twitter at ithinkbigger. Have a great weekend. We'll see you next week.