Scott Belsky

Leading Behance to connect and empower the creative world

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON September 08, 2015

Discussion

Scott Belsky@scottbelsky · Founder, Behance
My name is Scott, and I've been focused on connecting and organizing the creative community for quite some time. I'm the co-founder of behance, and now oversee community and mobile products at adobe. I also have an interest in education for creative careers, wrote MAKING IDEAS HAPPEN, and helped create (and still host) 99u.com over the past 7 years. Full bio here: http://scottbelsky.com/530/bio Happy to discuss any of the following topics.. - Start-Up Experience - Navigating creative careers... - Behance / 99U: What to improve, what and why, etc... - Adobe/Creative Cloud: What it can be, the challenges and opportunities ahead. - Why i'm obsessed with the interface layer ( https://medium.com/bridge-collec... ) - Periscope - Investing in and advising new businesses - Being a dad. - Being a vegetarian for 24 years. - You get the idea...
Sydney Liu@sydney_liu_sl · Co-Founder of Commaful.com
@scottbelsky Hi Scott, Thank you doing the AMA! Behance is a beautiful community and is blossoming with great designs and content. I’m curious where it started. Where Product Hunt started as a newsletter, what did the Behance community look like in the early days? What were your biggest challenges in the early phases? Thanks! Sydney
Scott Belsky@scottbelsky · Founder, Behance
@sydney_liu_sl Well, not many folks know that Behance's first products were...paper products. We liked the idea of being "mission-centric, medium-agnostic." Behance’s first online presence was a blog, chronicling the best practices of creative teams, and a simple online store to distribute our paper products. While our vision for Behance was to build a platform to connect the creative world and empower creative careers, the blog and paper products were first steps in a long journey. I remember a focus group (the first and only one we ever hosted) in early 2007. We provided a few bottles of wine, gathered a group of creative professionals, and asked a series of questions to determine demand. “Do you want an online network for creatives?” we asked. Universally, people said that they already had MySpace and DeviantArt, and didn’t see the need for a new network. Only slightly deterred, we then asked, “What do you struggle with leading your creative career?” The responses flowed fast! “I never get attribution for my work online.” “My online portfolio is always out of date.” “There is no efficient way for prospective clients to find me.” “It is hard for me to find and connect with new collaborators.” And many more… We regrouped and recognized that our customers didn’t know what they needed. And so, we conceived the Behance Network as an online platform to showcase and discover creative work. All of us were inexperienced, which meant a lot of mistakes were made and lessons learned over the years. Sometimes I wonder if we could have saved a few years of work with a more experienced team. But then I realize that the chemistry we built as a team in the early years has outlasted all of the code that was written — and re-written — many times. Most of us still work together, and the collaborative learning experience — and the pain we suffered together along the way — has helped define Behance’s culture.
Ray Garcia@raygcreative · Founder @teleporme
@sydney_liu_sl Great question. I love Behance and have been a member for years.
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
@scottbelsky Hey Scott! Thanks for joining us today. What's your philosophy behind Angel Investing? What do you believe that others don't? What recommendations do you have for founders who have some extra cash looking to start on the side?
Scott Belsky@scottbelsky · Founder, Behance
@eriktorenberg Thanks for the question. When it comes to the type of company I like as an angel investor, it is one that is playing in the overlap of 3 things: (1) Promoting Meritocracy / Careers of the future, (2) Plays in the "interface layer" / leverages design in unique ways, and (3) is in technology. As for the type of team I like to work with: I like design-centric/led teams that value initiative over experience, and really long to shake shit up. ...and a graphical representation of this strategy: http://scottbelsky.com/103069/in... ;-)
Scott Belsky@scottbelsky · Founder, Behance
@scottbelsky And a little more on what I look for in teams, from an investor perspective: The team must value LISTENING: Listening to feedback from each other and people like me, AND Listening to customers (you’d be surprised how few people really do this). The founder/team must value LEARNING: When you stop learning you stop adding value to the world. All the “pivots” that we celebrate and masterful executions were the result of real-time-learning along the way. I’m not interested in working with people who know all the answers to old problems. I want to work with people determined to learn the answer to new problems. The founding team must LOVE THE TOPIC MORE THAN MONEY: Yeah, financial reward carries you only so far; only genuine love for a cause can change the world. You can tell pretty quickly when someone LOVES the topic. They talk about it endlessly, they know everything, and they focus on it more than other still-important-aspects of the business. The founder must LONG TO CHANGE SOMETHING (like really shake sh*t up). I love meeting people that are starting something out of frustration (and by the way, Behance was born out of frustration too). If you really want to change something, you’ll keep taking different tacks to get there. It is more important to have your eye on the cause then on a specific plan to get there (because hey, the plan always changes).
Danny Espinoza@abcdannye · Founder @looksyvideo
@scottbelsky Love your concept of the Interface Layer! Do you think there is an opening for a future mobile device (perhaps via talk) that is ONLY interface? (Also, not a question, but as a vegan myself, props on 24 years!)
Scott Belsky@scottbelsky · Founder, Behance
@dannyjespinoza Thanks Danny. The concept of the Interface Layer is a major focus for me these days. I think our desire, over time, to aggregate the needs/services/actions into a single interface that, often times, automates a lot of these things is big. It will end up on our walls in our homes, as part of our augmented reality experience of daily life, car dashboards, and beyond. Whereas the focus on innovation in tech has been the underlying technology for decades, it is now shifting to the interfaces themselves. Decisions are made in the front-end of everything. Really excited about the possibilities here. ( Interface Layer reference for those wondering: https://medium.com/bridge-collec... )
Jeff Needles@jsneedles · Data @ Houseparty & Maker of Things
@scottbelsky Hey Scott, awesome to see you on PH LIVE! - What's the best advice you can give to people who might want to invest in startups on a small scale? How can someone get started?
Scott Belsky@scottbelsky · Founder, Behance
@jsneedles Hmmm... Angel investing comes down to the people and the concept. On the people side: Don't invest in founders who are starting something because they want to start something. That works out just as well as getting married to someone just because you want to get married. Invest in people who are so motivated by the problem they want to solve that they will endure whatever journey (friction, depression, obstacles...) they encounter. As for appraising the concept itself; let it brew for a bit. I'm all for gut instincts, but my worst angel investments were ones that I committed to without considering the contrarian point-of-view. I really try to challenge the concept on my own for a bit before committing to invest. Finally, I think you need to commit to ~12 angel investments if you really want to build a portfolio that leaves some margin for the unknown. Anything less than 12 is more gambling than investing...since any conviction you have is still overpowered by luck/randomness.
Ryan Hoover@rrhoover · Founder, Product Hunt
Scott! Welcome. 😀 What does Behance look like in 5 years and do you plan to extend beyond design to build communities in other trades like marketing, product management, engineering, etc.?
Scott Belsky@scottbelsky · Founder, Behance
@rrhoover Hi Ryan - I think connecting the creative world will keep the team busy for quite some time; but I still believe we're in the early innings of what we can do as the epicenter of the creative community.
brian915@brian915
I've found "Making Ideas Happen" extremely useful as a guide to developing and leading creative teams. Have you come across the idea that has surfaced recently that there's no such thing as "creativity" ( most notably in Kevin Ashton's "How to Fly a Horse" and is this diametrically opposed to your experience or merely a difference of nuance?
Scott Belsky@scottbelsky · Founder, Behance
@brian915 I'd err on the side of nuances here. But I like the idea of demystifying creativity, which typically feels inaccessible to most people... Creativity comes from your genuine interest, initiative to do something about it, and (in my opinion) some degree of struggle or conflict.
Josh Spear@joshspear · Me
Why did you become a vegetarian?
Scott Belsky@scottbelsky · Founder, Behance
@joshspear Because I am a disciple of Josh Spear. ;-) No, actual reason: I got very very sick from meat when I was 11 years old, shifted to vegetarian, and then got into the overall health/energy/life benefits.
Josh Spear@joshspear · Me
@scottbelsky I actually never knew that.
Scott Belsky@scottbelsky · Founder, Behance
@joshspear We always have better / more timely/recent things to talk about.
Dominik Levitsky@dominiklevitsky · Product Designer
@scottbelsky Hi Scott. Thanks for taking your time answering our questions. I would like to know what is your opinion regarding side projects. Many people are outlining the importance of having some side projects (especially being a designer), and that's definitely true. But in your opinion/experience, should a side project bring money in some way? Is there a need to try to monetize it somehow, or making it for free is totally fine? Or it just depends from the project/situation? What is your experience with side projects? I would like to hear your thoughts about it. Have a great day!
Scott Belsky@scottbelsky · Founder, Behance
@dominiklevitsky Like most frustrating answers, I'll say: It depends. In an ideal world, "work" is always rounding out your interests/fascinations and the things you wish to learn and practice. When your job is doing all these things, immerse yourself completely. If your work is doing some of these things, take the initiative to round out your education/experience. Ultimately, doing so is great for your employer (you'll stick around), and great for you (you continue to develop your interests and experience in things that fascinate you). But always be honest with yourself. What is your capacity to compartmentalize and multi-task? Most people thrive on a single track. Be sure to proceed cautiously because, if you're not performing at the top of your game, doors close quickly.
Ray Garcia@raygcreative · Founder @teleporme
@scottbelsky At which point should a startup begin looking for Angel Investors? Is there such thing as too soon? What's the best way to approach them since most of them get tons inquiries daily?
Scott Belsky@scottbelsky · Founder, Behance
@raygcreative Wait until you have a story to share, mock-ups to show, and conviction about exactly what you need to do to make it happen.
Marcelo Echeverria@marcelo__on · Sywork - Founder
What do you think about Livestreaming for creators? What's the best way for them to build an audience?
Scott Belsky@scottbelsky · Founder, Behance
@marcelo__on +1 I know a number of teams that are talking about this. No doubt, the best way to learn design is to watch. The creative industry is apprenticeship driven....and live-streaming technology will play a major role.
Morgan Beller@beller · Corporate Development, Facebook
What's up @ScottBelsky! I'm curious about mobile (one of today's many hot topics). What do you/Adobe see as the exciting opportunity for creativity on mobile? Video? More photo editing? Better cameras? Design?
Scott Belsky@scottbelsky · Founder, Behance
@beller Hey Morgan. Well, I think about that all the time... I was asked to build a team and reboot Adobe's mobile strategy about two years ago. And over the next couple of months, I think we'll hit an inflection point where mobile FINALLY becomes a first-class creative device. Until now, mobile creative apps have been largely toys, not tools. Most creativity apps have limited functionality and end by saving your creation to your camera roll. With limited output or interoperability with other tools, mobile creative apps are largely toys, not tools. The fields of design, illustration, video, and digital imaging are still practiced on the desktop. Surprisingly (ironically!), creative process has fallen behind the times. My bet: The future of mobile creativity is all about connected workflows - a suite of apps working together (think deep-linked, frictionless creation across different apps). At Adobe, we invested heavily in building the CreativeSDK to help enable this future...and you'll see more on the potential of these workflows in our own apps shortly. Also, FYI, here's a post I wrote about some of the realizations we have had at Adobe, rebooting mobile: https://medium.com/bridge-collec...
Scott Belsky@scottbelsky · Founder, Behance
Ok all, gotta get back to work. Thanks so much for the good questions - and thanks to the Product Hunt team for inviting me to participate. -scott
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
@scottbelsky HUGE Thanks to Scott for taking the time to chat with us!
Harit Rathi@haritrathi94 · Growth Obsessed!
@scottbelsky How about a 99U Local event in India?
Scott Belsky@scottbelsky · Founder, Behance
@haritrathi Hit up Sean and @99U team...they are launching a 99U local strategy now! http://99u.com/local And for those of you that don't know 99U - it is an amazing and constantly evolving resource of insights for making ideas happen. Check it. ;-)
Nicholas Spinazze@spinoodle · CEO, Lynxus
Thanks for making time for us Product Hunters! What really inspired you about Periscope so early on? Which was more important the team or the idea?
Scott Belsky@scottbelsky · Founder, Behance
@spinoodle Both. It felt like the world needed Periscope, and the team felt perfect. When I first met Kayvon and Joe, co-founders of Periscope, I was struck by their desire to spread truth and empathy by enabling anyone to experience the world through someone else’s eyes (and I subsequently invested and became/remain an advisor). We joked that Periscope was akin to teleportation, a technology and user experience that lets you be anywhere and witness anything. This became a lot more serious when I witnessed a major fire in San Francisco, a child’s first steps, and a man’s cancer treatment... I think Periscope is still in the early innings. The world is a big place, and it is innately human to want to learn, travel, and witness history with your own eyes. As bandwidth and devices get better, Periscope is poised to bring us closer.
/tm mahdi@tm_mahdi · CMO, Copeesh!
Hey @Scottbelsky what growing challenges have you faced with behance from inception and what current challenges do you foresee with the product while under adobe?
rachel@serial_milk · co-founder, Kip
Hey Scott, thanks for doing this AMA! We hear a lot of talk about technical founders, what do you think about design-based founders? How will investors react to founders who is not traditional "salesperson/technical person" types but have more creative experience?
Scott Belsky@scottbelsky · Founder, Behance
@serial_milk I think investors love (prefer!) founders that value design. Doing so means that design has a "seat at the table" and wields power when it comes to priorities and what ships when.
rachel@serial_milk · co-founder, Kip
@scottbelsky thanks! as a founder/founding team that met in a design school (Parsons), that's great news. It's been a struggle to get traditional investors (esp. in nyc) to value a design process that fits in a product cycle.
Eric Willis@erictwillis · Working on something new
@scottbelsky What's the most significant change at Behance since being acquired by Adobe? That can be for anything: product, management, etc.
Scott Belsky@scottbelsky · Founder, Behance
@erictwillis It has certainly been a change for the team, but we're leveraging it as momentum and opportunity (vs. restraint). The Behance team is still somewhat autonomous when it comes to optimizing the platform and developing new features (or in most cases, simplifying and removing old features that detract from the core!). But a number of us are focused on valuable integrations between Creative Cloud (your suite of creative apps and service across mobile and desktop) and Behance (your platform to showcase and discover creative work). There are obviously tons of synergies, but they must be approached thoughtfully and with the user experience in mind. Will, Zach, Bryan, and the rest of the Behance team have mastered this balance in my opinion. Behance is a stronger product today than ever before, and the growth (now approaching 6 million Behance members) is staggering. Certainly, the biggest change post acquisition is being able to focus on core product and engagement vs. closing in on a near-term revenue model and fundraising! ;-)
Eric Willis@erictwillis · Working on something new
@scottbelsky Thanks!
Atul Pradhananga@atulpradhananga · Logo Designer and Branding Consultant
Hey Scott! Love to have your here :) Few questions. 1. What are the biggest mistakes and myths you see in graphic designing training? What are the biggest wastes of time? 2. What are some books that have impacted your life the most? 3. First, what are the biggest mistakes novices make after graduating from college in design industry? What are the biggest misuses of time? 4. Even at the pro level, what mistakes are most common? 5. What is the best advice you have received?
Andrew Graunke@8ndw · Principal, No Capital LLC
Hi @scottbelsky, thanks for joining us on Product Hunt! How has your design decision-making-process evolved from student to founder to investor?
Scott Belsky@scottbelsky · Founder, Behance
@8ndw Gut instincts have become sharper, but I have also realized that there is no playbook. When you think there is a "right way to do something," you're failing to find the better way...
Andrew Graunke@8ndw · Principal, No Capital LLC
@scottbelsky thanks!!