Fellow Profile — Julia Grandfield
University: McGill University
Startup: Flixel Photos
What does your startup do?
At Flixel we enable our users to easily create beautiful cinemagraphs and timelapses using our apps. Cinemagraphs are a blend of photography and video (kind of like the living portraits from Harry Potter) where part of the image moves and loops seamlessly. Cinemagraphs can be used everywhere and perform far better than stills in digital marketing and ads. You know what they say; a Cinemagraph is worth 1000 words. This is one of my favourites.
Describe a typical day at your startup: (role, day-to-day)
As a designer the projects I work on day to day are diverse, but my typical day includes a lot of Sketch, Photoshop, Cinemagraph Pro, debating with our other designer, and perusing the best cinemagraphs from the talented artists who upload to our galleries. On the marketing side, I collaborate with our content and growth marketers to design digital advertising, email campaigns and various marketing materials. On product, I’m working to improve user onboarding for our apps.
What do you love about working at a startup? (What are the benefits of working at a startup?)
I’m still blown away by the things I’ve been able to work on and the amount of autonomy and trust that can be earned at startups. If you have an idea, a logical case, and the drive and skills to get it done, you can make a big impact at your company.
What’s a social issue that you are particularly passionate about?
In general, we spend an inordinate amount of time reaping the benefits of internet access and very little contemplating the importance of internet governance. Bridging the digital divide (the haves and have-nots of internet access), ensuring the quality of the internet (issues like net neutrality), and protecting the internet as a commons are all issues in the area of internet policy that I am passionate to learn more about. I believe there is still more to be done in improving Internet access for all.
What’s your favorite book?
The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan. I am yet to come across another author that has managed to put, so eloquently, into words a lot of the feelings and hopes that I believe many young people have in their early 20’s. Her essay ‘Even Artichokes Have Doubts’ on the high percentage of Ivy-league graduates picking careers in consulting and finance post-graduation, even when their aspirations are far-reaching and often unrelated, particularly caught me.
If you want to one day run an NGO, often the best path is to start working at an NGO. This highlighted to me why programs like Venture for Canada are so important.
If you could tell your third year university student self one piece of advice, it would be to….
Look for more weird and wonderful activities that you can take advantage of as a student. Academics cannot be ignored, but there are so many opportunities that are made available strictly to ‘students’. I keep coming across programs and reduced tickets for inspiring events that I no longer qualify for and find myself wishing I had found these things earlier! From conferences, to clubs, mentorships programs to writing contests, there’s so much you can do as a student. These ‘extra’s’ were the things that also added the most to my undergrad.
What is the best part of being a Venture for Canada Fellow?
Being a part of a Fellow community that is passionate about learning, sharing and constant improvement is awe-inspiring and incredibly motivating.
The transition out of university and formal education can be difficult, and I particularly remember feeling that what I would miss the most would be ‘the opposite of loneliness’ as Marina Keegan called it that university can afford us;
“These tiny groups that make us feel loved and safe and part of something even on our loneliest nights when we stumble home to our computers — partner-less, tired, awake. We won’t have those next year. We won’t live on the same block as all our friends. We won’t have a bunch of group-texts.”
To me this was the most frightening part of this transition and Venture for Canada has been the direct solution. It’s a little different, we work full days — a lot of us work more than full days — but we have slack channels and facebook group messages.
We don’t live in university housing but many of us live in the same neighbourhoods, or in apartments we share. From my cohort there are four different houses in Toronto that have Venture for Canada fellows living together — people who were strangers when they showed up for training camp in Kingston. I am constantly so grateful that I get to spend time with these incredible humans and to VFC for bringing us together.
What do you hope to accomplish in your career?
Like many of the other fellows I have the shamelessly idealistic goal of starting my own company that can positively impact Canada. On a micro-level, I hope that I’ll find a way to be creative everyday.
Why should someone apply to Venture for Canada?
If you’re interested in tech, or startups, and you believe that entrepreneurship is good for Canada (venturing for Canada) you need to get your application in because it’s due in 5 days (100% still do-able). I’ll even give you the link here and a great excuse to stop reading.
What is the most important skill you gained as a fellow?
A skill I’m still working on, but that VFC has really helped me with, is spending time deliberately and prioritizing. I’m constantly inspired by my fellow fellows and what they are accomplishing. A particular Saturday afternoon comes to mind when I woke up at 1pm (it happens from time to time) and looked at my phone to see a message from Mike Gill sharing his marathon time from that morning. We had both been at a birthday party for another fellow the previous night and before I had opened my eyes to the day, he had literally run a marathon. The VFC community is a constant reminder to me that you can excel at work, train for your second ironman, learn a language, start a side project, volunteer, run a conference (Venture Out by Jeanette Stock & Ben Winn, coming soon) and also be there for your friends. It’s incredibly exciting and humbling.
What qualities do you need to succeed in a startup?
A healthy dose of ‘I can figure this out’. It’s probably not in your job description or anyone else’s — hey, you work at a startup — but it needs to get done. Step up, take responsibility and you’ll do great.
Describe your most memorable experience as a fellow.
Selection Day really stands out for me. I can’t remember a time I’ve been in a room with so many incredibly motivated, fiercely competitive — yet kind — humans. It felt a little bit like an entrepreneurial/team-building hunger games. We’re friends now.
What advice can you offer to future fellows?
People, are just people. Even the ones we think are superhuman, that we look up to the most.