We talk about taking risks. The future of live events. And how volunteering with Tony Robbins shaped his mindset.
Get tips on design, getting your first clients, and advice he'd give to his younger self!
Let's jump in...
Hey Cole, let's start by telling us a little about yourself and what you're up to right now?
I’ve been very fortunate to have founded my second company in the midst of this pandemic. It’s certainly been a very dynamic time that I’ll always remember!
As the founder and CEO of StageConnect, I’m very excited to have just launched our full production-grade remote audience tool for general availability.
Outside of my career, I am a specialty coffee geek, a mountain biker, and on weeknights, you can find me on the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu mats. During COVID we actually flipped half of our office so we could install BJJ mats and keep training.
What does Stage Connect look like and what problem do you look to solve?
StageConnect is production-grade remote audience interaction software that lets presenters or performers on stage see, hear, and interact with their entire remote audience.
In the future hybrid world, we needed a meaningful way to bring remote participants to life, actually put them on stage, and allow them to interact with and truly connect with the presenters, speakers, and performers on the stage.
The event production and AV professionals needed serious software to make this all possible with existing live event workflows.
How was Stage Connect born and how's it going so far?
Years of struggling, dreaming, hands-on experience, and forming relationships, came together overnight in early 2020 and it couldn’t be going better. We were fortunate to be backed by both friends and family, and a fantastic group of investors.
We’ve worked with some incredible clients and have had some great feedback from presenters such as Gary Vaynerchuck, Marcus Lemonis, Digital Marketer, SafetyCulture, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Our product is now available nationwide.
Do you think Covid has shifted virtual live event opportunities from your time in this space?
Covid broke the very paradigm of live events; people gathering in a place around a happening. Comfortable or not, all of us event professionals had quite a learning curve when the pandemic hit. Virtual events and hybrid events already existed prior, but now they will continue as the standard. For the next year or two, I believe we will still hear the term “hybrid”, but after that, it will just be called “an event.”
Could you walk us through your entrepreneurial journey?
I started my first company when I was 14 years old, mowing lawns. I bought a commercial mower and trailer but had to hire someone to drive my trailer around because I was too young to drive. I’ve carried this sentiment with me throughout my career, only forward.
I started my more formal career in reality TV, film, live events, and eventually running a web agency. Looking back, one of the key times in my life was a year that I spent traveling in a volunteer position for Tony Robbins, before being hired officially, staying on for two years. Immersing myself in that kind of environment is something that had a profound impact on me.
With all that experience, it only made sense to combine that into a live streaming agency in 2015. I’ve been extremely fortunate to get to work on so many incredible projects over the years, that when the challenge of pivoting an entire industry, my team and I were very well positioned to strike quickly. For the last two years, we’ve been stringing together as many “light bulb” moments as daylight will allow.
If you go back in time, what would you tell your younger self?
Life balance leads to efficiency. Burning out with your foot on the pedal is always the wrong move. Flow is more important than force in most cases, but don’t use that as an excuse to not get work done on a deadline.
Funny story, early on in COVID, everyone was panicking, and we stopped to make sure we were asking the right questions, “What if…”. What if we could get a free ballroom and millions of dollars of equipment to build a virtual event center with zero cost up front… for example. And we did exactly that.
The only issue was, it sat dark for a full 45 days. We were too early and most of the industry was paralyzed. This exact idea only a few months later, proved extremely fruitful and ended up being a large part of what landed us here today.
So, keep going if you know it’s right in your gut.
Do you have any tips on how you would go about getting your first customers/design jobs today?
A great product and a great customer are worth 10 times a good one. Being picky with both of these things can lead to hypergrowth.
We work in the software and events industry, few have higher stakes or standards than these two. When you go after a project, the best chance you can have to not only win the bid/job/contract but keep the client is to put the right tools in the hands of the right people. (Mockuuups for example)
Do you have any tips on how to create a "stand-out" presentation from your experience?
Connection is key. The faster someone connects emotionally or logically with your presentation, the more likely you are to win.
Ideally, you want to connect emotionally first, maybe with some large graphical items that evoke a relatable experience or the problem your solution solves. This has to be followed up by easy-to-understand and impactful text content and contextual data points.
These items sound like the basics, and they are. If you NAIL the basics and get your viewer to connect with them, you’re golden.
Can you walk us through what you use Mockuuups Studio for and how it provides value to your business?
We’re creating a new type of product, something that’s not the easiest for people outside a technical position to conceptualize. Even showing screenshots of our product does not always get that “Ah-ha” moment to trigger.
By creating images with Mockuuups, we’ve seen a double or triple in understanding and comprehension of our product photos. It adds a level of realistic context that’s usually only available through high priced design agencies.
What made you switch from old-fashioned Photoshop mockups (or whatever you were using before) to Mockuuups Studio?
Mockuuups makes it so easy to find the right template vs searching for hours to find the source photos to use.
The ability to select the exact device and situation makes it so that anyone on our team can take our library of screenshots and create incredible assets to use for marketing, sales, investors, etc. It’s changed the game.
TLDR: Mockuuups not only produces great mockup images but saves us time and that equals money.
What's your all-time favorite online resource or place to educate yourself?
This is probably cliche, but I’m working on my YouTube degree. The amount of content on YouTube always amazes me. And on the off chance something isn’t there, Reddit has proven to turn up some interesting resources for obscure topics.
What inspires you in your work and life to grow and better yourself?
Something that Jordan B Peterson wrote in his book 12 Rules for Life, the goal of life is not to be happy, but to be a good citizen. This has really stuck with me and I strive to be a good citizen of the world by being as useful as I can be to my fellow citizens every single day.
The ethos of our company is “To free ideas from the constraint of location”. The concept is that an idea from France could change the world if the right person in Japan got ahold of it (for example).
These two maxims really drive me personally, and professionally.
Is there anything exciting you'd like to share?
We’ve just launched StageConnect for general availability in the US, and will be launching for global availability in early 2022. We have an incredible partner program where we work with AV Production Companies and Virtual Event Platforms that has also just launched.
Where's Stage Connect located and where's the best place for people to connect with you online?
We have our HQ located in Nashua, NH with satellite offices in LA, Denver, and West Palm Beach, FL. You can learn more about us at stageconnect.co