Dr. Ely Weinschneider
Jun 24 · 14 min read

As a part of my series about “How extremely busy executives make time to be great parents” I had the pleasure to interview Alex Collmer, the founder and CEO of VidMob, the world’s premier technology platform to help brands more intelligently use data and scale their mobile advertising creative. Since founding the company in 2015, he has raised more than $20M and counts many of the world’s leading brands and agencies as clients.

An engineer by training, Collmer’s career has always been at the intersection of technology, design, and consumer entertainment as those sectors have evolved. Prior to founding VidMob, he was the co-founder and CEO of Autumn Games, a premier publisher of video game franchises. Under his leadership, Autumn Games developed successful partnerships with such personalities as Jimmie Johnson, the 7-time NASCAR champion and companies like Def Jam, the leading urban culture brand, as well as the award-winning fighting game franchise, Skullgirls.

Collmer received a B.S. from Cornell University’s School of Engineering and was a certified E.I.T. in the field of structural engineering in the state of New York. Collmer has sat on the boards of several technology and media companies and has spoken at numerous universities and conferences on entrepreneurship and media. In his spare time, he coaches little league soccer and baseball.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us your “childhood backstory”?

I don’t think my childhood backstory is all that interesting. I was very lucky. I had two loving parents who stayed together and did everything they could to foster a sense of curiosity in me and my sister. I grew up outdoors, played sports, learned to tinker. I didn’t face real adversity until later.

Can you share the story about what brought you to this specific point in your career?

I went to Cornell University to study Structural Engineering. My first year was pretty unimpressive. I was playing soccer, and spending my free time doing what immature 18-year-olds do. My folks, who are both academics, were unimpressed — to put it mildly. We discussed whether it was fair that I was misusing their hard-earned money, and I agreed it was not. So, I dropped out of college and needed to come up with a way to pay my way through school. I started bouncing at one of the bars on campus, then quickly took over a catering business providing refreshments to all of the campus social events, and finally took over the whole bar. By then I was 19, had a hundred or so people working for me, and within a year I’d saved up the money I needed to go back and finish my engineering degree. But most importantly, I had tasted failure and responsibility. I don’t know if I was smart enough to know that I was an entrepreneur, but I knew one thing- I was hooked.

Can you tell us a bit more about what your day to day schedule looks like?

When I’m not traveling, I try to be present at home on both ends of the day. I wake up and help my wife get our two kids ready and out the door for school, and then I try to get home early enough that I can spend time with them before they head to bed. When they were younger, we spent a lot of time reading together. I read them the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy, all of the Harry Potters, the Aragon series, a truckload of the Rick Riordan books, and many others. We loved this time together, and it generally worked. The only problem was the Harry Potter books. They were too good for my kids to wait while I was traveling, so my older son started reading them on his own, which led to our first and only great family schism. But, frankly, who can blame him.

Let’s jump to the core of our discussion. This is probably intuitive to many, but it would be beneficial to spell it out. Based on your experience or research, can you flesh out why not spending time with your children can be detrimental to their development?

I’m no child psychologist, but it’s always stuck me that stability is really key to development. Being a child is so hard. Everything is new, and if you also have to burn resources trying to make sense of life at home, it just saps your ability to focus on understanding how the rest of the world works.

On the flip side, can you give a few reasons or examples about why it is so important to make time to spend with your children?

One of the many miracles of kids is their ability to absorb and retain EVERYTHING. I remember being frequently blown away when one of my kids would ask me a question about some small thing that happened many months before when I didn’t even think they were paying attention. Everything goes in and gets processed. And it’s only through spending time with your kids that you can help them parse through this infinite stream of information. This also applies to how you interact with the world around you. I always try to treat everyone I meet with an equal degree of respect, and model the kindness I want to see in my kids. They see this and employ it in their own ways. But, if I wasn’t around, they would have to turn to other models, and some of what they absorbed would take them down a pretty different path.

According to this study cited in the Washington Post, the quality of time spent with children is more important than the quantity of time. Can you give a 3–5 stories or examples from your own life about what you do to spend quality time with your children?

A long time ago, I read something about the importance of goal-setting in concrete, visceral terms instead of the abstract. So instead of thinking to yourself, ‘I want to spend more time with my kids this spring’, I thought… let’s plan to go fishing and pull a 3-foot dogfish out of the water so that everyone’s screaming in terror that there’s a shark in the boat (even though it has no teeth)! This led me to make a pact with myself that whenever I had an idea of something to do with my kids, I was going to do it, no matter how impractical it was or exhausted I felt. I was going to be spontaneous and model spontaneity. Not long after this, I was home with my wife and kids on a spring day and it was torrentially raining — the kind of rain that everyone’s phones all start buzzing at the same time because of the emergency warning systems. No one in New York was going out on this day. But a vision popped into my head from my own childhood, running and diving headfirst into gigantic puddles on a public golf course like a giant green slip-and-slide. So, I packed up three trash bags and my two kids, and we walked through the downpour to a steep hill on the bank of the Hudson River. We put on our trash bags and we ran and dove down the hill — over and over. Each time we would slide 50+ yards before screeching to a halt at the bottom. We did this until our bags were totally destroyed, and it was amazing.

Another time, we were up in Ithaca visiting my family for Thanksgiving. We were actually just launching VidMob at the time, and since we didn’t have many customers yet, we had to create our own use-cases. I’m not sure why, but I got an idea in my head that it would be great content if the whole family broke our way through the ice in my parent’s pond and did a polar bear plunge. My kids had never been in 33-degree water before, so they thought this was a great idea. We did it, and now they have better-informed opinions on whether or not it was a good idea, even though we may disagree to this day.

The last example I’ll give is one of my favorites. Like many kids, my older son went through an intense train phase. He loved trains, and since we lived in New York, that meant spending countless hours riding the subway just for fun. We rode every line in the city and visited every stop. But one day we got to a station on the red line that still had an old sign for the 9 train, which no longer existed. Being 4, my son couldn’t get over why there was a sign giving out incorrect information to thousands of people every day. So, I told him that if it really bothered him, we should do something about it. We went home, looked up who the president of the MTA was, and we sent him a letter. It was very polite. We told him how much we loved the subway and appreciated everything that he did, and we told him about the incorrect sign. We enclosed a picture of my son pointing at the sign. A week later we got a handwritten letter back from the head of the MTA — a guy who oversees a multi-billion transportation operation of almost unfathomable complexity. He thanked us for our vigilance, and told my son that thanks to him, the sign had been fixed. If this wasn’t the highlight of his childhood, it was certainly mine!

We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed and we may feel that we can’t spare the time to be “fully present” with our children. Can you share with our readers 5 strategies about how we can create more space in our lives in order to give our children more quality attention?

This is one of those things that’s constantly evolving for me. But here are five that are top of mind today:

  1. Professor Scott Galloway has a great equation in his new book, The Algebra of Happiness, where he says that the ratio of time spent doing things over watching things is directly tied to happiness. This really resonated with me, as I’ve always felt that more doing, and less watching is a great rule of thumb for us all.
  2. This one’s obvious but put the devices down. This relates to both work-related device time and also media-capture device time. They both pull you out of the moment just the same and you’ll never have that moment back again, no matter how many times you look at the photo in your camera roll.
  3. It’s ok to take the long route. We live in New York City, so we walk more than most families. But one thing I’ve learned over time is to be open to taking unusual routes, even if they take longer than the direct path. We have some of our best conversations just walking around the city.
  4. Do projects together. I grew up building things with my father, and not only is this a useful skill, but it’s also a great way to spend time together.
  5. Volunteer to be a part of things that are important to them. At one point when my kids where younger, I was coaching two little league baseball teams and two youth soccer teams — all at the same time. People would occasionally ask me how I did it, but the answer was simple, I didn’t have anything better to do on the weekends, and if I was going to be at their games, why not be a part of them. I loved these years.

How do you define a “good parent”? Can you give an example or story?

I don’t think there is a single definition. I’d say that a good parent is anyone who cares enough to try to be the best parent that they can be. This is going to be different for each of us, and that’s ok.

How do you inspire your child to “dream big”? Can you give an example or story?

For me, this is all about reading. It takes an imagination to dream anything, and there is no surer way to develop your imagination than reading, rabidly and widely. I think adults often get the order wrong here. We focus on helping kids get the right dream (e.g. be an astronaut, or the president, or a teacher) instead of giving them the tools to learn how to dream. I think if we focus on building the plumbing, the rest will follow. And perhaps most importantly, this will prepare them to evolve their dreams as the world around them continues to change throughout their lives.

How do you, a person who masterfully straddles the worlds of career and family, define “success”?

For me, success is all about positively impacting the lives of the people I touch. I want my wife and children to be happy, feel loved and respected — and have the opportunity to live a fulfilled life. I want the people I work with to feel like they are growing every day and are an important part of building something that is more than a company. Other people may think about things like titles, compensation, or influence, but these are all very low on my list of success metrics.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better parent? Can you explain why you like them?

To be totally honest, my wife is my most important resource for being a better parent. She is a lifelong teacher, and her instincts are always 100% right on these things. I learn from her every day and try to follow her example as much as possible. Outside of her, though, I think my answer here would probably vary from a lot of other folks. Instead of reading books on parenting, or listening to podcasts about it, I try to foster my sense of empathy for what it’s like to be a kid. And you’ll probably see a theme here but reading with them is key. When you read great children’s literature with your kids, not only is it really enjoyable, but it also puts you in the shoes of kids who are going through the same things that your kids will. And like so many other things in life, if you can start from a foundation of empathy, everything else tends to fall in place.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Regarding quotes — I could probably go with any one of about a thousand quotes here, so I’m going to break the rules a bit and give you three — sorry! In their own way, each is core to a different piece of who I am today. As an entrepreneur, I’m always partial to Churchill’s famous quote from World War II, “Never, never, never give up.” In the early days when I was first learning how to be an entrepreneur, I think this philosophy guided me more than anything else. As a father I think starting with resilience as a foundational character trait is as good a place to start as any.

Second, I once heard someone say that, “I’d rather be an optimist and be wrong most of the time, than be a pessimist and always be right.” I was born with a sense of optimism that sometimes borders on insanity. For a long time, I felt like this was a flaw in my character. But now I fully embrace it. There are some choices that we can make in life and choosing to see the best in people or believe in the possibility of a good outcome is one that makes life more enjoyable a hundred times a day.

Finally, I always loved Pablo Picasso’s quote, “Everything is a miracle. It is a miracle that one does not dissolve in one’s bath like a lump of sugar.” Being a grown up is too often mistaken with losing your ability to experience childlike wonder at the world around us. I fight this as much as possible, and this quote always makes me smile and realize that I’m not alone in this fight.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

I think I would start with curiosity. As a society, we’ve become troublingly incurious. Paradoxically, this has happened at the very moment when every one of us has more access to information than ever before in the history of the world. Curiosity coupled with the scientific method has led to almost every major advance over the past 200 years. Today, it seems like we celebrate the incurious and denigrate people of true expertise. This has to change, and if I could help people learn to idolize folks like Neil DeGrasse Tyson the same way we do today with Jay Z or Lionel Messi, then we have all the tools in place for a period of societal advancement like never before.

Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!

About the Author:

Dr. Ely Weinschneider is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist based in New Jersey. Dr. Ely specializes in adolescent and adult psychotherapy, parenting, couples therapy, geriatric therapy, and mood and anxiety disorders. He also has a strong clinical interest in Positive Psychology and Personal Growth and Achievement, and often makes that an integral focus of treatment.

An authority on how to have successful relationships, Dr. Ely has written, lectured and presented nationally to audiences of parents, couples, educators, mental health professionals, Clergy, businesses, physicians and healthcare policymakers on subjects such as: effective parenting, raising emotionally intelligent children, motivation, bullying prevention and education, managing loss and grief, spirituality, relationship building, stress management, and developing healthy living habits.

Dr. Ely also writes a regular, nationally syndicated column about the importance of “being present with your children”.

When not busy with all of the above, Dr. Ely works hard at practicing what he preaches, raising his adorable brood (which includes a set of twins and a set of triplets!) together with his wife in Toms River, New Jersey .

Dr. Ely is available for speaking engagements, and can best be reached via drelyweinschneider.com.

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film, Sports and Tech. Authority Mag is devoted primarily to sharing interesting feature interviews of people who are authorities in their industry. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

Dr. Ely Weinschneider

Written by

Dr. Ely Weinschneider is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, writer, and speaker based in New Jersey.

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film, Sports and Tech. Authority Mag is devoted primarily to sharing interesting feature interviews of people who are authorities in their industry. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

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