CR Celona of Cluster: “Marketplace fitment”

Marketplace fitment: How well does the glove fit… It fits in all cases. With regards to Cluster, the before mentioned need led us to define the fitment, by talking to focus groups, partners and creators. As video is king and people are looking to connect post covid, Cluster provides a solution for all of these […]

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Marketplace fitment: How well does the glove fit… It fits in all cases. With regards to Cluster, the before mentioned need led us to define the fitment, by talking to focus groups, partners and creators. As video is king and people are looking to connect post covid, Cluster provides a solution for all of these in a gamified package. It is our mission to establish that you are powerful and can become the change you want to see, we’re just the catalyst.

In recent years, Big Tech has gotten a bad rep. But of course many tech companies are doing important work making monumental positive changes to society, health, and the environment. To highlight these, we started a new interview series about “Technology Making An Important Positive Social Impact”. We are interviewing leaders of tech companies who are creating or have created a tech product that is helping to make a positive change in people’s lives or the environment. As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing C.R. Celona.

Celona has always had a love for the point where people and technology meet. From starting as a sponsored street racer who sold his first website to an eBay company to helping found the influencer space, he has now amassed 20 years of experience. This centers around managing and building solution-oriented companies across e- commerce, influencer, social, mobile and now social impact.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory and how you grew up?

Growing up I was incredibly lucky to have a parent’s who loved me but made sure that I had to work for things that were desired. From comic books, video games to paintball and cars, these toys were positioned to me by my father as perfectly acceptable returns for working hard. Up until he passed, when I was in my 20’s, my father was always probing ideas and philosophies. It was one of our favorite pastimes together, well that an UCONN Women’s basketball, go huskies! What’s interesting about growing up with parents who allow you to explore ideas is that you’re in trouble more than not because ideas, there for rules and flexibility… Which I found out they were not. One of the best lessons I learned from my parents was when I was sitting in my bedroom senior year, and dad walked in and sat down and said “ You know I understand now, you’re dyslexic and it’s hard for you to learn and read.” I placed down the book which yes, I had reread 3 times to understand it and replied “Yes Dad, I have a learning disability, and everything is harder…” He hugged me and proceeded to say, “All this time I thought you were just being difficult, I’m sorry I didn’t recognize it sooner….” He got up and walked out of my overly 90s room that late spring afternoon and it was at that moment I realized that we were all just holding on for dear life, trying to do our best, saddled with the baggage of our past, but all capable of growing beyond it.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Interesting is relative. but I think the most interesting story centers around launching and raising funds for a company/start up (Cluster) during a global pandemic. The pandemic will most likely go down as one of the most interesting and unique times for the world and will hopefully remain that way. So, it completely changed the dynamics of communication and business from how you raise capital (all virtual) to meeting with clients, having to generate revenue from the start with Aspiration bank and Root insurance to launching while people couldn’t get together IRL. While we are not out of the woods yet, the country is headed in the right direction and one that will allow Cluster to keep bringing people together, sharing their stories and activating good.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

There are quite a few from my first mentor back at my old speed shop, to a well-known writer who always made time to be my bound board, but I think the most particular person I would need to be grateful for was my parents. They were critical in helping drive two key ideologies that govern my day to day. My father Peter Celona, who was a PHD in Philosophy was a consummate dreamer who always looked at deals and tried new things, but had an issue of playing the victim too often which led to most of his failures apart from health decline. He was excellent at identifying opportunities, moving towards the goal but sometimes lacked the needed team around him to close score. He always said if you reach for the stars, even if you fail you’ll still end up in the clouds, and that’s not a bad place to be. In a traditional antagonist role, Deborah Celona was in the day to day world of practicality and consummate pragmatism. She celebrated the little wins and always said, no matter what you’re doing, always stop to smell the roses, you never know what you’re going to miss. Many people forget those who built us, quite literally, and focus on the things they didn’t have vs the gift and knowledge they do/did. We didn’t have many things, but we have an abundance of love and most importantly a cauldron of poenial that created my ability to meet, great and continue to drive towards a better tomorrow for us all.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

(Albert Einstein) “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.” Back in my 20’s when my father was alive, he was big on exploring ideas, philosophy and what love was all about. This quote was one that speaks to those like me, who never fit in and always seem to be thinking in a different way. It’s that very fact that we’re different that makes our country so special.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

Driven, Awareness, and Compassionate. Often business leaders are driven, but they lack compassion or empathy. Launching a business during a pandemic which is based on an idea/MVP is a challenging task. Each time a group, investor or family office said no or check back once you’re a little further along, was a moment where I chose to dig deeper and not fault them for their lack of vision. As we met with the right people, around the time my second daughter was born, we found a group who believe in us, community and compassionate capitalism. It was important for us to also be aware of the marketplace movements that were happening during the pandemic as they started to open up new opportunities for Cluster to move into. Whether it was states opening up, groups of people who were in need, or equally valuable the team providing other learnings from the marketplace, we need to incorporate all of this into our build. Awareness is a mission critical part of any leader as you learn to do more listening than you do speaking. Lastly and most importantly, being compassionate is a learned skill that everyone should practice, not everyone is Mother Teresa. Creating a space for people to grow, feel heard and comfortable is a complete moving target. One, you need to be open with your team and organization about what expectations are and how to be successful within. As a platform for social change, we look to help these core attributes matriculate through our team and users’ social channels as we look to heal the divide and celebrate our diversity.

Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about the tech tools that you are helping to create that can make a positive social impact on our society. To begin, what problems are you aiming to solve?

The problem we face today is a human one, who are we as a society? A Lincoln spoke about a house divided against itself which cannot stand, that is truer today than ever. Social media has driven the social out of human interaction and replaced it with meaningless dopamine dumps which drive engagement. What Covid has taught us is that we need people, where social and media should support that. Our goal is to use all of the existing tools that average people have at their disposal and create more meaningful relationships with their communities by allowing people to get back to what makes us great, each other. What Cluster provides is an easy way to find a purpose, celebrate what you’re doing to better your world and find others who share your likes. As users host more Clusters, they will have the ability to grow their socials, tell stories that have yet to be discovered and create a true home for kindness through inclusion.

How do you think your technology can address this?

Our platform is designed to get people sharing again, but it’s not just about selfies and check-ins. This is about using FOMO, and social engineering to allow people to help their causes or communities in a fun manner. Volunteering should be fun; it should be a carrier and one that allows people to thrive. Our generation doesn’t have the flexibility of others where everyone is amassing wealth, we need more than ever to help, build and cherish our communities across the world, because our differences are our strength.

Cluster empowers Millennials and Gen Z to mobilize their digital networks to give back to their community through the app, where users create or join Cluster’s and rally their followers and friends to unite them in social impact causes.

Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?

I’ve always loved helping people, but not in the “I’m a doormat to the world perspective,” more of the it makes me feel great to see others smile and thrive. I believe it’s okay to self-promote while giving back, it’s perfectly acceptable, that’s the entire reason why the ALS Ice bucket challenge worked. If we can bring people around the globe to be self-promoting about helping and not just about amassing social clout, that’s a blueprint for a clearly better tomorrow, one that I’m totally bought into.

How do you think this might change the world?

Nothing truly changes the world, it just moves the world in an evolved or more socially acceptable direction, for us helping, and making money while helping is a clear line of sight. Our generation is a group of micro publishers all of whom have a somewhat developed audience. To leverage that to tell a story of inclusion is just a natural evolution of a multicultural society.

Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

We’re living through many layers of futuristic societies as we speak, your car can drive you places and you have a wireless communication tool that makes EVERYTHING more accessible. The greatest drawback to where we are headed is the general lack or dilution of human compassion. A text vs a call, a call vs video, video vs in person. Generally speaking, there is a net positive here as it allows for more efficient communication, but sometimes communication isn’t about efficiency, it’s about communication.

Here is the main question for our discussion. Based on your experience and success, can you please share “Five things you need to know to successfully create technology that can make a positive social impact”? (Please share a story or an example, for each.)

Marketplace Need: Finding volunteering activities should be easy. This was the first step in realizing that we had something special in Cluster. We were able to really explore how using your passions and causes could become the best algorithmic content social has ever seen, which helps engagement and growth. For us Cluster, we make it easy to give back in a way that had not existed before.

Marketplace fitment: How well does the glove fit… It fits in all cases. With regards to Cluster, the before mentioned need led us to define the fitment, by talking to focus groups, partners and creators. As video is king and people are looking to connect post covid, Cluster provides a solution for all of these in a gamified package. It is our mission to establish that you are powerful and can become the change you want to see, we’re just the catalyst.

Marketplace size: 70MM Gen Z and Millennials are actively giving back and not belong celebrated. We will be the home for them, their content, dreams and aspirations. Our goal is to allow them to shine, feel supported and be discovered by this beautiful generation of multicultural Americans.

Who are you helping: The best part about the rubix cube of our generation, is that the more mixed up it is the better the solution we get. I love culture, and as an Italian American, we often view that through the lens of food and family. Now with Cluster, we’re looking at this multicultural, ethnic, different religious group as the next iteration of our nation. A better reflection of the world at large capable of understanding the many global issues, because they have a local understanding.

Why are you helping: One should always be truthful to thyself. I’m a big believer in allowing people to feel good about giving back. It’s the best feeling in the world, to help someone, be nice to a stranger and observe a positive reaction to your effort.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

Start. Anything you do that tells a story of inclusion, positivity and kindness is where you should begin. We built Cluster to allow all of you to go out and do small things that together become big movements. Clean up your street, open the door to strangers, stop by a shelter and walk a dog who’s looking for a home or make a sandwich for a person in need. All of these count as giving and each of these is just an example of how we can change what volunteerism is.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. :-).

For this occasion it would be fun to have coffee with Richard Branson, he’s an individual who understands the unique balance one can strike, which helps support others, drive positive revenue and sentiment

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Linkedin

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational, and we wish you continued success in your important work.

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