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Danny Quick of Stacks: “Design for emotional impact”

Our product, Snacks, is where pop-culture gets discussed through bite-sized threads of videos about a single topic. We all consume a daily stream of “always-on” events and entertainment. It’s the latest buzzer beater in last night’s game, the new Netflix series that just dropped, and the hard questions facing our country. Snacks is the place […]

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Our product, Snacks, is where pop-culture gets discussed through bite-sized threads of videos about a single topic. We all consume a daily stream of “always-on” events and entertainment. It’s the latest buzzer beater in last night’s game, the new Netflix series that just dropped, and the hard questions facing our country. Snacks is the place people come to share their opinion, reactions, and hot takes across a wide array of pop culture topics, all through video.

In our app today, the community is making videos around the question “What’s your favorite pair of shoes in your collection?” This creates a single thread of videos that encapsulate this moment in time and everyone’s perspective. Imagine 10 years from now being able to ask, “What did everyone think the day Joe Biden got elected?” and being able to go see the world’s reaction in videos from that moment. That’s both something new and really exciting. This new type of digital conversation pattern brings people closer together by bringing real expression and emotion to conversations that have historically been limited to text.


The telephone totally revolutionized the way we could communicate with people all over the world. But then came email and took it to the next level. And then came text messaging. And then came video calls. And so on…What’s next? What’s just around the corner?

In this interview series, called ‘The Future Of Communication Technology’ we are interviewing leaders of tech or telecom companies who are helping to develop emerging communication technologies and the next generation of how we communicate and connect with each other.

As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Danny Quick.

Danny is the CEO & Co-founder of Stacks, a creator-focused product studio building the future of entertainment. Before founding Stacks, he was Head of Product for Beyoncé at Parkwood Entertainment.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

One of the most interesting stories about my career is how it started, in which Medium played a crucial part. In my early 20s, I was running a crowdfunding consultancy where we helped artists raise money for creative projects on Kickstarter. We would help them set up a campaign, build their community before launch, and make sure these creative projects got funded.

Running a Kickstarter campaign is basically like throwing a party on the internet. Before it launches, you have to do a lot of work to build an email list, tell people about your campaign, then get them to show up on launch day to show support. We were using tools like Mailchimp to manage our communication and almost every time, our most heartfelt and important emails to the community went to the spam folder.

I was starting to think about other ways these artists could build meaningful connections with their fans, and text messaging was a really interesting channel that felt much more personal and immediate. As I started to prototype some of these ideas to build an artist to fan SMS product, I very serendipitously read a Medium post written by an artist I love named Ryan Leslie. He built for himself the dream texting tool to stay connected with his fans and in the process, flipped the economics of how creative projects were being funded.

I bought the domain workwithryanleslie.com and made a website about why I loved what he was doing and why I thought we should work together, and texted it to him. This really started my career on the trajectory it’s been on ever since. I’m insanely grateful to Ryan and the rest of the team as well as the people I met along the way, which started with a Medium article and a text.

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

One of my favorite quotes comes from the opening pages of Antifragile by Nassim Taleb:

Wind extinguishes a candle and energizes fire. Likewise with randomness, uncertainty, chaos: you want to use them, not hide from them. You want to be the fire and wish for the wind.

Life (and innovation) is often less about the events that happen to you and more about how you react to those events. It’s inevitable that unforeseen and often challenging things will happen. How we respond to those events is what determines the quality of our life. This quote is a reminder to use the “randomness, uncertainty, and chaos” for exactly what it is — an opportunity to get better and improve the world around us. It’s up to each of us as individuals how we want to respond to life. Do you want to be the candle or the fire?

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?

I’ve been really fortunate to have a lot of incredible peers and mentors around me, which allows me to learn and be inspired constantly. Two people I am very grateful for are my two co-founders: Nathan and Brandon.

We’ve been friends and worked together for a long time, and building startups with someone is almost like going to war with them. The extreme set of experiences you endure together, both positive and negative, over a long stretch of time creates a level of connection and trust that’s hard to understand if you haven’t been through it.

One underrated thing people look for in co-founders or even early employees is integrity. When you’re in extreme situations that startups often place you in, you really get to see people’s true character under pressure. Time and time again over the years, I’ve been grateful to have two high-integrity partners to build this company with, which, by extension, makes me a better person.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I’ve always been of the belief that building an enduring company is one of the best ways to bring goodness to the world for the long-term. While one-off actions or monetary donations are great, it’s more ideal to build a self-sustaining ecosystem that can last on its own over long periods of time. Companies like Disney and Nintendo really serve as our model for bringing goodness to the world through creative entertainment. Even in our nascent success, we’ve been able to bring more connection and creativity into the world for our users, making those in-between moments in the day more meaningful.

Ok wonderful. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about the cutting edge communication tech that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

Our vision for the future of communication and entertainment really centers around enabling people to express themselves in new and creative ways. We’ve seen throughout history that when technology enables a new format, more people can participate, changing society drastically.

Before the internet, if you wanted to publish a piece of writing you had to write a book or become a journalist. In the first era of the internet, suddenly everyone could be a blogger, which drastically lowered the barrier of entry for whoever could share their unique perspective. Blogging exploded, and we were all able to express ourselves better and become more informed about the world around us. Then comes Twitter, which removes a lot of the cognitive overhead of writing a long blog post and just says “all you have to do is 140 characters.” Suddenly it’s easy for everyone to share their perspective and the world is an undeniably better place now for it. We think this march towards lowering barriers to creation and in the process, seeing new perspectives emerge, is happening now in video.

Our product, Snacks, is where pop-culture gets discussed through bite-sized threads of videos about a single topic. We all consume a daily stream of “always-on” events and entertainment. It’s the latest buzzer beater in last night’s game, the new Netflix series that just dropped, and the hard questions facing our country. Snacks is the place people come to share their opinion, reactions, and hot takes across a wide array of pop culture topics, all through video.

In our app today, the community is making videos around the question “What’s your favorite pair of shoes in your collection?” This creates a single thread of videos that encapsulate this moment in time and everyone’s perspective. Imagine 10 years from now being able to ask, “What did everyone think the day Joe Biden got elected?” and being able to go see the world’s reaction in videos from that moment. That’s both something new and really exciting. This new type of digital conversation pattern brings people closer together by bringing real expression and emotion to conversations that have historically been limited to text.

What sparked the idea behind your app?

Snacks started from a really simple insight: The most important and most interesting conversations happening on the internet are happening in the comment sections of social apps, specifically Instagram and TikTok. This is where people were really engaging, expressing themselves, and building meaningful connections with a community.

But it seemed that these “comment conversations” were really just an afterthought for a lot of the current platforms. They’re still limited to the tiny, bottom ⅓ of your screen and can be hard to explore, manage, and understand.

Snacks started as a way to raise the fidelity of these conversations from text to video and in the process, bring real emotion and expression to them in a way that wasn’t before possible.

How do you think this might change the world?

This intersection of media and technology has always been transformative: A new technology enables novel ways to create and distribute information, ushering in a radically new world with different assumptions. The printing press enabled its first best-selling author, Martin Luther, to reshape society through the Protestant Reformation. Today, you don’t have to look past the challenges of Facebook and others to appreciate how the information we consume shapes real-world actions, making things like filter bubbles and cancel culture extremely dangerous.

The internet’s impact on society will be orders of magnitude larger than the printing press, and it’s likely to happen at 10X the speed. And when you look at what new assumptions the internet brings, the answer is also the driver of its biggest businesses: networks.

We believe that by building a new network that starts with real video conversations, real people and real topics, we can build more empathy in the world.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

The important thing to keep in mind about video (and audio) is that they’re much more personal inputs than text. You can maintain a level of anonymity when you’re just typing into your phone, but as soon as you’re recording a video of yourself or of your voice, it immediately becomes much more personal. Companies and products really need to take a firm stance on their values and how they view their users’ data and privacy. As consumers, we’re all becoming much more aware of how important digital privacy is and I think we’ll continue to see people make more and more decisions about what apps to use based on their commitment, or lack thereof, to privacy.

What can creators expect from your app?

It’s a really fun way to engage directly with their community through video, which is a radically different experience than trying to make a viral TikTok or the most beautiful Instagram post. It’s much more authentic and real.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story? What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

Our users are mostly Gen Z so when lockdowns started in 2020, suddenly everyone was home from school. This created a new need to find other ways to fill the “social” portion of your life that once existed at school and IRL. But even more than staying in touch with friends, we are searching for new ways to find communities online based on similar interests. We really see our growth and adoption being driven by our ability to create a safe space for people to make and consume videos with the communities they care about.

How do you hope your app will grow in offerings?

One thing our product is really good at is helping creators figure out who their top fans and community members are. We’ve seen that the fans who take the time to make really good, detailed video responses to a creator’s question are often the same ones who want to have a deeper connection and support in other ways. This is why you’ll continue to see us double down on building new ways for creators to connect with their community, including monetization tools.

The pandemic has changed so many things about the way we behave. One of them of course, is how we work and how we communicate in our work. How do you think your innovation might be able to address the new needs that have arisen as a result of the pandemic?

COVID has been an accelerant, but the trend is clear: digital is becoming default. It’s normal to date online, to meet new people and communities online, and to reinforce and deepen those relationships online. While IRL isn’t going anywhere, time spent on digital is only going to grow. For our product, connection and communication starts with video, where you can really see and feel someone’s emotions. Doing this in a fun, lightweight, and easy way that stands in contrast to “sitting on Zoom” all day is a really important need that we’re filling.

Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Design for emotional impact

We always design for emotion at a very detailed level. Emotions are the foundation and memory, and by extension, the internal desire that brings people back to our products. We really work to understand what emotions we want to evoke from the people who live with and use our products daily. This point is especially true for anyone building consumer products: You are in the emotions business.

2. Less is more

Complexity in products and companies must evolve from the bottom up. This is how it happens in nature as well: You go from a cell to an organ, pieces to a whole, individuals to a team. It’s critical to identify the simplest and most important problem you can solve, and start there. They often say asking the right questions is harder than finding answers, so we really push to make sure we’re asking the right set of questions.

3. Communication is based on stories

Stories are how we understand ourselves and the world around us, and they’re the most natural way for humans to communicate. Our product is the story we’re telling to the world through the experience we’ve crafted. We tell stories in how we design and in what we choose to emphasize. Internally, as a team. Our collaboration is driven by a narrative on our users, our strategy, our company, and its place in the world.

4. Build the engine

The goal of a company is to be able to bring incredible things to market over and over again — in a repeatable way. This is why we really focus on building the engine, which starts with the simple truth that great things are never accomplished alone, they are accomplished by small groups of people who are driven to have an impact on the world. To us, collaboration means honest debate about ideas, approaches, and execution — our goal is to get to the truth. But collaboration does not mean consensus. It’s important to disagree and commit when necessary, which is only possible when you have full trust in your peers.

5. Get shit done

Building at high-velocity isn’t just a competitive advantage, it’s more fun. This can only happen when individuals make the conscious decision to push the ball forward everyday and not be paralyzied by uncertainty, discussion, or lack of data.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

On the surface level, if you look at our company, it doesn’t seem to have the potential impact that something like cancer research or reducing carbon emissions may have. We’re just building new ways for people to connect and tell stories to each other.

But something that’s really driven a lot of our work is the fact that the #1 thing that often defines our lives is the different stories we tell others about the world, as well as the ones that we tell ourselves. I’m talking about really big things like religion down to something as simple as liking the same sports teams as someone else. I can show up and have a meaningful relationship with people I never met before because we have these shared narratives. These narratives are often what give our lives meaning. For us, the opportunity to create new ways for people to tell stories and create shared moments around them is a really powerful way to create positive change in someone’s life and the world. This is the movement we’ve already started and dedicated our lives to.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/DQuick215

Or find me on email: [email protected]

Thank you so much for the time you spent doing this interview. This was very inspirational, and we wish you continued success.


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