Interview with Tella Co-founder, Grant Shaddick


Zach Grosser


October 27, 2020

Interview with Tella Co-founder, Grant Shaddick

Grant shares background on Tella, a collaborative online video creator.

Tell us about Tella, what is the elevator pitch, and how did it get started?

Tella is a new way for people to share ideas, expertise, and stories using video. You can create fun videos by combining screen and camera recordings with text, images, and gifs. We’re trying to make it easy for people to use asynchronous video to communicate at work or school

Michiel and I used to work at InVision, which has a completely remote and distributed workforce. One of the most effective ways that teams stayed up-to-date with one another was by sharing video presentations of product development, launches, OKR reviews, research summaries, and so on in shared Slack channels.

The videos that got the most engagement from the rest of the company were to be the ones that were better made and more entertaining. And so plain old screen recordings quickly became obsolete. But having made a bunch of these video presentations ourselves we knew how difficult they were to create, especially if you had no video editing experience. Using a screen recorder, video editing software, a slide deck, and trying to collaborate with desktop files meant the process was a real pain.

We started to imagine this asynchronous, remote-work future where instead of clicking through slide decks or watching Zoom recordings, teams could create and share updates that closer resemble the best YouTube videos. So we decided to build Tella!

What made you want to build the future of remote team asynchronous communication?

I guess we’re betting on the growth of remote work as a better alternative to co-located work (for certain jobs, of course). When Tella was just an idea over some beers at the end of 2019 we figured the steady increase of remote teams could continue in the short term, and accelerate in a few years time, once technology improved and cultures changed. Buuut then the pandemic kinda changed that… 😅

The biggest challenge with remote work is communication. In simple terms, when you’re not in the same time or place as someone, it can be very difficult to get your message across, especially when it relates to something complex like a software project; or nuanced like a company announcement. I think that’s due to the fact that the tools remote teams use to communicate were all designed in and for co-located teams. Tella is being built by a remote team for remote teams.

Record, Design, Edit, & Share with Tella

Tella, beyond being a great new video/slide design tool, seems like a tool for non-designers too, like executives and product managers. How do you see it being used by these archetypes?

Designers can definitely get creative in Tella, and we want to keep it like that. But helping non-designers is our main motivation. We want execs, salespeople, engineers, and teachers to be able to create great videos without feeling like they need to learn a video editor or a design tool. Already we’ve seen a lot of founders and sales teams start adopting Tella to pitch their products, share updates, and tell their company’s story—so we’re off to a promising start when it comes to helping non-designers.

If you could give non-creatives one piece of video/design advice, what would it be?

There are a couple things I try to keep in mind when making my own videos—and technically, I’m a non-creative too 😅.

The first is to keep things concise. With Tella, you’ve got lots of different content at your disposal. Add text, gifs, and images to support and add emphasis to your main video narrative. Combining different media means you don’t need to rely on long verbal explanations to get your message across.

The second thing is timing. The best storytellers are people who know how to make the most of timing. So it’s not just about what you’re communicating, it’s when you’re communicating it and its order relative to other bits of information. You want to guide the audience through your narrative; sharing and highlighting information when it’s relevant. That said, you'll want to change the way you tell things depending on your audience. When you focus on information in an investor pitch is going to be very different to how you reveal information if you're making a how-to video.

I don’t think we’ve ever seen a collaborative video creation tool in the workplace. What sort of projects do you expect to see created for the first time?

There’s been all sorts of fun stuff made so far. School projects, quarantine birthday messages, explainer videos, courses, investor pitches, to name a few. I’m really looking forward to seeing large teams use it for asynchronous all-hands. The people sharing at the all-hands can hop into Tella whenever they’re ready, record and create their own message, and then the whole thing—with all the presenters—can be played back as a single video.

We’re also excited to see people use Tella for more personal projects and public content. The world is full of smart, creative people and we want to make video creation more accessible.

What, if anything, can you share about the future of Tella?

Right now we’re in beta, and we’ll be continuing to improve and learn in beta for the next few months. There are some really cool new features coming in the next few weeks that will make creation easier and more fun. Early next year we’re aiming to launch our V1 and our paid plans.

Also, we’re a small team right now (two!) but we’ll be growing the team early next year too, so keep an eye out for design and engineering roles!

What's one unique thing about Tella the company?

I don’t know if it counts as something unique about the company, but Tella the name comes from “story teller”.

Grant Shaddick & Michiel Westerbeek

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