As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing Rajeev Mishra, the Founder and CEO of Valera Screens. Rajeev is responsible for leading the company’s strategic vision as well as product innovation and execution. An electrical engineer and entrepreneurial marketer with more than two decades of leadership and product management expertise, he possesses an exceptional track record for driving growth across consumer and commercial businesses. Prior to launching Valera Screens, Rajeev served as vice president of product management and business development for Epson, where he grew the business into a dominant leadership position by architecting the Point of Sale and Projector Divisions’ growth strategy. His many milestones included restructuring sales and marketing, growing sales revenue and market share and igniting the product roadmap. He also introduced Epson’s new venture into the smart wearables market and spearheaded the company’s cloud service strategy.
Rajeev holds an MBA in marketing and entrepreneurship from UCLA Anderson School of Management and a BS in electrical engineering and computer science from University of California, Berkeley.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I love looking at customer market trends and am passionate about creating unique products that make an impact on everyday life. This was a category that my sons were partaking in and it allowed me to connect with them. Green screens are an emerging trend and I love seeing hardware and software coming together to make amazing content. With portable green screens, I saw the potential use cases and got excited about how it could be used across different markets. I spent nearly two decades at Epson and some of my most memorable moments include launching new ventures for the company. After launching several successful products, I wanted to pursue entrepreneurial path and leverage my experience running big business and applying it to a startup.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
A milestone in my career occurred in in the early 2000s, when I was asked to build a new ventures organization for Epson. The objective of this team was to bring truly entrepreneurial principals from the outside into a corporate environment. We built an incubator to see what our team could come up with and it shook up the different divisions and allowed us to think and execute projects differently. We brought an entrepreneurial view within an established organization by bring outside talent from various industries. It was like having a startup within a big company, we ideated and created, and eventually developed an interactive projector which ended up becoming a best-seller.
Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World”?
Valera Screens is one of the world’s lightest, most portable line of mobile green screens enabling amateur and professional content creators to capture, edit, produce and share stunning content seamlessly. Compatible with standard mobile apps and industry software for streaming and video production, Valera’s affordable screens feature proprietary Chromaboost wrinkle-resistant fabric for enhanced performance in low light. From gamers and filmmakers to schools and businesses, Valera Screens empowers groups and individuals to develop dynamic scenes — anywhere at any time — that entertain, inform and engage audiences of all ages.
How do you think this will change the world?
Green screens revolutionized Hollywood in the 1940s when filmmaker Larry Butler used the visual trickery to create a genie escaping from a bottle in The Thief of Bagdad. Considered the first proper use of the green screen process, the blockbuster won the Academy Award for Best Special Effects that year. We’ve come a long way since then. Today, green screens coupled with advanced technology are transforming even grade schoolers into filmmakers and content creators. With portable and inexpensive greens screens from Valera, ordinary people can catch their “big break” on YouTube, Instagram, Twitch and other platforms by creating dynamic content that inspires, informs and educates. Compatible with leading software apps for special effects, amateurs and professionals alike can seamlessly create a short film, viral video or tutorial at home, at work or on the go. Even advertising is made easy. Imagine an influencer with millions of followers using a brand’s logo as a backdrop. With mobile devices and 5G networks on the rise, we’re seeing the impact of green screens in education, gaming, creative and business settings. Particularly as digital natives rely on and expect simple-to-use technology, Valera Screens will become essential to this new wave of content creators.
Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?
I was inspired by a desire to connect with my tech-savvy kids by renting a green screen from a Hollywood supply company to create the ultimate karaoke experience. I successfully turned my son’s birthday party into a virtual American Idolstage. Several years later, as mobile devices took over my household, I observed my sons using their cellphones to capture and share homemade videos to mimic content they watched on Twitch and YouTube, which often utilized DIY (do-it-yourself) green screens. Realizing that green screens were key to the creative process, while envisioning a future where anyone could create and share content from anywhere in the world, I fulfilled his goal to enable mobile content creation that was affordable and easy to use without the need for a studio.
What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?
We need to build awareness across different markets and let them know what we can do for them. I want to expand my network of software partners like OBS Studios and Doink, to reduce barriers so people can take advantage of the capabilities of our portable, mobile green screens.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
1. Know the importance of digital marketing to build awareness across different platforms. Today, you have to approach marketing in a different way, using so many different vehicles from social media, SEO tools, affiliate organizations, and media planning. Your marketing plan must encompass multiple channels, at the same time.
2. I would have spent more time on iteration and learning about how to improve the product before nailing my marketing strategy. We created a great product, but every product in the early stages should always be iterated based on data.
3. Take a data driven approach versus trying to figure it all out at once. By hearing feedback early on, I could’ve tweaked our launch strategy across a number of verticals to make the most impact.
4. It’s crucial to test your product, spend time talking and listening to customers to help guide your marketing and launch strategy. By doing a soft launch to select groups, representing different segments, you can get feedback on your product and marketing earlier.
The future of work is a common theme. What can one do to “future proof” their career?
A few things one can do to “future-proof” their career include:
· Staying abreast on the trends in digital marketing
· Have a data analytics-oriented mindset
· Possess the ability to make decisions and iterate quickly, especially when it comes to software and website. It’s crucial to course-correct in real time
· Course correcting is an integral part of the launch process. You can launch but you should tweak and making improvements as you go. You must go into business knowing it’s a series of course corrections
· Make decisions based on data versus your gut feeling.
· Pick what you’re really good at and offload areas that someone else can do better. Outsource non-key components of your process
· Hire people that will bring the right attitude and passion, it’s not always about the experience and the resume. Bring on people who are passionate about your cause and what you’re doing
· Learn to be part of a collaborative environment, listen and learn
Based on the future trends in your industry, if you had a million dollars, what would you invest in?
I believe that 5G tech in mobile devices will revolutionize how we capture, create and share. In the near future, I would invest in software and content that would allow users to capture unleash creativity and lower barriers to entry. In the mid-term, I would invest in and create software and applications that would allow users to take advantage of mobile devices so they can create, share and stream like professionals.
Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?
· I believe in transparency and open communication with my teams
· Establish a warm team culture, treat them like family
· Use ideation and groupthink to problem solve or find new opportunities
· Get excited about developing products that make people’s lives better. I am truly motivated by that
· Supporting ideas and theories with data is important so that we can look at them in a logical way so we can make the best decisions
· Make a plan, know upfront if things don’t go well, you have plan if you don’t hit the target initially set. Nothing ever goes as planned so thinking through Plan B and being able to execute it is important
Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?
· Writing things down forces clarity and is a great process
· Develop personal board of advisors of people that you respect and trust. Make it a point to have lunch with them, talk to them about what you’re working on, and often times they will shine a light on what you’re working on
· Sleep and exercise so you can be clear, effective and energetic. Bring a health aspect to your vision
· We have a million things on our to-do list, before you start a week, sit down and think about which actions will move the ball forward. Time management is so important, look at your accomplishments at the end of the week, and set the following week’s agenda
· Diversity is key. If you want a safe answer hire people that look like you, for the best answer, hire people with different perspectives and backgrounds, get their opinions and leverage their view points
· Developing a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis forces clarity
Some very well-known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
· From both a consumption and a content-creation perspective, we want to help elevate the end result for creators and their audiences, which comes with large market potential. Valera Screens are compatible with standard mobile apps and industry software for content production, and we’re excited to partner with the leaders in the industry.Valera is led by an experienced established team with more than two decades of tech product experience. We don’t just want to just be a green screen company, we want to expand the space through useful tools and education as well.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Find us on Facebook, Instagramand Twitter@stream_valera. Valera Screens has created an innovative line of mobile green screens designed to meet the needs of today’s content creators. Our vision is to empower a new generation of influencers to #unleashcreativity by providing them with the best tools to capture, edit and produce high-quality content. Visit streamvalera.com to learn more.
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.