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A Year in Review with Tejs Rasmussen

Chief evangelist at Creative Force

Full episode transcript

Daniel Jester:
From Creative Force, I'm Daniel Jester and this is the E-commerce Content Creation Podcast. We're at the tail-end of 2021 and that's a perfect time to sit down with Tejs Rasmussen, the chief product officer of Creative Force. We talked a little bit about how the platform has grown over the last year and what we may see in 2022. From launching an entire new product to major upgrades to the logic of the core product, 2021 was a big year for the Creative Force team.

Tejs Rasmussen:
We've grown a lot in a new way because we, yeah, as you know, we started out with the first version of our E-com production module in '19, and we've been iterating on that for a long time and it's at a very high level now. But this year, we actually started up on something new where we wanted to look at the other side of the house, the editorial side, and went into this journey of building a whole new product for that.

Daniel Jester:
Aside from the editorial module, 2021 saw big improvements to system logic, workflow capabilities and a whole lot of parsing user feedback to make Creative Force something that our users really enjoy working with. Let's dig into this episode and hear more from Tejs. This is the E-commerce Content Creation Podcast. I'm your host, Daniel Jester, and joining me in this episode, Tejs Rasmussen, my boss. So no silly jokes here. Hi, Tejs.

Tejs Rasmussen:
Hey. How are you, Daniel?

Daniel Jester:
How's it going? Good.

Tejs Rasmussen:
Ah, I'm a little bit under the weather, so yeah, but it's okay.

Daniel Jester:
You sound amazing.

Tejs Rasmussen:
Okay. Thank you.

Daniel Jester:
I wanted to have you on the show to talk a little bit about the Creative Force platform. So it's the end of the year, it's the end of 2021. When our audience will be hearing this, we'll be approaching the new year. I thought it'd be good time for us to kind of take a look back at the Creative Force platform over the last year and maybe kind of take a peak at the roadmap ahead. How does that sound?

Tejs Rasmussen:
That sounds excellent. Let's do that.

Daniel Jester:
So looking back at the last year, how much do you feel that Creative Force has grown in 2021?

Tejs Rasmussen:
We've grown a lot in a new way because we, yeah, as you know, we started out with the first version of our E-com production module in '19, and we've been iterating on that for a long time and it's at a very high level now. But this year, we actually started up on something new where we wanted to look at the other side of the house, the editorial side, and went into this journey of building a whole new product for that. That is always a big task. So the platform has grown a lot, but in a new way.

Daniel Jester:
Yeah, it's an entire new side of the system. Some things transfer over some tools and some functionality, but it really is an entire new way of working within Creative Force, specifically designed to support the very elastic nature of editorial production that need to be really super flexible.

Tejs Rasmussen:
That is always a daunting task because you never get it right the first time, and then you need to iterate and then you need to update. It's a little bit stressful in the beginning of a product and that's what we are experiencing here again. You can compare it to your second child or something like that. So first one is it's going well, and then you get another one and you're back in the chaos and that's what this year's been kind of like.

Daniel Jester:
A pretty apt analogy. Yeah, I have four kids, so it's only ever can chaos. Chaos is my baseline.

Tejs Rasmussen:
Yeah. But maybe we'll have four products at some point, like major products. Yeah.

Daniel Jester:
Aside from editorial, there have been... We do sprint releases every two weeks. Even the sprint releases that don't have a huge sort of product or functionality announcement, there's always very important underlying improvements that are happening. So in terms of growth on that side, how do you feel about sort of the maturity level of the E-com product in terms of the things that we've added, the functionality that we've built and the underlying sort of like strength of the code?

Tejs Rasmussen:
Yeah, that's a good question because I think that's where we focused the rest of our efforts. It's really important to keep working on the logic in the tool so it becomes stronger, and fixing things, making them more robust, stuff like that. That's what we've been spending the rest of the efforts on. I think that we've gotten to extremely high level on something like color reference logic. I think it's probably the best in the business. General workflow logic has just gotten so strong this year.

Tejs Rasmussen:
It's not like you can see it. It's just like things react the way... If you ask the producer, how would you want it to react? How would you want it to happen in the studio? It's just going to go like that. It's going to act like that. We keep discovering new conditions that we need to put into our logic and that's also been what we've added a lot this year is that refinement to the logic engine of the software.

Daniel Jester:
It is a little bit like a car, isn't it? The user touch points are relatively few, but there's a ton of logic and complexity and things that are happening under the hood in order to make everything operate the way that it's supposed to.

Tejs Rasmussen:
Yeah.

Daniel Jester:
All the stuff that we improve on that isn't necessarily visible to the end user, but it is important to make sure that it runs smoothly.

Tejs Rasmussen:
Yeah. It's about hiding it from the user. There's no need to bother them with stuff that you can actually say, "This is the 100% of the time we're going to have to do that in that case." So why even let the user in on it?

Daniel Jester:
Right. Aside from editorial, and thinking about some of the features, what do you think in 2021 was the most requested feature that Creative Force ended up releasing?

Tejs Rasmussen:
So I would say that we did the Capture One integration, was extremely valuable for people and also highly requested. There's a thing with photographers. We actually used to tell them, "Hey, don't worry about the final naming. You can just run with a camera counter and it's going to be fine." But you can't do that because they've been trained for 10 years to like, you got to have your naming correct, otherwise you screw up the rest down the line and so on. They've been kind of stigmatized or trained this way and they cannot move away from that so we had to do something.

Tejs Rasmussen:
So we built this Next Capture naming functionality with the Capture One integration, which was super popular. They don't need to type in anything anymore. Other software can also do that. It's not a new thing. But the thing that we did was that we connected it with the data that we have in the software. So whatever upstream data you have on the product, on the sample, from the team, whatever, we can bring that into the naming and we can bring it into the metadata of the backup files, of the raw files and all that stuff. So it's very powerful integration there that was super requested.

Daniel Jester:
Yeah. Speaking as a photographer, just a gentle reminder there for you, Tejs, that you are talking to a photographer, sir.

Tejs Rasmussen:
Sorry about that.

Daniel Jester:
No, that's okay. The Capture One part of the production process lives a little bit outside or next to Creative Force. But in the studio, it can be really important because it's not often, but it does happen that for some reason we have to go back to the old Capture One session and find something. Having that extra piece of mind of your session matching the assets that are in Creative Force is... You're not wrong, it is a small thing in the grand scheme of how Creative Force works, but it does intertwine Creative Force more with the parts of the production process that live outside of the system and makes everything feel more cohesive and just easier to find things.

Tejs Rasmussen:
We hear a lot of good things. People saying it's making a huge difference and that's fantastic to hear that.

Daniel Jester:
So pivoting on that same question a little bit. What do you personally think is the most important feature that Creative Force released this past year?

Tejs Rasmussen:
I cannot say editorial, right? But I want to say that [crosstalk 00:08:12]-

Daniel Jester:
Yeah, because editorial is such a huge... It just is such a huge force.

Tejs Rasmussen:
We spent so much time on that.

Daniel Jester:
I think a lot of our audience probably is aware of what it means in terms of development.

Tejs Rasmussen:
I think that we added a lot of conditional features into the software this year. I think that that is something you like, Daniel, and it's fantastic because you can set up fewer definitions for style guides and workflows and metadata and so on, and let it be up to the data that you also ingest to react on things.

Daniel Jester:
You can use those conditions to capture outliers without having to create a separate style guide for every conceivable thing. So yeah, the example that I like to use for this, if I may, Tejs, is like some retailers have... They sell known brands that are out there, but then they also have maybe their own private label brands. A really common thing with a retailer is that they treat their private label brands, when it comes to photography, frankly, a little bit better.

Daniel Jester:
They might shoot more images or more angles and you can still capture all of that with one style guide by creating a condition that says if it's the private label brand, you need to add these three other variants. If it's not the private label brand, then we're going to just shoot the core variants. That's just a really powerful way to build a style guide that is really smart, like you said, without needing to build hundreds and maintaining hundreds of style guides.

Tejs Rasmussen:
So the production logic we talked about early on where we've kind of gone out and found out what is the general logic out there, how do people work, in this case, it's like how does the data impact how you work in the studio. We can't know that. That needs to be something you can set up yourself. That's basically what it's about.

Daniel Jester:
This is another slight twist on that question, but I'm very curious to know. Editorial can be the answer, although I think it's too easy. What release was most meaningful to you personally? I'm going to have Calvin leave this long pause in here.

Tejs Rasmussen:
I think that we've been designing this system with certain personas in mind, and where we are looking at maybe not such a high volume production that we've actually ended up with. So we have built it for lower volume in some cases, like you could have QC, where you look at individual tasks and you approve them and it's nice, it's fine, very powerful. You can compare a lot of things. But if you're dealing with 500 products per day, it might be a little bit of a daunting task to go in and you can't see the consistency between these and so on.

Tejs Rasmussen:
So we actually launched the bulk QC feature here a couple of sprints ago. I think we're going to see much more of that and that is something that I really, really liked launching. It's been on my conscious for a long time. We got the feedback quite early, not even from high volume, hey, we want to check things in bulk. We want to have something like bridge. So it's nice to finally deliver on that and not just push it and keep doing other stuff. That's a good feature for that.

Daniel Jester:
It's important I think to say, and I don't want to speak for you, but I know that you think about this a lot, which is that we're always looking at these with the users in mind. We're not here to design a platform or software that is us telling our users how to work. We're trying to minimize complexity, but give them the tools that they want and need, to a degree. There are some tools that we get asked for that are like there might be underlying process issues that are leading you to ask for this tool that we don't want to end up supporting and that's a fine line to walk.

Tejs Rasmussen:
Yeah, that happens. Yeah.

Daniel Jester:
I want to talk a little bit with you about the dev team, just the growth over the last year. What are your thoughts on the growth of the team, not only the size of the team, but the maturity of your development team?

Tejs Rasmussen:
We can say definitely we wanted to grow the team more in numbers. We weren't able to do that. So we kind of shifted the mindset this year and started looking into the organization and say, "How do we then want to structure things so that we become a stronger team?" Then of course at the same time working on our recruiting abilities. A lot of things has happened in the company this year. We did a buyout. There was a lot of shifting around and so on. We had COVID last year that put everything on the back burner. So no investment in new developers and so on.

Tejs Rasmussen:
So we were the number of people that we were and then we couldn't get more. So that's really been the case the whole year. It's hard to hire and so on. So we invested a lot into the organization and getting people upgraded, basically, to architects, and from our team leaders, let them take more responsibility and delegate a lot of tasks and so on. And investing in that while we cannot train new people so that we are stronger for when that happens.

Daniel Jester:
One of the things that has been really striking to me, and this is to be clear with the audience, my role at Creative Force is my first time working for a software company. It's my first time working for a startup. The thing that was shocking to me was the first time that I submitted a bug that I found, how quickly it was resolved. I'm probably responsible for reporting, I don't know, less than a half a dozen bugs so far. But no matter how bad to me it's seems when I find a bug and I'm like, "Oh man, this is a bad one," or whatever it is, it's resolved within a day. I don't know if that's standard for software industry, but it's just so impressive to me.

Tejs Rasmussen:
I don't know if it's standard, but they take a lot of pride in their work and they want to fix things fast. I'm not sure we can keep that one day, though, Daniel, for everything, but I'm glad that you say it here. But I think if you take a lot of pride in what you do and so on, and they're really in it with us and so on, and they're fantastic guys, and then they just jump on it. The thing that I'm impressed about is that they always keep their cool.

Tejs Rasmussen:
It's not like they raise their voice or anything. It's like they just kind of focus on the task at hand and just think about how we solve it and get it solved and so on. I like that. Kind of like I think that's how the military works. I think that's when things really get hot and it's really a tense situation, then the cool guys do that. They solve the issue. I think that's what these guys are doing.

Daniel Jester:
I panic when I see those come through.

Tejs Rasmussen:
A lot of people do that.

Daniel Jester:
I panic because, I'm with you there, and it might sound like we're a couple of biased individuals talking about it, but it really puts me at ease when I realize our customers rely on us a lot for their day to day production and our dev team comes through almost 100% of the time.

Tejs Rasmussen:
Yeah, that's right. They keep the system up and they keep it running and it's always there. It's fantastic to have that kind of backup when you sit with the customers.

Daniel Jester:
Let's pivot and talk a little bit about the upcoming year. So you've got a road map for the product. We have tons of customer requests that we're always collating and analyzing and kind of figuring out when we can slot things in. How do you see just in general Creative Force, the platform, growing in 2022?

Tejs Rasmussen:
Again, more maturity on, specially the latest child, needs to grow up a little bit.

Daniel Jester:
Eddie?

Tejs Rasmussen:
Eddie.

Daniel Jester:
Editorial.

Tejs Rasmussen:
Oh, It's always Eddie. Yeah. So yeah, we got to give him some training. We need to get that product more mature and that's what we're going to invest in '22 for one. Then also just build it out with... We have some strategic islands that we need to get to. We have some copywriting. We have the planning and we have video that are super important for us.

Tejs Rasmussen:
So we still have some content types that we need to handle and hopefully we can get that done next year, but more maturity in those things and it's also... We've kind of proven the case that having an real end to end system, one system with all that logic inside is a good way to go because you could also just daisy chain a lot of things together and let them communicate with APIs and so on. It's really, in my mind, it's way too simple.

Tejs Rasmussen:
So we are still going to invest in making the logic engine so much stronger and going even more end to end could be like ordering samples from vendors. It could be further downstream, asset delivery into more destinations and so on. There's a lot of things in the end to end that we can strengthen. But we totally believe that's the way to go.

Daniel Jester:
How much of the growth in development of editorial is now going to be driven by our early adopting customers? I'm sure you have plans for features that you want to roll out for editorial, but are we primarily relying on feedback from real world users of editorial today?

Tejs Rasmussen:
Yeah. I think we have a couple of things, but reviews is a big thing. We know that we actually don't need to hear that because it's such a big thing with this. Obviously, we have to build something around that. But from thereon, it's user based feedback and everything is in the detail and they come back from non-location shoot, what's that like. They do a editorial shoot in this studio, what's that like, and could something be improved and so on. That's all the small details. That's really what I like to do. I actually like the fine tuning more than building this new little bit ugly, small new product.

Daniel Jester:
Yeah, totally.

Tejs Rasmussen:
I like to get into that stage where we're just fine tuning and improving.

Daniel Jester:
Yeah. Fine tuning is where you get things like the ability to copy and paste between your phone and your MacBook.

Tejs Rasmussen:
Exactly. That's really nice.

Daniel Jester:
Apple doesn't even tell you that it does that. I discovered it on accident.

Tejs Rasmussen:
Yeah. But that's a good feature.

Daniel Jester:
Yeah. It's a great feature. A lot of those little accessibility features I think are super cool. I think we do a lot of those in Creative Force, I think. There's a lot of little things that... The little copy and paste thing is super handy and all that kind of stuff.

Tejs Rasmussen:
Yeah.

Daniel Jester:
Is there anything in particular that you're looking forward to next year, and let's exclude editorial, let's exclude Eddie from this conversation.

Tejs Rasmussen:
Yeah, let's not have that. Yeah.

Daniel Jester:
What are you looking forward to in terms of growth of the core platform next year?

Tejs Rasmussen:
I'm really looking forward to getting more integration with other systems. That's one thing. Video is just an amazing thing, but it's probably going to be, well, it's a hard one.

Daniel Jester:
Yeah. Don't make any promises on the podcast.

Tejs Rasmussen:
No.

Daniel Jester:
This will live on the internet forever.

Tejs Rasmussen:
So what am I looking forward to particularly? I'm actually looking more forward to scaling our team because I think we've been pushing too many of the refinements and define improvements and so on too long. I would like to do much more of that and we can do that with a bigger team. If you only have a smaller team or a team like we have today, you have to focus on strategic things more than you focus on these refinements, and then you have to accept some things that you don't like.

Tejs Rasmussen:
I want it to be the perfect experience for the user and it's... There are obviously places where that can become much better. So that's really what I'm looking forward to is to get that bigger organization running. We have a lot of open positions, if anyone wants to join, and then getting to a place where we can actually focus more on that. That's what I'm looking forward to.

Daniel Jester:
My last question for you, Tejs, as we wrap up the episode. What are you doing New Year's Eve? Do you want to hang out?

Tejs Rasmussen:
Yeah. Why not? If you can come to Austria, then I don't think it's [inaudible 00:19:52].

Daniel Jester:
You're going to be in Austria for the holidays? Is that what's going on?

Tejs Rasmussen:
Yeah, I hope so. But you never know. There's a lot of things going on right now with new variants and so on, so.

Daniel Jester:
Right.

Tejs Rasmussen:
We're leaving on the 26th. So I don't know if we're going to do that.

Daniel Jester:
Oh, so you're staying in Denmark for Christmas and then you're going to head to Austria for the new year.

Tejs Rasmussen:
Yeah. But it would be awesome if you could come join us. But I don't know. Do you ski?

Daniel Jester:
The last time I skied, I was 10 years old. So I'm sure that I can. I have pretty decent balance for a guy my size. We've had this conversation [inaudible 00:20:23]. Thanks Tejs for sitting down and talking about it. Just for my part, I love being a member of the Creative Force team. I'm excited about what the next year holds. I think there's a lot of reasons to be excited.

Tejs Rasmussen:
Yeah.

Daniel Jester:
Let's kind of figure this out with the pandemic, though, so that we can get some traveling going again, because you guys just came to the United States and mentioned it had been a couple of years, and to see the customers, I think that that's a huge benefit for our platform and our company for us to be able to interact in person and do all that kind of thing. So fingers crossed.

Tejs Rasmussen:
Yeah. I don't think I can really develop the product if I don't go out and see customers and see studios and so on. So I think we just have to do that and let's hope it's behind us really soon.

Daniel Jester:
Well, that's it for this episode. Thank you again for sitting down and answering my questions. I'll check flights to Austria and see what I can do.

Tejs Rasmussen:
Yeah, do that. Yeah. Thank you, Daniel.

Daniel Jester:
That's it for this episode of the show. In closing, to you, our listeners, thank you so much for listening this year. I hope you all have a wonderful new year and I hope you'll stay with us for 2022. Now, I will close us out by singing Auld Lang Syne. I'm not going to do that, but thank you again and happy new year. Many thanks to our guest, Tejs Rasmussen. The show is produced by Creative Force, edited by Calvin Lanz. Special thanks to Sean O'Meara. I am your host, Daniel Jester. Until next year, my friends.

About the host

Chief evangelist at Creative Force

Daniel Jester is an experienced creative production professional who has managed production teams, built and launched new studios, and produced large-scale projects. He's currently the Chief Evangelist at Creative Force but has a breadth of experience in a variety of studio environments - working in-house at brands like Amazon, Nordstrom, and Farfetch as well as commercial studios like CONVYR. Creative-minded, while able to effectively plan for and manage a complex project, he bridges the gap between spreadsheets and creative talent.