Full episode transcript
This is not the eCommerce content creation podcast. It might be the eCommerce content creation Podcast. I am sitting in Malaga, Spain with Thomas. I won't try to say your last name.
Thomas Kragelund (00:42):
Daniel Jester (00:42):
Perfect, and Tejs.
Tejs Rasmussen (00:44):
Daniel Jester (00:45):
Perfect. The two founders. Do you consider yourself co-founders of Creative Force. What are your titles?
Thomas Kragelund (00:52):
Yeah, co-founders. Yeah.
Daniel Jester (00:54):
Thomas Kragelund (00:54):
Yeah, at least when we're in the same room.
Daniel Jester (01:00):
So we're here. We're very fortunate to be here in Spain altogether; your team that is dispersed all over the world that you've been building over the last few years. We've been here having sessions, talking about the business, talking about the product. You talked yesterday about you consider this chapter one for Creative Force. I want to talk a little bit about what has come before chapter one, and you got to go back a little ways to where you two met. Do you want to tell me a little bit about that?
Thomas Kragelund (01:41):
That's a long time ago. Yeah. So that's 20 years ago. And so were running this eCommerce consultancy business. We also did a lot of technology at that time, probably not considered technology today. But we were helping local companies in Denmark getting online, either with a shopping cart functionality, or just getting their products online. So that's actually where started 20 years ago. Yeah.
Tejs Rasmussen (02:19):
Thomas actually headhunted me because I did a website for a local bar, where Thomas is ... You used to do the same thing for other bars and so on and that was one of the customer groups, but from a very technical angle of databases and publishing calendars and so on. What's going to happen next weekend? And so on. And I did it from another angle from their visual angle of making the feelings of what is this bar all about? And so on. And they saw that and, "Hey. This guy, let's call him up." And then that's how we met.
Daniel Jester (02:57):
How did Tejs get on your radar, Thomas? Just from printing [crosstalk 00:03:02] the bar?
Thomas Kragelund (03:02):
Yeah. So I actually think I was a competitor. So yeah, like Tejs said, we did these websites for local bars, and we had this idea of getting an event calendar online. And if you put it in a database, you could actually make a rule that events that are past events are not being shown anymore. So it's actually a website that is automatically updating. At that time, it was pretty revolutionary. And Tejs suggested this really, really beautiful wall design website much better on the design side than we could do. So I thought if we could combine Tejs's skills in designs with our database technology-
Daniel Jester (03:48):
On the [inaudible 00:03:50] side.
Thomas Kragelund (03:49):
That would be amazing, yeah. So that's-
Daniel Jester (03:52):
Maybe what you didn't know is Tejs is also brilliant underneath the hood, but we'll get to that.
Tejs Rasmussen (03:56):
Thomas Kragelund (03:56):
Oh, that came later. Yeah.
Tejs Rasmussen (04:01):
Daniel Jester (04:01):
So what next? You guys are building websites. It's very, very early on and we're just learning how we're going to use the internet, what eCommerce looks like.
Thomas Kragelund (04:10):
Yeah. We did a lot of eCommerce, and I think that one of the realizations we didn't like, at that time when you're pitching an eCommerce storefront, you didn't go to the CEO or to the CMO and so on. You actually went to the IT guy in the company, the head of IT or something like that, because he was in charge of bringing products online. That was a question of getting the products from the internal systems, like a ERP system online, and just enabling the functionality of buying products online. That is very transactional thing.
Thomas Kragelund (04:48):
And we went out and pitched this beautiful websites and storefronts and so on, very well designed. And then when reality hit us, we saw that it just uploaded really, really ugly images, awful visual content on our beautiful designed storefronts. And that, I think that at least seeded something in our minds that at some point it would become more visual because it was really a 1.0 version or 0.9 version of eCommerce, which at that point was very transactional. So I think that's the vision of making that a better experience in some ways. And we just saw that our customers were failing on that point.
Daniel Jester (05:41):
So you've got beautiful eCommerce websites, the images that you're trying to use to sell the items are not living up to the standards of the website themselves, and now you have a problem that you need to figure out how to solve. Where did you start there?
Thomas Kragelund (05:57):
I don't think we started at that point. I think it came later on where we actually created like a dam system to manage a PIM system, DAM system functionality in our back end to manage a lot of this. I think that we saw the pain points of getting visual assets online or getting the right visual assets and so on. I think that that's the pain point we saw from more operational perspective. I don't think we saw it from a visionary perspective of-
Daniel Jester (06:29):
Thomas Kragelund (06:29):
Making eCommerce more beautiful, and so on. I think it was more from operational perspective.
Tejs Rasmussen (06:37):
Yeah, and then you quit the company.
Thomas Kragelund (06:39):
Yeah. And then I quit the company and started up pixels. Yeah. We started out with a small team in Vietnam that did some of this operational stuff for our customers that helped them knock out the backgrounds, create a nice looking shadow so you could get this consistent look on your eCommerce storefront. It was only a side business at a time. And-
Daniel Jester (07:09):
What year was that?
Thomas Kragelund (07:11):
Around '10, 2010. Yeah. 2009, 2010. Then we actually just got a lot of customers on that specific product of helping out with operational side. Yeah.
Daniel Jester (07:26):
That was a surprise to you.
Thomas Kragelund (07:27):
That was a surprise to me, yeah. So I sold the part of the eCommerce consultancy business and started very, very small with a small team in Vietnam, bought it out from MCB and yeah. I pretty much just got a FTP server and a phone and I started calling some potential clients. And pretty much all of them said, "Yeah. We have this need. Can you help us out?" And then we just started helping a lot of business and we launched the English version of the website and a very early version of API, so we made it a little bit technical. You could integrate with our service, and yeah. We just started scaling the business. Yeah.
Tejs Rasmussen (08:14):
Yeah. But in the beginning, you were sitting in your bathrobe at home. Just getting out of bed and just doing all the work at home [crosstalk 00:08:22] very, very lucky.
Thomas Kragelund (08:23):
Very low key, yeah.
Tejs Rasmussen (08:24):
Yeah. And then what Thomas didn't say is that he got me and [Yanis 00:08:30] the third founder of Pixels on board to help with the technical side. Thomas had the business vision of this and then we were getting on board while we still worked at the eCommerce company to help them out with the technical side.
Daniel Jester (08:47):
So you guys started getting more and more clients or growing. How did the scaling process go? Let me take that. How did the scaling process go?
Thomas Kragelund (09:00):
Yeah. Everything is about a customer need. If you can find a need in the market, then you will find a way of scaling it. So I think the scaling is the more like the operational side of it. Scaling the customer side was pretty much I think just reaching out to our network and so on. We did launch a PPC, and Google AdWords campaign in the US. And then one day, Amazon called us or reached out and say, "Hey. Can you do something for our sellers? Can you help our sellers get their products online to Amazon?" Because they had a very strict requirement of a white background and they were like, "Okay. Maybe these guys could help us like a seller enablement to Amazon." And we started working with a lot of Amazon sellers at that point. I think that was at the point where I said to Tejs, "Now you have to decide if you're going full time."
Tejs Rasmussen (09:58):
I was just about to answer that. I actually had an experience. I remember it totally clear, that I was in my summer house, running around painting this old wooden thing. And then I just decided, "I don't want to do this." There's no reason for having two jobs, having a full time job and then have this other thing where it's not going to take off kind of feeling. I actually wrote the email. "Hey Thomas. I think maybe it's time you find someone else to do the website thing." And then Thomas called me before I got to send the email and he said, "Amazon called us." That was just insane and delete [crosstalk 00:10:36]. "Oh, that's amazing." And then half year later or something, I quit my job and got on board with that.
Daniel Jester (10:43):
Tejs Rasmussen (10:44):
That was a pretty pivotal moment for us, that we got validated by this huge-
Daniel Jester (10:49):
Tejs Rasmussen (10:49):
At that point also, a huge giant. Yeah.
Daniel Jester (10:51):
So on the operational side, what was it like scaling on that side? You have this huge-
Tejs Rasmussen (10:56):
On the production side?
Daniel Jester (10:57):
Yeah, on the production side. Yeah.
Tejs Rasmussen (10:59):
It was a nightmare.
Daniel Jester (11:00):
Thomas Kragelund (11:00):
Tejs Rasmussen (11:00):
The problem is that you invest a lot of money. It's going to take you nine months or six months before you actually start earning some of that back again on this new scaling. So if you had to grow with 100 new editors, in this case, we had all these photo editors, we had to buy computers. We had to train them, we had to build bigger offices. I can't remember how many offices we went through, like five or something over the years every time we needed to redo it, and so on. So much cost just going into that before we could reap anything from it.
Daniel Jester (11:34):
Tejs Rasmussen (11:34):
Yeah. So that was not perfect. Let's just put it like that, in terms of funding, and so on, really, really hard.
Daniel Jester (11:45):
While all of this is going on, you've got a background in the early days of eComm, you kind of shifted over towards the creative side. You saw this need and you thought maybe there's a way that we can work on something to address this. That took off maybe better than you expected. All of this time, you're learning a lot of lessons about the industry and a lot of lessons about creative production. And while all of this is happening, at the same time, you have small companies that are doing very well for themselves in eCommerce. They're getting very big, and they're now building themselves studios and building all this infrastructure to start to support these creative needs that they have for their websites, and it's not an easy process. It's a very difficult process. And you guys had some unique insights through Pixels, and realized that this company here has the same problem that this company has. They've all got different workflows, but the same core problems. And then what?
Tejs Rasmussen (12:45):
Yeah. We grew up together with our customers because everything before '10 or '11, there was nothing. Nobody did it really seriously. That's why we saw the problem. So we grew up with them. But then some of them saw it, and then they started really taking it seriously.
Thomas Kragelund (13:03):
Yeah. I think you're right in that sense, that we are growing with the customers. I think we went more into the high end stuff pretty early on, because we saw that these smaller sellers and so on, they were just not at a level where they appreciated the work we did. So at the same time, we started out with some commercial photo studios that we're working with big brands, big fashion brands, and we actually got a couple of luxury brands in at the same time and it just had all these different requirements.
Thomas Kragelund (13:50):
And I think that at that time, we we're trying to get a consistent output. So the input is a unique image that we're getting, but the output, or the processing and so on, is fairly the same but is new every time. And that's what creative operation is about. You're doing the same stuff over and over again but it's different every time.
Tejs Rasmussen (14:21):
Daniel Jester (14:21):
Every single image is a snowflake. There's no two images that are the same.
Thomas Kragelund (14:25):
So trying to figure out what is the operational part of this whole thing and what is the creative part of this whole thing has actually been a long learning process for us and our customers as well. Because in the beginning, it was like okay, you can't put creativity into a formula. But we actually found out there's a lot of formulas in creativity, and there's a lot of things that people would think is creativity but really, is just repetitive, boring tasks that they're doing over and over again. It's not a part of the creative process. It's a part of an operational process that you're doing over and over again. And I think that that has been really a collaboration with our customers and a very strange learning curve in some ways. Yeah.
Tejs Rasmussen (15:17):
Daniel Jester (15:18):
At what point does your head pop off the pillow in the middle of the night and you think, "I need to solve this problem somehow."
Thomas Kragelund (15:27):
I think when we got to four, 500 employees in Asia, and we were about to double production in a year. So we had to hire 500 people, get them onboarded, get them training, buying PCs, running night shifts, and then still have a consistent quality in our output. That was when we came to a point where we said, "There's no way we can do this. We need to put some technology into this. We need to find a way to produce consistency at scale."
Tejs Rasmussen (16:10):
You kept saying to me, "Hey. We need assembly line production. We need to learn something from that. We cannot keep on doing this," and we totally all agreed. So we had a long, I think over a year. So we totally acknowledged it's not going to work. We had nine months before people could start actually doing work because they needed to do everything in our production and so on. We had so many areas where we needed to improve in order to get efficient, and Thomas kept saying we need to do some kind of assembly line. We need to do that. And it was just a realization that had to happen, but getting there was not evident. It was not coming popping, like you said. You don't wake up, and then suddenly, you have an idea. It happened a little bit later, also, in one day probably. The major idea came but it took a long time to get there.
Daniel Jester (17:01):
Thomas Kragelund (17:03):
I think coming from ... We have a technical background. So we were thinking that we can solve all problems with that lens of our technical perspective, but there's actually a lot of problems that are not technical. If you look at production, how production evolved or, I don't know, 200 years from the Industrial Revolution to mass production to lean production and so on, we had to go through all the same steps that all other kind of production has went through. But we just had some different challenges because we had a unique input and unique output, but we need we needed to find a way to do that process.
Thomas Kragelund (17:54):
And I think if you look at production, all production starts out with, if you take fashion and apparel, 100 years ago, it was a tailor. It was a craftsmanship kind of production. And then this tailor figured out, "Okay. Maybe I could do, I don't know, 20 dresses," and they would start batching things up. So that is a more efficient way of running production, because when you're batching things up, you can have different people on different stages in production and then all the way through, like fast fashion that you have today, where you're pretty much running continuous, what is it called? Releases of products. You don't really have seasons anymore in fast fashion and so on. You have every single week, new products are coming out, and that's an extremely efficient way of running it. And I think that we got very inspired by the flow concept of having people specialized in different roles, and then just controlling the input, controlling the process of producing. And then yeah, having the input being a variable that we just need to manage with flexible capacity, instead of training individual editors in specific customers.
Tejs Rasmussen (19:27):
Yeah. You have to you have to look at it with the tailor perspective. Let's take a tailor. So either you have one or 10 tailors that can do everything from sleeves, buttons, everything. The inside, outside, all of that. Or you find someone that's brilliant at buttons, and then another one that's brilliant at the outside and inside and so on. So that's the shift that we realized that we need ... Because that requires so little training compared to if you need to do everything right?
Daniel Jester (19:54):
Tejs Rasmussen (19:54):
So if you look at the image production, there's a lot of different disciplines in that. There's the cut out, there's the retouching, there's the shaping. There's a lot of different disciplines, and you need to learn all of that in order to work with images. That's just going to take a lot of time.
Daniel Jester (20:09):
Tejs Rasmussen (20:09):
So that was one angle on why do we need to change this and why we got inspired by mass production.
Daniel Jester (20:21):
The [inaudible 00:20:21]. Probably isn't too bad.
Tejs Rasmussen (20:25):
I need to pee at some point. Sorry. [crosstalk 00:20:29]-
Daniel Jester (20:29):
Yeah. Let's break for a moment. I want to try to get us onto the Creative Force track when you come back.
Daniel Jester (20:38):
You seem to be doing pretty well, Thomas.
Thomas Kragelund (20:42):
Under influence. You're not recording that.
Daniel Jester (20:46):
We'll cut that out. We'll bleep it out.
Thomas Kragelund (20:49):
I think it's good preparation for tomorrow. I think that it's actually a good [crosstalk 00:20:53]-
Thomas Kragelund (20:54):
And I actually think we're going to get a lot of information now that will be good if I'm writing something up.
I love the moment when Tejs was ready to quit and you called him.
Thomas Kragelund (21:15):
Daniel Jester (21:15):
I didn't know that.
Thomas Kragelund (21:17):
And especially if we can get that into the story, the more personal aspect of it and something that people can relate to, because everybody can relate to that feeling, that Tejs's-
Thomas Kragelund (21:45):
But I don't think he felt that ... Maybe I promised him that we will have a business. "Soon we'll have a business that you can join." It didn't materialize. I think that's yeah, but it's also just when you're not working on something full time. Have you tried that? Having a side project? It takes an insane amount of effort to run a side project with other people because their focus will shift all the time. Your focus will shift. And when you have time to go into a side project, maybe your partner doesn't have time. I think that's the kind of frustration that Tejs had. Yeah.
Daniel Jester (22:22):
We were saying that we love the part where you said that you were ready to quit and had written the email. Want to make sure that gets into the-
Tejs Rasmussen (22:29):
That's good stuff, right?
Daniel Jester (22:30):
It's very good stuff.
Tejs Rasmussen (22:32):
That's how it happened. It's exactly how it happened. I literally wrote the email. I had it, and then I have a rule. I'm not going to send anything when you're heated.
Daniel Jester (22:46):
Tejs Rasmussen (22:47):
And I was stressed out over the summer house and all that shit. And so I said, "I'm going to leave it until tomorrow. Maybe I'll change my mind," then it's not a good thing to send an email. I could of course repair it with Thomas. I could call him up and say, "I didn't mean it," and so on, but I didn't want to send it before I [crosstalk 00:23:04] it.
Daniel Jester (23:04):
Sure. Right. Yeah.
Tejs Rasmussen (23:05):
So I gave it a night. Always sleep on it. That's what my mom always said. And that has worked well a lot of times, but this one was probably the best one. Like, "Let's see tomorrow," and then I got this phone call from him while I was outside in the grass. I just went over from painting and so on and he called me. "Amazon called."
Daniel Jester (23:25):
Tejs Rasmussen (23:26):
Yeah. Or, "We got an email from Amazon," something like that. That was pretty crazy.
Tejs Rasmussen (23:35):
But it's the memories-
Daniel Jester (23:35):
President Bezos himself.
Tejs Rasmussen (24:53):
Yeah. I have a similar moment of my friend talking me into French instead of German in high school because that actually put me in a class with someone that taught me to do web design.
Daniel Jester (25:03):
Tejs Rasmussen (25:04):
You couldn't get any courses. So it was just the other guy having that interest. And then he said, "I want to show you this thing. It's so cool." And then he showed me how to do these websites and I thought, "This is fucking awesome. I can do this. This is perfect for me." I was already into design and so on, but he showed me that. I started making these websites just for ... I saw an opening and going into that.
Daniel Jester (25:29):
Tejs Rasmussen (25:30):
And then [crosstalk 00:25:31]-
Daniel Jester (25:30):
I taught myself web design and PDP and a handful of other scripting languages. And up until basically Squarespace came to market, I had built ... Every website I ever had, I built myself.
Tejs Rasmussen (25:39):
Daniel Jester (25:41):
Tejs Rasmussen (25:41):
Well, it's kind of the same thing. If I didn't choose French over German, I probably would have been an accountant.
Tejs Rasmussen (25:57):
But I tracked it down. That has such an impact on you. Who are you going to get impacted by? You get into a class. You're together all the time. He became my friend. If I went into the other class, German class, it's not just two hours a week, it's the whole everything. You stay together. Every class is with this group of people versus another group of people. So it would be totally different.
Tejs Rasmussen (26:26):
And I would definitely have been ... I think it would probably be a doctor or biology, some kind of natural science thing, but I just ended up with a design path in this web design thing, and that was totally pivotal.
Daniel Jester (26:39):
Tejs Rasmussen (26:40):
Yeah. That is crazy, right? And there's no rights and wrongs. [crosstalk 00:26:45] be like-
Tejs Rasmussen (26:49):
Most of us end up in a good place, most of us, if we're open to following something, like seeing an opening, "Oh my God. There's some opportunity here for me."
Daniel Jester (26:59):
That's how I ended up in Kentucky, which is maybe not as great on its own if you don't know the rest of the story or you don't know the story, but my thing was that I'm not going to say no. I'm not going to talk myself into saying no to an opportunity that I haven't learned anything about. If somebody comes to me with a job and says, "I'd like you to come move here and do this job for me." Well, let's talk about it. I'll talk to my wife about it. It's very easy to not do something. The way that I describe it is that I don't close any doors without peaking my head in.
Tejs Rasmussen (27:31):
And you can always come back.
Daniel Jester (27:33):
Tejs Rasmussen (27:34):
I've seen that with a lot of people trying to-
Tejs Rasmussen (27:36):
Coming back and so on. Just be kind when you leave. Don't-
Daniel Jester (27:39):
Right. Yeah. Sean, you said it. I've actually used that exact phrase. There's very few one way doors.
Tejs Rasmussen (27:46):
Tejs Rasmussen (27:47):
But if you don't go through the door, then it's closed.
Tejs Rasmussen (27:52):
So you need to take those. If there's an opportunity and it doesn't collide with maybe your family and so on. If you were to move alone to Asia and do ... That wouldn't work, right?
Daniel Jester (28:06):
Tejs Rasmussen (28:06):
So that wouldn't be good. We had people moving to Asia with their family and so on. There was an eCommerce business, but Jacob from Pixels moved to Asia. If I was asked about that, that wouldn't work.
Daniel Jester (34:53):
So I want to shift us into the conversation around Creative Force, and at what point in your journey with Pixels, did you start to think that there might be a need for something like Creative Force.
Thomas Kragelund (35:13):
That's a good question. I think we did visit ... I think our mindset shifted towards being much more operational after what we've been through at Pixels. And visiting these photo studios around the world, I think we pretty much visited-
Tejs Rasmussen (35:42):
Every city [crosstalk 00:35:43].
Thomas Kragelund (35:43):
All the major photo studios, retailers, brands, and so on around the world. And I think that seeing how they were running operations and pitching how we were running operations and so on, it was really, really strange to see that they just wasted resources and we were so focused on getting it right on the operational side. At some point, we came down to delivering images back within two or three hours. And some of these studios spent two weeks on making the assets to the point where they just had something they could send out to us and the deadline was already missed. And we just started listening to some of these pain points. And with the knowledge we have for optimizing operations and the technology we had in place, I think it was yeah. It was very straightforward to get to the thought that why don't we help them with some of the operations because [crosstalk 00:36:51]-
Daniel Jester (36:50):
It's kind of perfect, because Pixels adds value in and of itself but it also was a proof of concept that you could take some of these ideas about production.
Tejs Rasmussen (36:59):
Yeah, very much.
Daniel Jester (37:00):
And it's probably it's a little bit easier, I think, to apply that to an inherently physical workflow. Well, maybe not. I don't want to say that but-
Thomas Kragelund (37:08):
I think most of the workflow is actually not physical. Only [crosstalk 00:37:12]-
Daniel Jester (37:11):
We're going to argue about that.
Thomas Kragelund (37:13):
Yeah. Only the-
Daniel Jester (37:13):
For my entire career with Creative Force, we're going to argue about that.
Thomas Kragelund (37:16):
But I see, sometimes when we visit some of these photo studios, I was actually a little bit in doubt if we got to the warehouse. These photo students literally were warehouses.
Daniel Jester (37:30):
Thomas Kragelund (37:30):
Daniel Jester (37:30):
Thomas Kragelund (37:31):
And we started asking questions like, "Why do we have all these products in the photo studio?" And I think a lot of that came from really, really bad [inaudible 00:37:43]. Yeah. The work in progress was just insane. If you take the throughput of the photo studios and multiply it with the average turnaround time in days, then you'll have the work in progress, and nobody did that calculation. The work in progress is actually a very, very good measurement of the complexity. So I think that a lot of the studios were way too complex to manage. And I think that when we started pitching the software, everybody thought, "Okay, now you're doing a photo studio management solution." What we were actually trying to pitch was a complexity reduction solution so you don't have to manage that much, and-
Daniel Jester (38:37):
And maybe a little bit of a mindset shift.
Thomas Kragelund (38:40):
Maybe mindset, yeah.
Daniel Jester (38:40):
Yeah. And to some degree, I don't want to defend how creative production for eCommerce started. But to some degree, all they really knew was the logistics of fulfilling products, and you do that a very specific way.
Thomas Kragelund (38:53):
Yeah. And sometimes, a lot of the choices are made of bad experience. So you'll have outliers. You'll have sometimes you're sending things back to the warehouse that you were supposed to do on editorial shoot. And then the countermeasure or the solution to that problem would be to keep it in the studio a longer time so you don't get into that problem.
Daniel Jester (39:18):
Right. Yeah. I want to ... Sorry, Thomas, but I want to punctuate that because that's a powerful message. Is it wise for so many of your choices to be based on bad experiences, instead of thinking a little bit [crosstalk 00:39:31]?
Thomas Kragelund (39:31):
That's how management goes. You identify a problem, and then you have a solution for it. But you have so many exceptions going on in the photo studio that you will come up with so many different solutions, that it becomes so complex that you need a very good system to manage that complexity.
Daniel Jester (39:50):
Layering band aids on band aids on band aids.
Thomas Kragelund (39:52):
Daniel Jester (39:52):
Until you don't know what was in the middle anymore.
Thomas Kragelund (39:54):
And that's what we see with some of the requirements that these studios have now for a workflow solution. It's not a workflow solution. It's a manage complexity solution. So it's you created all this complexity and then you actually created need to manage it. And we saw a little bit of in a different way. We saw a need for a system that could actually keep track of everything that was going on in a studio. So you don't have to put all that effort into managing it.
Daniel Jester (40:24):
So how did it start? How did you start speccing it out?
Thomas Kragelund (40:30):
That's the tough part.
About the host
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.