uStudio CEO Jen Grogono On Solving Complex Problems

    uStudio CEO Jen GrogonouStudio CEO Jen Grogono

As digital media consumption began to explode in the late 2000s thanks to the emergence of online and streaming video platforms and podcasts, Jen Grogono, CEO of uStudio, saw an opportunity.

“’What if we could reduce the friction in getting great content out to its audience? And, what if we could do that for a business, for enterprises?” So that became the mission of our company,” says Grogono, who had cofounded an original content and digital media provider, ON Networks, in 2006. After it was sold in 2009, she started uStudio a year later.

ON Networks gave Grogono firsthand experience in understanding the shift in how new media was being created, consumed and distributed. With uStudio, she is aiming to open up that new world of digital media for enterprise communication, which is transforming from a traditional print-based environment.

Grogono jokes that when no one else wanted the job, she volunteered to be the company’s CEO. But in reality, she knew that the concept of uStudio was going to involve a lot of problem solving and that’s where she excels.

“If we believe media is going to be the most dominant form of communication, streaming video, streaming audio in every workplace, then this idea that every single enterprise is going to transform and become a media company of sorts, we’re going to have to start to work on building a whole system and set of tools and technologies to make that possible. It’s a complex problem to solve, and it’s one that is multifaceted.”

Education

Problem solving comes in different forms for Grogono and uStudio. Because the idea of enterprise podcasts and on-demand video is fairly new, a lot of her “problem solving” involves educating prospective clients in the simplest terms possible.

“You can’t get into sophisticated conversations with someone who just doesn’t have enough experience or knowledge to consume what you’re telling them,” she notes. Moreover, there is a diverse array of potential buyers, so Grogono and uStudio need to be able to calibrate conversations based on who they are trying to reach.

Even with the customers they do have, Grogono says there are different levels of maturity and understanding to what digital media can provide. She says this is the biggest challenge the company faces from a marketing, sales, and customer service and support side.

She does say there is an initial educational message to all prospective clients: “Nobody reads anymore.” She says that while business has been largely driven by people who are good at reading and writing, the younger generation is growing up in an age where YouTube, Hulu and Netflix are the norm. “They are much more accustomed to flexing that auditory and visual muscle in their everyday life in terms of how they learn and relate and communicate with one another.”

Grogono notes that this isn’t just a challenge for CEOs who are trying to communicate internally, but need to get information out in the world. She recalls a CEO tell her that a PowerPoint deck relaying information on a new product, sent out to his sales team, wasn’t getting through to people. “He told me what’s happening is they’re tuning out of the conference call because they know they’re going to get the PowerPoint anyway and half of them aren’t even going to consume the PowerPoint.”

Measuring innovation

As a company touting digital media, uStudio is squarely focused on innovation. The uStudio Lab, Grogono says, is a way for the team to test out virtual reality, augmented reality, analytics, cognitive computing, and other emerging technologies in the new media space. On a month-to-month basis, uStudio looks at the objectives and key results coming out of this lab—to understand where it stands on these innovations.

“Software moves very, very quickly, and innovation is not something that you can afford to ignore for very long. So, we do invest in it, and again, when we do make a call on a given month to not spend time on innovation, we know we’re [not doing it for a reason] and we called it out specifically,” she says.

Often, Grogono says, the reason is because there are short-term needs that trump long-term innovation projects. She notes that the balancing act between focusing on different short and long-term business needs is a challenge for any CEO.

“You need to pick and choose on a quarter-by-quarter and annual basis, which parts of the organization should you spend time tuning and focusing on. When you do that, you’re not trying to tune everything at once.”

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