Tiffany Kelly, the CEO, and founder of Curastory is a tech entrepreneur and innovator who has made a significant impact on the creator economy. Born and raised in the United States, Kelly attended the University of Pennsylvania, where she graduated with a degree in Mathematical Economics. She then went on to earn a Master's degree in Statistics from the Wharton School of Business.
After completing her studies, Kelly joined ESPN as a data scientist. Her work at the renowned sports network involved analyzing data to provide insights into audience behavior and improve the company's advertising strategies. During her time at ESPN, Kelly developed a keen interest in the creator economy, which led her to explore the potential of adtech in this space.
In 2019, Kelly left ESPN to pursue her entrepreneurial dream of launching a platform that could help content creators connect with brands more effectively. This idea led to the birth of Curastory, an innovative adtech platform that is transforming the way everyday content creators connect with brands. Curastory provides a new way for creators to monetize their content and connect with brands in a way that is more authentic and meaningful.
Kelly's vision for Curastory was driven by her belief that the creator economy was rapidly evolving and that new solutions were needed to help content creators and brands navigate this changing landscape. She saw an opportunity to create a platform that would help bridge the gap between creators and brands, enabling both parties to work together more effectively.
Since launching Curastory, Kelly has been recognized as a leader in the adtech industry. She has been profiled in Inc. Magazine and has been named to Forbes' 30 under 30 list. Her insights on the creator economy have been featured on the Grit Daily Startup Show and FUTRSPORT Podcasts.
As CEO of Curastory, Kelly continues to be a driving force in the adtech industry. Her passion for innovation and commitment to solving the challenges facing the creator economy have positioned her as a leader to watch in the years ahead.
1. Tell us a little bit about your background
I knew from an early age I wanted to work in sports, so sports analytics and sports data science were something that I focused on really early on in high school and college. That’s how I got my start, I landed my first big girl job at ESPN. I was the only woman on my team at the time, the only black woman in a 400-person department.
Coming from ESPN, working in front offices and athletics departments with pro athletes and student-athletes of the highest caliber really just shaped my path to be able to build Curastory and work with pro-athlete student-athletes, top tier creators build for them and understand what tools and products make sense with their life and make it easy for them to create content and monetize. The media background paired with the user understanding, and understanding the creator, specifically within sports and fitness, which drove me to start Curastory stemmed from my work at ESPN, LSU, and the Miami Heat.
2. How did you end up on your career path
I knew I wanted to work in sports but I didn't know in what capacity. It wasn't until I was job shadowing my senior year of high school that I got introduced to the world of statistics. I was supposed to be shadowing the PR and marketing team but they were so busy that night because Will Farrow was there, and they stuck me with the stats team in a tiny closet. That moment was so exhilarating and exciting. They took me everywhere in the arena. I got to go into the owner's suite to hand-deliver the statistics sheet from the game. The stats team was responsible for showing how the team was performing to the owner of the New Orleans Hornets (now the Pelicans). It was all very exciting.
At that time I was 16 or 17 and in the owner’s suite. I knew then that was what I wanted to do.
I was enthusiastic but I also wasn't naive. I knew that getting respect as a woman in sports was and still is very difficult.
3. Tell us about Curastory
Curastory is a free video platform. We are a video enablement tool for creators that allows easy editing, music licensing, monetization, and one-click distribution to all social media channels. We provide aggregated insights for each video, so creators can build a media business around their content. On the advertiser side, we are the first platform to treat advertising in a programmatic way, we have turned creator marketing into a programmatic media buy.
4. What problems is it addressing
It takes hours, weeks, and days for brands to pick the creators that will make up their influencer marketing campaigns. Brands want to negotiate with creators, send them contracts, send them products, fact-check their content, and analyze best-performing content. To do that for thousands of people is ineffective, inefficient, and not scalable.
Automating the creator economy is beneficial for both the brand and the creator. Curastory is the leading force in this change.
5. What drew you to the creator economy/tech
I haphazardly fell into the world of media at ESPN. I was very much on the life path of working in sports but ESPN was a different beast. It was fascinating to see everything happening behind the scenes. To see the thousands of people that it takes to get content live and programming on the air was eye-opening. I was also really lucky to be at ESPN during the rise of digital media.
Building a company in the creator economy was aligned with where the industry was heading and thus a logical progression for me post-ESPN.
I remember when the first news story broke about name, image, and likeness (NIL) for student-athletes. The change to a 109-year federal law that now allowed these athletes to monetize just like a YouTuber really cemented the creator economy for me.
6. Biggest lesson you’ve learned as a female tech entrepreneur
In general, don't just take your fundraising for granted. When you get a VC check treat it like it's the last investment that you're going to get. We’ve been living in this age where entrepreneurs just expect these insane valuations and don't pay attention to normal cash flows and good business sense.
You really need to build a strong business. Understand the balance between growth and growth capital to be able to grow your company. Understand that at the end of the day, you need to be profitable.
Get comfortable analyzing your expenses, cash flow, and revenue.
7. Let’s talk about your greatest achievements
I built a company that went from just me to now 22 people. These are people who believe in you, are putting their families at risk, and turning down other opportunities because they want to help you achieve your vision. That’s pretty incredible!
And of course, I always consider my time at ESPN a great accomplishment. Especially notable was building the college football fan happiness index. That was something that is ingrained in sports history and caught the attention of big names.
Those two things are my greatest achievements.
8. What are your biggest challenges when it comes to the creator economy/tech industry
I think our business is really hard. There's a lot that has to go right.
I think that's just the nature of building a company where you have to sell into two sides. One thing that keeps me up at night is marketplace equilibrium. Making sure that we have enough creator supply to always match our advertiser demand is complex. It's like a seesaw, the bigger you get, the easier one thing can become. We're still growing into that. I would say that's the biggest challenge.
9. What role do you see yourself playing in the future shifts that the tech industry is facing
I think my most challenging role will be transitioning from founder to CEO. The best founders are not always the best CEOs, but I think the ones that can make the transition are the ones that understand delegation. They understand giving up control, they understand empowering people and giving them agency to run the business. They learn to not be detrimental to their company’s scaling and growth. That's kind of the thing that's imminent in my mind.
10. What are your goals for the future
I want Curastory to touch every video on the internet in some way. I want us to continue to launch features for creators to enable their videos as they tell us and as we listen to the market.
I want Curastory to be the best video enablement platform out there. I also want to give back. I want to help other female founders and entrepreneurs on their journeys and share the lessons and things that I learned over time.
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