Conversations with members of the Harvard and Radcliffe Class of 1992.
Hosted by Will Bachman.

Episode: 41

Keith Quinn, Entertainment, Media, and Content Executive 

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Show notes

Keith Quinn graduated from Harvard with a B.A. in American and English Literature. He has been an executive producer, content strategy consultant, and head of scripted content. Currently, he is the founder of Engine Room Media, a company that helps creators achieve their full potential, fueling growth with resources for content creation, subscriber acquisition, and audience and IP maximization. You can connect with Keith through Linkedin or his through his company website EngineRoom.


Key points include:

  • 00:42: Journey into media after Harvard
  • 16:27: Revenue in content creation
  • 23:34: Content creators to back

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Will Bachman  00:01

Hello, and welcome to the 90 T report conversations with members of the Harvard and Radcliffe class of 1992. I’m your host will Bachman. And I’m so excited to be here today with Keith Quinn, an entertainment industry expert, Keith, welcome to the show.


Keith Quinn  00:18

Hey, well, how are you? Thanks for having me.


Will Bachman  00:21

You have had an incredible career to date. And there’s so much to discuss. You’ve been at Fox, Sony, Netflix, you’ve worked, you know, done some work for YouTube and Verizon, so much to cover. So but tell us in your own words. Tell us about your journey since graduating from Harvard.


Keith Quinn  00:42

Okay, well. When I graduated from Harvard, it was people might not remember but it wasn’t a great economy. So I spent the first year after graduation, sort of living in Boston with my roommates looking for a job. And the job that I found the TED me over for a little bit was working for the opening of the House of Blues in Cambridge. That was sort of my first real job after Harvard. And that kind of got me really interested in doing some entertainment stuff. I then ended up getting a job at a teacher as a teacher at a independent school called St. Mark’s in the Boston area. And I spent three years they’re teaching English doing all the publications and public relations. So my time on the Lampoon became very helpful, because I had to print alumni magazines, and catalogs and things like that. And I also ran all the PR for the school, and ran a boys dorm, the freshman boys dorm, so that was like a much maturation process for me. But I realized that they don’t really promote you into very fun jobs as a school, they promote you into administration jobs. And I liked being a teacher, but it seems to me that it wasn’t gonna really go the way I wanted to go. So I applied to grad school, when I was going to get a JD MBA, in my express purpose in going to grad school was to help people who are creative in any way to make a business out of their creativity. So those, that’s what I wrote my essays about and why. And they said, Why do you want to go to business school? That’s what I said. And that that worked. So I went to Northwestern, to the Kellogg School, to get a JD MBA. And I decided very quickly that I didn’t want to be a lawyer. And I was going to drop the law school part of it because Northwestern was the one school that allowed people to do the MBA part first. And so I only did the MBA and did not do the law degree. And I got one of the more creative jobs coming out of there, which was working in a rotational management program for a giant advertising conglomerate called the WPP Group. And I started at Ogilvy and Mather, in New York, in the advertising business, and then moved on to a high tech PR firm that we had bought, and started managing their new business pipeline, and we took equity in our clients. And so I was sort of vetting those working for the CEO. And we had a couple of really interesting clients called TiVo and another one called grace note. And another one that was mailing DVDs to people called Netflix. And we were sort of building an entertainment and media group there. And, you know, one day I got a phone call from Carver classmate, Dave Mandel. And Dave explained to me that he and Jeff Schaffer and Alec Berg who were 91 on the Lampoon, were a part of a seed round of investors in a new company called Live planet. And live planet was going to be Matt Damon and Ben Affleck and their producing partners, Sean Bailey and Chris Moore, starting a multi platform production company that wanted to do things, you know, in film and television, but also digital and on wireless and mobile. And so, at that time, my college roommate, Larry tans was working for AOL. And he was spending a lot of time in the Bay Area where I was living, and we would go skiing on the weekends. And I said to him, hey, you know, Dave is connecting us with me with this guy. Shawn Bailey, who’s starting this company with Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. Larry’s very cynical about that, like, you know, celebrity backed companies are not i I’m always very successful. And it’s a well, I really like you to take a look at doing this with me, we can try to do it together because they need a management team. And so we connected with John. And then we went down to Los Angeles to meet with him again, again, and Chris Moore, who would produce Goodwill Hunting with Matt, and Matt with Ben Affleck, who we’d met in college through man, because that was your roommate, and in our sort of extended rooming group and social group in Lowell House. And, you know, Matt, and Ben and Chris said that they wanted Larry and I to come and be the foundational members of the management team of the company, they had to talk to Matt first. To make sure he was okay with it. Matt was away filming all the Pretty Horses at the time. And it was at a time in 1999 2000, when everybody in the world was claiming to know Matt Damon and Ben Affleck really well from Harvard, because of Goodwill Hunting and all the great things that happened after that. And we were like, well, we do really know him. We did spend some time with him in college, we were pretty low key about it. Ben Ben, sort of vaguely remember meeting reading us with Matt. And so I think they got in touch with Matt and he let them know very quickly that yes, he knew Larry and I very well, and we should definitely feel comfortable joining the company. So we we ended up moving to to Los Angeles together. And rooming again in Los Angeles. To to help start this company with those guys. And that was a really fun ride I worked there. For on and off and two stints over seven years. Larry ended up becoming the CEO of the company, and guiding it out of a very difficult place, sort of after 911, and things like that, all the way through profitability in the outer years. And I ended up going from running marketing, to, you know, running all production and development, the creative side of the business and driving a lot of the revenue for the business. And we launched shows like Project Greenlight, which was the biggest filmmaking competition in the world fronted by Matt and Ben, it was very much in the spirit of their life stories of, you know, having a screenwriting contest and letting the winner make their film. And then telling the story of that filmmakers first journey through making a film in a series that was on HBO. And it was, luckily for us Emmy nominated. And the company did was a lot of fun and did a lot of pioneering things. It’s kind of before its time, and we raised, you know, $14 million of venture capital. And when, when 911 hit, our biggest project sort of went out the window, because it was a spy themed manhunt that was going to be the next big reality show after survivor. And we had to take that down. And we had spent a lot of our money creating the technology, you know, in pre YouTube days, and in pre platform days, you know, to distribute a national entertainment experience digitally or on the internet. And so, you know, that all was lost. And so that’s kind of when I pivoted to running more creative side of the business and doing things like spinning up Project Runway off of, of Project Greenlight, and things like that. And I also, you know, pivoted to advising companies, I became a little bit more of a free agent for a few of those years. And then I, I went to work for Mark Burnett for a period of time, Mark Burnett was he was the king of reality television he had done survivor, the apprentice and Rockstar and things of that night, helped Mark expand his business into digital and sponsorship. And then became a little bit unhappy working there. And walked out of a meeting one day and got a call from Larry who is now CEO of lifeline and said, you know, we’d like we’d like you to come back and help lead creative for the company. So I did. So in that second stint at live planet, we we made a bunch of great projects, but one of them became a very last thing and important thing for us, which was we made a movie called running the Sahara, which is a documentary about three men from different countries that went on an expedition to run across the Sahara Desert, from Senegal, to Egypt, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea. And we started a philanthropic part of that project called h2o Africa and founded by Matt Damon, me, Larry tans and our other colleague, Mark Jubeir. And we did that to raise As money for solving the world’s water crisis, with a focus on doing so in Sahara and in Sub Saharan Africa, and we ended up raising more money for the philanthropic cause than we did in making revenue on the documentary. And, you know, wanting to be responsible with philanthropic activity, we went out and sought a partnership to merge with a really great entity in the water water space called Water partners. It was a very engineering driven company that was, had never had a project fail. And we knew that we were, we all had busy day jobs, and we weren’t up to running, you know, the growing philanthropic endeavor. So we merged our h2o Africa with water partners. And Matt, and Gary white, founded, which I’m still on the board to this day, Larry Tanzanite joined the board of, in that merger, and that the organization has grown by over 10x, since Matt, and Larry and I, you know, joined it. And it’s one of the things that’s one of the most rewarding parts of my careers, you know, being part of an organization that really is, is dedicated to improving human life on the planet, solving the world water and sanitation crisis in our lifetime. So that was a great part of what came out of life planet. Shortly thereafter, we turn the company profitability under Larry’s leadership. And our investors came to us and said, Hey, you raised $14 million, you know, six years ago, we’re getting ready to close the fund, why don’t you spend all the profits that you’ve made something that could be as big as possible, and they’re basically sending us on a lump sum, I don’t know what else to call it, like a suicide mission. And so we tried a few ideas, wrapped up all our obligations, and then kind of wound the company down and mothballed the intellectual property, because it wasn’t going to be a 10x or 100x, on the books of the venture fund that invested in us. And after that, Larry and I founded another company called agility Studios, which was, you know, focused on the emerging YouTube video market. And unfortunately, we had an investor in that there’s solo investor, and that person lost a lot of money in the, in the financial collapse of 2008. And pulled their investment company, so we had to go find other things to do. And that led me to, I was recruited to work at Paramount Pictures, running their original digital content group. So this isn’t, right before the streaming boom started. You know, it was basically starting episodic and starting episodic entertainment projects, on everything from Yahoo, and MySpace and sort of the old school internet, to this new platform called Hulu, and Netflix and Amazon and in other other areas, and basically built an episodic content business for Paramount that did not have a television business at the time, in my plan involved us, you know, expanding to two, become the studio of choice for all of the cable television networks owned by Viacom in Paramount’s group, and rebooting a television studio there. So I did that over the course of three and a half years. And then Paramount often reorganize itself. And someone saw the business that I was building, and decided that they would love to run the new Paramount Television, and I was in their way. And so after having my contract renewed for doing such a good job, I was summarily dismissed. And someone took over my business and turned it into Paramount Television using my business plan. But as as things often surprise us, that was a great thing that happened because I had a contract and there for over a year on Paramount’s dime to try to do various startup initiatives. And since that day, I’ve been doing a couple of different things. The first one is I advise large businesses in the media space about how to start new businesses. So in that involved, you know, digital content, platforms like YouTube and Facebook and things like that, and also the streaming boom. Second thing I do is I would to produce shows, so I had a first look deal with Fox during that time to produce comedies. And after that I had a first look deal with a company called sonar entertainment to produce shows. And then I then didn’t need a deal after that and produced independently. And the last show I released was working with Jeff Schaffer and his brother Greg, on a show. That was a comedy called Bruce brothers, about two brothers that run a craft brewery. And we launched that on Netflix, in 2020. And then the third thing I do is start businesses, business ventures for myself. And so that leads me to sort of one of the things I’m doing now, which is, I have a new venture that I founded, that I call engine room. And engine room is a studio that finances the growth of independent content creators using open platforms like YouTube, Facebook, Spotify, Apple, podcasts, Patreon, etc. And we find creators, there’s, there’s 2 million people making a six figure income or better on these open platforms, the creator economy, how many? How many to 2 million,


Will Bachman  16:24

2 million people are making


Keith Quinn  16:27

600 grand or more? A million? Wow, it’s bigger than television. Yeah. And so what we do is we say, well, most of these creators are completely ignored by traditional media companies, or even the platforms that they, you know, contribute to. You know, maybe the big ones like Mr. Beast and Joe Rogan get some love. But you know, most of them are ignored, and there’s their bootstrapped, businesses have sort of one to five people, they are living off of their revenue, they don’t reinvest for growth, and they don’t pay for marketing. And if they had a partner, or strategic, silent financial partner, that would come in and help them hire more staff, or, you know, market appropriately, they might grow, you know, many, many, multiple times faster, right? So they might grow and five times faster, things like that. And so, we also encourage creators to do a multi layer offering where they might offer a podcast, for example, they might promote their podcast on Instagram, and Facebook, they might offer it ad supported on all the audio platforms like Spotify and Apple podcasts, but then they might offer bonus exclusive episodes to members on a platform like Patreon. Which, if you don’t know what that is, it’s a you know, it’s a platform that allows creators to charge subscription rates for exclusive content. It was valued at $4 billion, a couple of years ago, and but about, I want to say, one and a half billion dollars of revenue went through the platform a few years ago. So we partner with small creators to help them reach their full potential, you know, and we do that in the, in the online video in the podcasting space. And I’ve actually also been producing some podcasts myself, one of which is launching in January, with I heart. But, you know, the thing I’m very, very passionate about right now is this is the creator economy and helping, you know, individuals succeed, it all comes back to the theme of, you know, what I wanted to get into business for in the first place, which is, you know, my purpose is to help creative people make a living out of their talent. Some people innately know how to do that, you know, I have many friends who are wonderful at doing that, they don’t need help, but there’s just as many people are more, that are great creatively, but they don’t, you know, have an acumen for the, the business side of things, and I happen to be lucky in that I have, you know, the ability to have a foot in each of those worlds. And so I am, you know, pretty, pretty successful at working with creative people, but helping them figure out how to make money doing that.


Will Bachman  19:30

I am still trying to get my head around this. This data point, 2 million people making 100,000 or more. That is Yeah, incredible. So is that tell us,


Keith Quinn  19:45

like many of them are making multiple millions. It’s it this is a $200 billion marketplace,


Will Bachman  19:50

God now. Ken, do you have any sense of of even directionally of how that breaks down across you know, you Who or people like creating their own albums for Spotify or having monetized podcasts? Like, where’s the bulk of those people at? That’s incredible. 2 million. I mean, you think about even, I don’t even know how many people make 100 grand or more in the US, but that’s a significant fraction. That’s Wow.


Keith Quinn  20:18

Yeah. Well, look, look, if you let’s say it’s, for purposes, I think you worked at McKinsey, right. So you’re good at these things. So let’s say it’s 200 billion in revenue a year. I mean, YouTube and Facebook, Spotify and Apple podcasts are going to account for a lot of that I my, I probably know these numbers at some point. But I would say YouTube’s probably the biggest. And Twitch is also huge Twitch Mehta platforms, and Facebook and Instagram are also giant twitches, you know, ginormous. And then, you know, Patreon, we know, Patreon had 1.5 billion of it went through that platform in 2021. So let’s give them half a percentage point of the marketplace. You know, and then there’s other smaller platforms like, you know, Kajabi and mighty networks and, and things like that. But, you know, it’s, it’s interesting. I mean, it was just, Mr. beast who has, you know, if you don’t know who he is your kids do.


Will Bachman  21:27

Yeah. Yes. I am familiar with Mr. Beast, although kids mentioned, I thought Mr. Beast was like some, like, gym instructor or something. But yes, I have watched Mr. Beast, and I know he makes like 100 million plus like many hundreds of millions. Yeah, his



his channel is his his, his empire is estimated to be worth over a billion. That’s


Will Bachman  21:47

amazing, right? I didn’t. Wow, okay.



Yeah, so the longtail is really interesting. So the, the top 1% as, unfortunately, as our country works, so does the media business top 1% Grab a lot of oxygen and money. So, you know, I guess what Joe Rogan got 175,000 million dollars from Spotify to go exclusive there, the smartlace guys got 60 million from Amazon, you know, in podcasting, and my, my favorite murderers got 100 million just to go in an early exclusive window on Amazon and allow them to do all their ad sales. And so, you know, those big, big creators, you know, they aren’t the ones that need help. They have wonderful businesses, and most of those people are savvy and building teams around them. It’s the creators that are making like 200,000 to maybe 1,000,005 that really need a lot of support. And that is, you know, the majority of


Will Bachman  22:53

them. So how do you and your team and by the way, I gotta say, like, we’re, we’re diving into this, that there was so much in your career, we this could be a whole, like, you know, season of 92 report. But but which, by the way, is a zero figure income, as long as my



span advertising,


Will Bachman  23:15

on the advertising, no ads, but how do you and your team, like, select what creators you want to get behind?


Keith Quinn  23:24

That’s a great question. So we’ve narrowed it down to you know, the, the bullseye sweet spot in the early days is, if a creator has a certain size audience, or a certain size following platforms that we operate on like YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, tick tock, although tick tock is not as good an indicator because it’s hard to convert people off that platform is that if they have if they have a certain size following, or if they have engagement indicators, like oh, 1000 or more people have rated your podcast on Apple podcasts. If you have some of these indicators of engagement, and you have an audience, then our belief is that you can start a subscription successfully. Because Have you ever read the article? 1000 true fans?


Will Bachman  24:17

Yes, I have is that’s what Chris Kelly might remember. Exactly. Yeah.


Keith Quinn  24:22

I’m not sure the author, but it’s a wonderful article. Because, you know, the just, you know, to oversimplify it, if there’s 1000 people that will pay you $100 For something that you love to do. You can make a six figure living at that thing. And, and so


Will Bachman  24:42

so what is it you said 1000 reviews on iTunes, or what were some of the other key indicators for you, and I’m quite curious, particularly about how those might vary. Like, is a YouTube subscriber more valuable in your view than a twitch or Spotify?


Keith Quinn  25:03

It’s a really smart question. Yeah, I’m sure no one’s gonna listen to this podcast and try to steal our or methodology. So I’m happy to share that. So the, the, some of the things are, for example, you know, if if a podcast has over 15,000 downloads per episode, I’m interested, because, you know, 10% of that audience is probably likely to convert over a couple of years to being subscribers. And we can grow that audience. And as they build a library of podcasts, up to half of their monthly listens will come from the library. So if someone has 15,000, listens, and they have less than 50 episodes, that’s just great, because they got there really fast. If they have 50,000 listens in episode, and they have 200 dozen as 200 episodes, that probably means that they’re getting like 300,000 listens a month. And that can be monetized really effectively. And they’re probably not monetizing it effectively. They’re probably selling less than half of their ad inventory and all these other things. And so, you know, trying to help, the first thing to do with a crater like that is to say, Okay, let’s launch a subscription. And that subscription could be on a platform as turnkey as Patreon. And yeah, but so a YouTube view is not as valuable as a Spotify listener. And now YouTube is a podcast platform, as you likely know, you know, they’re in the top three, they claim. So it’s apple, podcasts, Spotify, YouTube, and so YouTube’s doing either video podcasts or just audio only on channels. And, you know, so a YouTube viewer, is the CPMs on YouTube tend to be between $1 and $15. And the CPMs on a podcast platform tend to be between 20 and $50. So, so the, and then they’re free followers on YouTube, but there’s still a good indicator of, you know, where the views are gonna go. And then there are, you know, views on YouTube, that are good indicators of, you know, how big your audiences and how engaged they are. So you get these sort of top 10 to 20 data parameters, and you look at someone, and you just say, how many boxes do you check? Your confidence goes up and up, the more of those threshold? Audience metrics. They have, like, if someone cares enough to rate your podcast on Apple podcasts that that that’s like, you know, wanting one and 20 to one and 50 listeners. And they’re very engaged in in doing that. So, it almost doesn’t matter how many actual listeners you have, like, I’d rather have 10,000 passionate listeners than 20,000 Casual listeners, you know, yeah,


Will Bachman  28:19

sure, people. And by the way, listeners, if you were inclined to give this show a five star review on iTunes, it does help others discover the show.


Keith Quinn  28:29

Literally everybody rate will show. That’s right, because one thing is interesting is getting back to the career stereotype. And before as you know, this week, it was announced that our old friend and your old roommate Matt Damon, and his buddy Ben Affleck launched a new company called artists equity, and what their what their thesis is for the film business is very similar to what our thesis is, for the crater economy. We, my co founder and I are, he’s a former news and music label executive, he ran a label called Def Jam, which very popular in the in the early days of hip hop. And part of our thesis was that people in media companies are always trying to hold hold people’s intellectual property, hostage like the Ark of the Covenant at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. And we were like, we can have the same partnership with the Creator but let them keep control of their intellectual property and we will participate in their success. versus, you know, when I made a show with the Shaffer brothers for Netflix, the first thing we did was assign the intellectual property to Netflix because they financed the show. So we were participating in Netflix’s success. And when Netflix is giving you 10s of millions of dollars to make a TV show I guess that’s just the way it is. But with what we’re doing, we we like to leave the creators of the content empowered, and incentivized to grow their business. And so we actually, in an unusual move for the media business, leave everybody in charge of their own content. And we participate, which is sort of unusual. But actually Matt and Ben just did that. In the in the movie business with artists equity, they’re, they’re making movies for, you know, lower budgets, and allowing the creators of the movie, the primary talent to participate much more so in the upside of those movies. So that’s, I think, good for the good for everybody.


Will Bachman  30:47

That is awesome. I love the spirit of this to talk to me a bit about you can either give one real example or sanitize it a bit, but what what is the support that your firm is providing to? Its engine room engineering media? So what is engineering, engineering media? Like what? Let’s say we have, you know, an up and coming podcaster. And, you know, they pass the 15,000 downloads per episode, they have 60 episodes out, like, what would inmate maybe just one person? Maybe they have a an assistant or something? What are you providing to them? Like? is maybe it varies by person, but are you helping them get get ads or helping to figure out where to spend money?


Keith Quinn  31:31

I’ll give you a give you a real example. And I’ll give you some for instances. All right. So you know, it’s very simple. We pay for resources to create content, and resources to distribute, publicize market and monetize content. So we’re just like, the TV studio, you know, if you have a TV idea, and you go to sony television, they’ll pay to make your show, and then they’ll, you know, get that show distributed and monetized for you. And in the case of our friends, who I referred to earlier, who worked for Seinfeld, like, you know, they, they’ve done deals as large as $6 billion for the syndication of that amazing show. So we just do the same for creators. So they’ll come to us and say, Hey, we want to make a podcast. Here’s the budget, and we’ll say, okay, and we’ll scrutinize the budget. And if we can agree on what the budget should be, we’ll finance that podcast for them in a, in a situation of an existing project, if they come to us, and they say, hey, well, we’re making four episodes, we’re making four episodes a month of our podcast. We can’t just make for more for subscribers on Patreon. That would be too much work. You know, because they don’t have, you know, unlimited time and resources. So, we, we come and say, Okay, well, what do you want? What resources do you need to make that extra episode every week, and we’ll create a budget for that. And if we, if the budget is, you know, one that we believe will eventually be profitable for us and the creator, then we’ll fund that. So it’s really, it’s really simple. It’s like, we provide money and expertise. And, and we become sort of the silent business partner the craters in control, they’re the decision maker in what they’re doing. And we give advice and counsel. But, you know, we kind of our business scales because we let them sit in the driver’s seat. And we can always not provide money for something we think is harebrained. But, you know, we’re, we’re valued counselor. So like, we have a cooking Creator, who is doing online video across, you know, a bunch of different platforms. She has 5 million followers, or her thing is called Sweet AMZ cookies. And she has a million people on Instagram, 3 million people on Facebook, and she distributes your video there, and she was editing her own video. And so we said, well, how much time does it take you? And she says, it’s like, half my time. Like, Well, are you trained editor? And she said, No, I went to culinary school. So we went out and we hired her professional Food Editor. And since we did that her views on YouTube have gone up. 12,012 100% Wow. Yeah. So, you know, I can’t tell you the actual numbers because we can’t really that’s confidential information. But, you know, we can characterize it for you. You know, she, she really leaned into embracing YouTube shorts, and things like that. And she’s, she’s crushing it. And it was like she got half her time back in her week. And that didn’t just double her output that like, really, not exponentially, but really drastically nonlinear, we increased what she could do. And then we have another podcast at the sky that we’re launching on the fifth of December, called stranger fruit. And it’s a it’s a bipoc, issues based discussion roundtable podcast and our host, Donovan Thompson. He is paired up with a co host who’s a Latina from LA. So he’s, you know, a black guy from Brooklyn, she’s Latina, from LA. And they’re kind of talking about bipoc issues in America. And he had a former show called the grapevine TV, and his co host didn’t want to do it anymore. And they didn’t know who owned the brand. Because they hadn’t done the, the full diligence on that. And so rather than have a fight with her about it, he started his own new show. And we’re funding that show completely for him. Because we believe in it, and he has a he has an installed base of fans from his previous show. So we think that those people like him as a talent, they think he’s smart, and insightful, and kind and thoughtful about these very thorny topics and discusses them in a way that is, is, you know, appealing to his audience. And we wanted to support that. So that’s a brand new podcast, and it’s a video podcast, because then like, what we’re doing right now, like most podcasts, now, we’re sort of adding a video element to them. Because Youtube is such an important part of that. And Spotify is even copy of YouTube by adding that. So, you know, we have, we have a bunch of different content creators that we’re really excited about and sort of pursuing deals all the time. And it’s, it’s fun to do started, this is my third Startup Live plan. That was my first one, as I had worked at a marketing firm for startups at WPP. And then I joined a startup in life planet. And then my second startup was jelly studios. My, I guess my third real startup was working for myself as a producer and consultant, because that is akin to start a business, very entrepreneurial. And then this is the fourth startup business I’ve done. This was, you know, an official venture with investors. And we’re sort of in that we’ve raised the seed round, and now we’re raising more money. So, you know, actually, any, anybody who wants to invest in early stage startup can, can call me


Will Bachman  37:41

reach out to Keith get in now. So because in addition, so what I’m hearing is like in addition to funding, there’s a lot of things where as a creator, you might know what you know how to create some content, you might have some good thoughts, you’re skilled at creating some catchy, viral worthy videos. But there’s this whole range of other things that you may not have experience with. And it sounds like your team can help people say, hey, you know, here’s some good tips on how to make some micro content, you put that on Instagram, that’ll get you some more followers or, or if Yeah,


Keith Quinn  38:16

a transcript or, yeah, we help hire hire people. So you know, we’re talking to someone to help our cooking creator. She has two books. And she also has, you know, Facebook has an author’s program, and they as part of the launch of her book they shared with us. We could have found this out if we went through manually, but they shared it with us in a concise manner. They shared with us her top 200 followers who had the biggest followings if you get what I mean. So like, you know, we now know that there’s 200 People that have more than a million followers who follow her on Facebook. And so it would take her a very long time to reach out to those people, but we can hire a person to help her, you know, form relationships with them, just like you might form relationships with journalists or other things. periodization because in the Creator, economy, creators often trade audiences with each other. So like, someone who’s making cookie art online might team up with someone who does cupcakes to entertain people and do collaborative video and expose each other to their audiences, for example, or our cookie grader. She was just actually hired by Netflix to do branded video for the launch of Slumberland on Netflix, and so she made a video promoting that movie. So, you know, she does not have the time to do all of the outreach to that because she’s busy making art right? And so we hire people for her to help her do that. Whether it’s pitching to the press In the pockets world, we actually, we have these guys that we work with, that have a new firm called bumper. And they, they can map like affinity groups across podcasting, using data scraped from the internet, that’s public, in an amazing way. So you can see, like, if you’re launching a social based issues podcast, you can see, you know, what are the other social based issues podcasts? And how many followers do they have. And, you know, because a lot of times, you’ll guest on their podcast, invite that talent to be a guest on your podcast. And it’s sort of audience sharing and swapping. So there’s a lot of like, hustle, and elbow grease, or whatever words you want to use, that if you can hire small teams, you know, you can really make your business go. And like, you know, the woman who runs sweet ends, she was a solo shop for seven years, or more than seven years. And she was just doing it all. And, you know, that’s a hard way to go as an entrepreneur and, and there’s no bank that will give you a loan against your Facebook analytics, projections of your revenue. You know, maybe they should there should be.


Will Bachman  41:23

I want to ask you about your time as a studio exec jet are common misconceptions about what it’s like being a studio executive? It’s, I mean, it’s a common kind of trope in the theater, right in the movies. But what’s it, you know, what are some of the misconceptions that people have?


Keith Quinn  41:44

There’s not that many that are wrong. But, you know, I like to think that I was a pretty benevolent studio executive, and maybe that’s why eventually, I was backstabbed by a colleague, who wanted to get my business to run it herself. But, you know, there are different types of studio executives, and, you know, I think the the best ones, you know, are, they take a coaching mentality, they, they let the creatives be creative, they don’t try to impose their will, on the content, they, they may point out, when things are not working, but they don’t try to impose a solution. You know, you have to give feedback in a very thoughtful manner, and allow the creative people to solve that feedback. And then, you know, it’s really about creating guidelines and, and, you know, and then having passion for what you’ve chosen to do. So, you know, as a studio executive, I feel like I was a very effective advocate, salesperson pitch man, for the projects that I greenlit that I left. And so much so that, like, I was not supposed to be the one selling the projects that were under my division, to, for example, foreign television, but the Television Group was, you know, smart enough, I guess, that they invited me to come with them to nip television every year, which is a television sales convention in Cannes. And I would pitch my projects in their meetings to all their European buyers, because my projects were bespoke sales. And they knew that they brought me in, in some cases, like one year, they brought me in a director named John M. Chu, who’s now quite famous, he did Crazy Rich Asians in the heights, and a bunch of other very successful movies. At the time, we were doing one of Hulu’s first original series, a dance project called the Legion of extraordinary dancers, and it was amazing film filmmaking by John. And they brought me and John to MIP. And we sat in the room with the European television buyers, and he pitched them his series, and it sold. So if you have passion for the projects, like you’re their advocate, like, first you have to sell them to internally at the studio, you have to, you have to get all the different departments to do to sign up for a revenue number on a project that you think is good. And if they sandbag their revenue estimates, it makes it hard to get a green light, then you all have to go to the leadership of the studio and get them to put their stamp of approval on spending the money on that. Then you have to go out and sell it to whoever the primary distributor is whether that’s movie theaters, you know, for big theatrical or in my case, you know, digital platforms like Hulu and Yahoo, then you have to go out and help them monetize it. If you’re smart. You’ll go and do that and help Yahoo sell it advertisers at their new fronts are help Hulu do that. And so you’re constantly advocating for your creators and your content. So if you Greenlight something you think is garbage, you’re gonna have a miserable next, you know, near future, not even near future, like a couple of years of misery because you’re, you’re going around slipping either something you don’t have an affinity for, or something that’s not very good. And so you have to make good decisions, you have to empower the people around you can too much what happens is, so here’s the bad studio executive trope, like, I worked with a company shortly after I left paramount that did, you know, modeling for, you know, box office. And they said that they share their model very expensive models with lots of the many major studios around town and one guy who had was leading him in a major at that time, who had worked at Paramount, shortly before I was there, and said, Oh, yeah, this is great information. It’s super interesting. You can tell me by like, the type of actor type of genre, and like three other inputs, like within 3% of what the box office is going to be, like, yeah. But I’d never have the discipline to use this. Yeah. It’s sort of like, the debate in sports between the analytics guys. And the old school scouts, right? Neither side is right. They both have to take into account the the other’s expertise and track record. And if you do that, and you make, you know, difficult, but thoughtful decisions, then you’ll be good at your job. And so, you know, a lot of studio executives just want to be the picker. Like, it’s like a child that gets the power to pick their team on the kickball field at school. You know, it’s like, they revel in it, and they end up making bad decisions, because they pick all their friends, or something like that, or they turn it into a social activity to gain, you know, in one way or another. And that’s, that’s, you know, not very good. I mean, one of the most talented students studio executives is the guy named Shawn Bailey, who we worked with at live planet. And Sean, is just a really great people person. And he’s very creative, but he’s also very good at building up other people’s creative ideas. And several years after live planet, he took over a Disney theatrical, I think it was in 2010. And he’s still there. You know, and that’s an extremely good run for studios. So Sean’s a friend, you know, he’s an amazingly creative and funny guy. He had, you know, movies that he made, you know, through live planet and then with Disney and, and, you know, he, I think he’s personally like, responsible for Disney going back into the live action re reboots of the, the intellectual property, and also the the, the sort of prospective switching things like Maleficent, things like that, where you tell a story from a different point of view. And those if you look over those, like, maybe they’re not as big as the Star Wars, or the Marvel movies, but boy, oh, boy. I think they’re quite profitable. Like the live action Lion King, we’ve probably made over a billion dollars. And, yeah, he’s just really good with people, and respectful of creative and thoughtful. And you know, that that makes for a good studio executive.


Will Bachman  48:46

Let me ask you about water. You mentioned that has been so important in your life. Tell us a little bit about like your personal experiences, or have you traveled to Africa and visited, some of the projects are taught, you know, there’s some, sometimes some international development type, you know, donations get criticized for building a school or something. And then it’s not really what the community needs. So tell me about some of the experiences you’ve had that have been meaningful? Sure. Some of the impact that you’ve seen?


Keith Quinn  49:17

Sure, yeah. So joined the board. In I think 2009. And I’ve been to the field with the, with the organization multiple times. One of the reasons why we first joined with water partners was to create was that they had never had a well project that failed. So you alluded to this, a lot of times, people build a project, and then the community doesn’t have the means to take care of it. And that project will fail. And it’s, you know, it’s worse than if you had never done the project. So we had a track record of never doing that. So that’s when we first sought them out. But then it was interesting. We we sort of found that in the sector. There are a lot of people who were became competent at doing the direct impact projects, as we call them, like building wells and things like that. And so we segwayed into doing something that is a little more financially oriented where we, we had a program called Water credit where we helped microfinance is I’m oversimplifying, but we helped microfinance institutions make the market for water and sanitation loans in, in areas of need. And so for example, in 2012, I went with, to Kenya. And we visited some of the projects there. And we went to consumer in the, in the western part of the country. And in that area, a lot of people had, we’re buying water that was delivered from our local lake and jerrycans by someone probably on a moped or a bike, the water was of dubious quality. And it was very expensive. And we loaned or we were we worked with a microfinance company to start bringing water loans to market and in that MFI with our help made loans, for example, to a guy that he created a well, in an area of the town that were on a piece of land that he owned, where he could sell water that was safety tested to people for a fraction of the cost of what they were buying it for delivery to their homes, you know, from from the local lake. And, you know, the, the the water, you know, quality can be tested, as I said, and so it was safe, it was it was epitome of value creation, everybody was making money or receiving value or saving money. Because people were getting their water for less this guy was, he earned enough money from it as well, where he, you know, paid off his loan in less than a three year term, and took out another loan as soon as he get one to build a second well, so he’s sort of like a little water entrepreneur. And so that was, that was really interesting, because when, when his self interest, in a good way, not selfishly, his self interest, made him care for that well, and it became a benefit to the whole community. And it was interesting, because at that time, one of the things I learned was how microfinance institutions typically charge very high interest rates from the perspective of an American. So you know, they’ll charge interest rates in the 20 to 30% rate, range, and a lot of that is due to the cost of capital. So then, one of the things that did over the later years was, they started realizing that they could help people invest money in water projects, which are typically very, very profitable. And they could do so for in the social impact, you know, investing sector, or the market. And that, if the return was modest, we could actually lower the cost of capital and make water and sanitation lungs, very attractive to people. And so we created a sibling organization to It’s a separate organization, that’s because it’s not a 501 C three, that raised the fund that this started investing in water and infrastructure projects. And that so that was really interesting. And part of the benefit, again, was like, lowering the cost of capital enough so that these loans would be attractive, because it’s, it’s, it’s difficult to say, but like, more people in the world have a cell phone than a toilet. And when you when you went to the field, you would see that people would have cell phones everywhere. But like a family would not have anything but you know, open defecation or maybe an outhouse in the back of their house. And the toilet is one of one of the things people say about his invention that saved more lives than anything else in the world. Because people don’t get sick if they have a toilet. And I kind of likened it to taking out a loan for like a cow or a loom is very sexy, because it’s like income producing, you can see the benefit that you’re getting. But if you take out a loan for a toilet, it’s sort of like when I pay for my health insurance. Right? Like, I’m not very happy paying, you know, my health insurance provider every month for something I hope I don’t need, and it’s very expensive. And, you know, isn’t making me any money. But if I didn’t have that, it could be disastrous, right? And so, you know, having a toilet, in your home, in the parts of the world that we’re talking about the you know, it increases productivity and health and lifespan. And, you know, if you if you only look at it in economic terms, which I don’t, but if you only looked at In economic terms, it is a value creating thing to have a toilet in your home. So we then branched into, you know, impact investing with the water equity portion of the, of the effort. And I’m not on the board of that, but I’m a big fan of it is a separate organization in that as its head to funds, so far over 50 million, and 150 million, and then it’s in his third fund right now, which will be $200 million. And that’s really scaling the impact of what we can do. And the nice thing is that finds lots of areas of need. And then water equity can go in and vet those as potential investments, because sometimes they’re too large of a scale for philanthropy. And that sector is a really great place to invest, especially if you’re a social, socially responsible investor looking for, you know, a place to make an impact with, you know, if you’re a high net worth individual, and you have a bunch of money just parked somewhere, you know, why not put it in a fund that’s going to return a single digit percentage to you. But that, you know, is providing social good, it’s interesting, it’s like a lot of people would have, you know, high net worth individuals might donate a million dollars. But if they could just invest a million dollars, the same benefit, or more actually is created by that money.


Will Bachman  56:27

I love this. That is so incredible. I want to turn gears to college. And I normally ask what courses or professors have continued to resonate with you, but actually want to start with activities outside of class. And maybe it was the Harvard Lampoon? How have the relationships or the skills you develop? They’re impacted your career in the entertainment industry?


Keith Quinn  56:54

Oh, the Lampoon is, you know, one of the things I have the most fondness for from Harvard. You know, the people in my class and the years around me or my contemporaries, there are still friends with many, many, many of them, you know, very close relationships. To this day. A lot of them happened to sort of end up in LA in New York were to the places I lived in for college. So that was very fortunate. You know, guys, like, you know, my roommates, Larry tans and John Baird, were on the line with me and have worked with both of them in the entertainment business. You know, Dave Mandel is the one that, you know, told people to recruit me into the entertainment business. And we’ve, you know, tried to work together on various things. You know, with, Josh Lieb, who was 94 on the Lampoon, he did a campaign for us between his leadership of the Daily Show and Fallon, Josh did a YouTube project for us, that Matt Damon doing a toilet strike. And Josh wrote it and directed it. And we had everybody from huge YouTubers, like shaycarl, and people like that to Bano. Richard Branson, and Olivia Wilde in the videos, it’s still up on YouTube, and people can watch it. And so, you know, these people became, you know, amazing friends, because the Lampoon is sort of a is a common esprit de corps, you know, trying, you know, valuing humor and, and intelligent wit and things like that. That that pupil pupil prize there. And you spent a lot of time together, working on magazines and on our air, and we did some amazing things like Dave Mandel, and us all go to Vegas and make an issue there. We all went to London that graduation with staffer, and it was definitely worth money. But then also people across era. So we know, in Los Angeles, got to be good friends by working with a guy named David Island Berg and, and also, you know, coaching sports with a guy named Mike. Sure. You know, and those guys were online fantasy, it starts you off with a common bond, like, you know, it’s like a supercharged version of the Harvard common bond, like, I’ll meet people who went, who are in our class at Harvard, and I’m predisposed to find a common interest and have a really good conversation with them. And there’s that shared experience there when the Lampoon is like, you know, a very, very intense in a positive way version of that. And so I have, you know, so many friends, you know, from the classes of the late 80s, through the classes of the early 2000s. And, you know, I moved from Los Angeles to Boston a few years ago, and we had an event celebrating 50 years of women on the Lampoon last April, and I think 15 People from my class or there abouts went, and you know, definitely 25 or 30, from my era went. But it was also really fun because there’s traditions that the Lampoon has that have evolved over time, but that are recognizable, even from the classes of, you know, 2016 to 2022. And so, you know, I met the guy who was president of the Lampoon during the pandemic named Max gay, and he’s hilarious, and he’s just like the guys and women that I knew. When I was an undergraduate, like, we all would have probably been friends. And that’s, you know, the seeking out being online food is sort of part of that. So definitely was a huge part of my undergraduate experience. And then, you know, we over index in the entertainment business, for better or for worse. And that was really fun. And most of those people are, you know, on the writing side of things I have dabbled in writing, but my mostly a producer. And so, you know, I learned how to team up with those people in college. And, you know, I kind of I know how to stay in my lane when dealing with people who are professional comedy writers.


Will Bachman  1:01:15

And I got to ask the, because this is part of the show, any courses or professors that you had at Harvard that have continued to resonate with you?


Keith Quinn  1:01:27

Yeah, so it’s kind of Alan Radek who my first English class I was English and American Lit major. And Alan Radek, taught satire and humorous literature. I think it was like English 184. And I took that my freshman year, and I love that. And for some reason I taken calculus, which I think I was just in the habit of taking math. Calculus is a big waste of time, I’m doing this other stuff. And I actually cribbed Professor Hunter’s syllabus, to be the foundation of a class that I offered when I was a 12th grade English teacher in the late 90s, called Saturn reverse literature. So I basically tried to reteach his class to 12th graders, which was really fun, it was a very popular class. Another class I loved as a freshman was the unification of Japan under the Shogun top, it is great Australian professor, I can’t remember his name right now. It’s escaping me. But that one was amazing. Because when I took my family, to Japan, you know, I, we basically, were making that course come to life for me, when we visited late, a lot of the things from the 1500s and 1600s. When that was pretty, pretty special experience. And then, you know, had some other classes, like Phil Fisher had a class called the 20th century novel from Dreiser, to the present that really sticks with me. And saccharine version of the myth of America, which is sort of the capstone class of my English, you know, major work, you know, that was, I think, spring of my freshman year, I took it. And I felt like I had achieved something of a, you know, an arc in my education, because it was like, very natural to me, you know, the learnings of that class. And so a lot of the English classes were obviously my favorite, I think I took well, more than was required. And, you know, that would be when I wrote my thesis on baseball, literature and American culture, and the works of Ring Lardner who was an influence on Hemingway and writing dialogue. You know, that project also was really important to me, I loved baseball literature. I’ve tried to mix entertainment and sports a number of times. And, you know, so, you know, people say that, like, being an English major is probably the worst pre professional training that you can have. And they’re not wrong, but I guess I just might have escaped that. And, you know, in business school, I was in the section of people that they called the poets where they thought we were supposed to be bad analytically, but I’ve always been really good at math and like math. And so, you know, that was there was no problem. My problem in business school was the, in 1997. They give us a strategy management, final exam. That was Apple versus Macintosh. And I was on the creative side of things and an English major. So I argued that, you know, the Macintosh side of the case was the smarter way to go, which wasn’t a good idea in 1997. You look at the Apple stock price, but I think that I was right Right, about eight years, too early. Because, you know, Apple ended up, you know, coming back. But you know, sometimes you get these sort of soft humanities biases, I guess in, in the nose areas. So those are some of the classes that really stick with me. I’m sure there’s other ones that I’m forgetting. But, you know, I actually attended almost every one of my classes. But another really fun one was, there was a venerable Professor drama. And I took his drama class with Matt Damon, and Nestor Carbonell, who turned out to both be professional actors. And there’s a lot of Greek drama, and Shakespeare and stuff and things like that, as opposed to Greek drama. And those guys were, they were super smart and brilliant. I don’t know that they were the most diligent students, but study while you live with Matt, so you can, you can say whether he was or wasn’t, but like, studying with them for exams was amazing. Because Matt would like know, the play because he had been in it, you know, and nesters as well. And so those two, like, made the material vibrant in the study group, and not in like, a nerdy way in a hilarious way. So that was a really memorable class because like, you know, and that’s something that you get at Harvard is, you know, you’re studying with these two guys in a drama class. And, you know, Nestor was on last and in a bunch of other TV shows, and Matt Damon is a huge movie star now in an Oscar winning town. And so those are your study partners is sort of ridiculous looking back on that.


Will Bachman  1:06:56

That’s like, having, you know, Albert Einstein, is your physics like study partner and resembling?


Keith Quinn  1:07:02

Yeah, it’s like if you took CS 51 with Mark Zuckerberg


Will Bachman  1:07:08

keep this has been amazing. For classmates or other listeners that wanted to check in follow you find out what you’re doing. You have your own IMDb entry. Where else would you point people online, you want to give a link to your, your new firm. Any other links you want to provide?


Keith Quinn  1:07:26

Very LinkedIn is this a great place to get in touch like, and, you know, I’m on LinkedIn, I’m on Facebook and things like that i i sort of my profile is I’m usually the guy standing behind the Creator. So I don’t have a lot of my own content that I’m putting out there. Although people should watch Bruce brothers on Netflix, Jeff and Greg’s show, which we launched, it didn’t get a fair shake in the pandemic, because it’s a raunchy, R rated show, and most people are at home seeking, co viewing with their families. And then I have, you know, this podcast coming out on the fifth called stranger fruit, which is really thoughtful, you know, thought provoking show. And then the opposite of that I have a frivolous comedic podcast called Brewster high coming out in January, on, I heard, and so those are places to see some of the work. And then if you really want to deep cut, like, find running the Sahara on iTunes, or something like that, it’s, you know, we the Academy Award winning director named James bones and that movie, it’s a movie that still holds up. And it has a shocker of an ending. And it’s a true story. One of the three principles, the documentary ended up going to jail for something completely unrelated after the documentary, but if you look at his personality in the documentary you, you’re like, Yeah, I think I couldn’t believe that guy. And, you know, he’s just very driven.


Will Bachman  1:09:01

And what about your free engine? Room media? Do you want to share a link for that for any content creators out there? We’re ready to


Keith Quinn  1:09:08

engineer media is just, you know, it’s just a standard website that has information about what we’re doing. And then the content creators who talk about you know, sweet is sort of homepage for our cookie artist. And, you know, just search for stranger fruit on wherever you listen to podcasts. And you can listen to that show. And there’ll be more coming up along those lines.


Will Bachman  1:09:35

Amazing. Keith, this has been incredible. Thank you so much for joining today. And listeners, you can go to 92 at nine to Sign up for an email where you get the transcript and updates on the most recent episodes. Keith, this was amazing. Thank you.


Keith Quinn  1:09:54

Thanks. Well, it’s really great to hear your voice and connect and, you know, after I think we We probably had over 100 meals together in college but it’s nice to talk again.