Featured on Jan 19, 2011
"Nothing extraordinary is ever achieved through ordinary means."
I believe that great things happen when creative people and teams get organized. My team and I develop products and services that empower creative professionals to make ideas happen. The Behance Network has become the leading online platform for creative professionals to showcase their online portfolios and advance their careers. Behance also powers portfolio display for LinkedIn, AIGA, and other organizations. We founded The 99% to conduct research around productivity and execution in the creative industries. The 99% also became a conference for creative leaders that takes place in NYC every year. One of our other passion projects is Action Method - a series of online, mobile, and paper products for task management. I'm so obsessed with the study of creative execution that I wrote a book about it called "Making Ideas Happen," which was published in April 2010 and became a national bestseller.
- Title: Founder & CEO, Behance
- Age: 30
- Location: SoHo
- Contact: scottbelsky.com
Who are some of your current favorite creatives in the Behance Network that We Are NY Tech readers should watch in 2011? What’s your personal favorite piece of work?
It's super hard to designate a "favorite creative" in Behance. It's funny you ask because I just recently starting keeping a collection of projects that I find particularly clever like Brock Davis' effort to "Make Something Cool Every Day", Levi van Velus's wild self-portraits-turned-landscapes, and Mac Funamizu's vision for the future of Internet Search.
I keep close tabs on my (current) favorite Gallery Site, http://ToyServed.com - a never ending stream of fun stuff.
Sometimes, when I want to be completely awed by the caliber of creative work in other parts of the world, I'll do a random search like "Most Appreciated Typography projects by designers in Romania" and spend a few minutes just exploring the results. Makes for great entertainment over lunch at your desk!
What are your thoughts on 1 for 1 charity ideas like TOMS Shoes and Warby Parker? Do you feel as if there is any loss in the quality of design and materials of the products themselves because of this?
I love the "1 for 1" message as a metaphor and marketing strategy, but not as a rigid business model. The concept of "buy 1 and automatically give 1 to someone in need" is very easy to grasp. Social enterprise thrives when participants witness the tangible impact they are making, which explains the success of TOMS Shoes among others.
However, while the "1 for 1" message makes sense to the average consumer, I think the organizations should have more flexibility when it comes to the nonprofit side of their work. For example, perhaps the revenues from shoes would be better spent funding organizations that teach locals to make and distribute shoes themselves? A good "1 for 1" example is a new condom company "L" (http://www.lovebeginswithl.com ), started by a new friend, with a mission to empower women globally. While their message is "for every condom you purchase, one is distributed in a developing country," they plan to also set up education and distribution programs.
These initiatives demonstrate a willingness to pay more for a given product with a social impact. I hope we see more innovative incarnations of such programs.
While working full-time at Goldman Sachs, you met Matias Corea, Behance's co-founder and Chief of Design, and paid him out of your own pocket to help explore the project for a few months every night after work. When and how did you know it was the right time to make the move to working on Behance full-time?
I wanted to fully explore the concept of Behance before taking the plunge. I committed myself to nightly regimens of studying the creative industry and imagining the impact of a technology company that empowered creative professionals.
I knew that Behance would be a design-centric business, but I had no idea what this meant (I thought I did, but I didn't). I asked a few friends for introductions to the best designers they knew. I met many people, but when I met Matias I realized just how much I had to learn. Since Behance was still in the exploratory phase (and both Matias and I had full-time jobs), I asked Matias if he'd be willing to meet up at night to explore the concept with me.
We met up three times a week for many months, often working between 9pm and 1am. Matias spent weeks just teaching me about typography and the principles that would ultimately lay the foundation of Behance.
The business opportunity and market needs became more clear as we started to share the idea with friends. In September 2006, Matias and I decided to build a team and make it happen. We've been working together for five years now and have built an incredible team that we deeply respect.
The most remarkable thing is that neither of us were truly qualified to do what we do now. I had no formal background in technology. Matias had never designed a website. When Dave and Chris - our founding developers (and now co-heads of technology) - came on board, they had no experience with enterprise level sites. We all trained each other, we learned many lessons the hard way, and we worked tirelessly to make Behance happen. ...And we believe we're still in the first inning.
Which country or culture do you think has the most productive mindset? How about the most creative?
Every country and culture is different, and it is impossible to generalize. Just recently, we've been starting to look into the country-specific data in the Behance Network. We've started tracking the "most appreciated countries" based on the number of appreciations received by projects by Behance members in different countries . We've also started to develop some algorithms for measuring quality based on factors like the ratio of views to appreciations, who appreciates what, etc...
It is too early to tell, but there are some interesting discoveries when you compare the performance of certain genres of creative work in certain countries.
As for productivity, I don't think nationality is a variable. The productive mindset is an outcome of discipline, self-awareness, and a willingness to develop organizational skills.
Most things on the Internet about you are about your work with Behance, Action Method, and The 99 Percent. What are some of the activities that you enjoy doing outside of work?
I'm a huge fan of live acoustic music and keep tabs on the schedules for east village jaunts such as The Living Room among others. I love the intersection of design and technology and spend a lot of time reading and researching this stuff purely for kicks. I also sit on a few nonprofit boards and museum task forces that keep me busy. On an every day level I like the ritual of cooking a meal. I also like quiet...which fetches a premium these days (and I try to escape the city every now and then to find it).