Spring 2018 AFRL Commercialization Academy Series: Off the Cuff
Chris Martin is the founder of Off the Cuff, a YouTube channel providing a refreshing look at many of the financial issues facing the United States. The channel’s goal and intent are to simplify and communicate in a truthful, yet semi-funny way, many of these issues.
What is your background in the startup world/tech industry?
I started contracting with Wasabi Ventures in 2015 and did so for two years. I worked as the director of the Wasabi Ventures Academy and worked in many facets at Wasabi Ventures. I worked with many companies inside and outside of Wasabi Ventures’ portfolio. In that capacity, I worked closely with the AFRL Commercialization Academy after Griffiss Institute partnered with Wasabi Ventures to lead the program in 2015. This allowed me to see firsthand what a great opportunity the program is.
From your experience working with those companies, did that encourage you to create your own startup?
Yes, I’ve wanted to create a startup for a few years. I examined what skills I have and went through a lot of ideas. I decided to build Off the Cuff because I felt that I had the experience to provide value to my audience.
While I was researching how I could provide the most value, I thought about how I’ve wanted to create a YouTube channel for a long time. I decided that applying to the AFRL Commercialization Academy and participating in the program to pursue that ambition was smart and a win-win, since it involved overlaying a piece of IP with my startup business model.
The AFRL Commercialization Academy is an incredible opportunity and I’ve always respected and enjoyed working with the people involved in the program, such as AFRL ORTA Brian Abbe, Mohawk Valley Edge Project Manager Tim Fitzgerald, as well as Wasabi Ventures partners Chris Yeh and TK Kuegler. So being able to work with them again has been motivational for me.
Tell us more about Off the Cuff.
Off the Cuff is a YouTube channel focused around creating informational, exciting, humorous videos on various financial issues impacting the United States and the rest of the world. These issues have become kind of a bore on mainstream media outlets. I think the way financial issues are approached oftentimes lacks the ability to keep people’s attention. I want Off the Cuff to present various financial issues impacting our society in a humorous light.
There are other YouTube channels covering financial issues, so what sets Off the Cuff apart from them?
We have more of a genuine response and authentic take to a lot of financial issues facing the United States. I know a lot of successful YouTube channels that have provided authentic commentary to major news items, but I think most news is politicized and has an agenda. I want Off the Cuff to be a humorous, informational response to that, which is a missed niche currently.
I really don’t feel that I have a point of reference right now to learn about financial issues in an engaging way. Currently, if I want to learn about these issues, there’s mainstream news outlets such as CNBC. For example, if I want to learn about the large budget that was passed by the U.S. government in April 2018 in an entertainment-friendly way, there aren’t many media outlets providing that. They’re mainly highly politicized and boring. There’s a need in the market for this kind of entertainment model and I can fill that. I think it will appeal to Generation Z and millennials.
What are you looking forward to the most at the Spring 2018 AFRL Commercialization Academy Demo Day on May 31, 2018?
I would say that’s twofold. I’m excited to pitch. I haven’t pitched in a year and a half. I’m also excited about reconnecting with a lot of the people at the Air Force Research Lab and others I’ve worked with in the past. I’ll be pitching them on my passion instead of pitching them on someone else’s.
Who would you like to meet at Demo Day?
I look forward to meeting the other teams and seeing where everyone else is headed. I’ve heard some of the other teams’ practice their pitches during calls with the cohort, so it will be exciting to hear them in person at Demo Day.
How does your startup’s name, Off the Cuff, relate to you as a person?
Being “off the cuff” is the kind of person I tend to be to a degree. I also think it’s an exciting, catchy name that many people will recognize easily and remember. It gives the audience the impression that our YouTube channel is not formal but informative to the point that they’ll learn something, while at the same time being humorous. I wanted a name that wasn’t generic and formal, like, “Financial News”.
What do you enjoy about pitching?
I love pitching. It’s probably my favorite part of being a part of the Spring 2018 AFRL Commercialization Academy cohort. I like the experience of getting instant feedback and articulating my passion to other people.
Ten years ago, would you have thought you’d be a startup founder?
Back in 2008, I think I had a lot less understanding of the world, but I think potentially, yes. I would have said that I was going to start my own company. I wouldn’t have said that I would be a startup founder, per se.
I think no matter what I do in the next few years, I’ll always have a company. I love building.
Do you enjoy discussing the latest financial news? Meet the Off the Cuff team at the Spring 2018 AFRL Commercialization Academy Demo Day on Thursday, May 31, 2018. Watch them pitch to compete for the chance to win either the Judges’ Vote of $15,000 or the live Audience Vote of $5,000 at Griffiss Institute, 725 Daedalian Drive, Rome, New York!