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Wildebeest builds creativity day-in-day-out

Los Angeles, May 4th, 2017

set up shop in 2014, the agency employs eight strong brains that keep their focus on building simple products that solve complex problems.

Its clients range from local startups to global corporations with work that includes hardware prototypes and enterprise software.

Ran Craycraft, Managing Partner at Wildebeest, shows us the ropes and says, “Our values and company culture are both very important to us. We’ve been fortunate to work on some very important causes and love working with clients to bring big ideas to life. We’re not focused on marketing campaigns, but instead on working with brands to imagine and build innovative products and platforms.”

Ran has spent the majority of his career working in product development at big brands (NBC Universal and AOL). “I got my start in NYC as an intern schlepping tapes across the City and working early morning security on the Today Show. Eventually, I got a chance to sit in for an editor and they weren’t able to get me out of the chair. I had some exposure to creative agencies during that time and loved the polished work they were producing and the variety of clients they got to work with.

I learned a lot about products working in-house, but when an opportunity came for me to go over to the other side and build up the US operation of Swedish creative agency, North Kingdom, I jumped at it. Over time, the rat race of campaign work caused me to miss the planning, collaboration, and engagement of building products. So I zoned in on what I do best and started my own shop with a friend that focuses on building custom products.”

When you visit Wildebeest website, you will be greeted by a virtual robot Wildebeest being welded together. We asked Ran what was the story behind that ‘Trojan Horse’ style-beest.

“The Wildebeest started as an SVG animation experiment our team was working on that evolved into a work of art,” Ran says. “The idea with it is that as you visit our site throughout the day, the structure of the beest gets more and more finished. At the start of the day, it’s just a frame and by the end of the day, it’s aliiiive. The little workers building it are “powered” by our team’s actual work. In other words, each time someone on our team talks on Slack, little welding sparks fly and each push to Github shoots a comet across the sky.”

Can you describe your agency in three words?

Clever, humble, fast

What is your definition of creativity?

In our world of creating products, creativity means finding unique solutions that are also practical. We’re not a typical creative agency, but we’re constantly solving business problems with creative technology and design solutions.

Which qualities of creativity do you look for when recruiting new people?

We love finding people that have been successful in other walks of life before coming to production. Some may see it as a disadvantage, but we love when someone can bring a new perspective of the business world to our team.

How do you carry out your discovery process when you get a new project?

Our projects almost always involve a new technology so there’s some ramp up time individually before coming together around the whiteboard.

Once we have a handle on the problem needing solved and some possible solutions, we task the person who seems to grasp the idea the least with leading the discussion. If the person with the most experience always leads the conversation, it’s easy for juniors to get left behind. We fill in those gaps early on in a project’s lifecycle by asking someone who’s newest to the project to lead the discussion with the rest of the team.

Additionally, throughout the production cycle, we have pseudo-usability walkthroughs with creative and technology team members to ensure a thorough understanding of the product.

There are usually a few challenging facets to a project that we’ll make columns for each and then rapid fire ideas. Depending on the engagement, we may pull in the client for this phase. In other cases, we’ll deliver our range of ideas to the client once we feel we have adequate creative coverage.

What tools do you use for the discovery process? (interviews, market research, info provided by the client?

It always depends on the project. Sometimes we’ll work with a research partner and other times our own unique experiences are enough.

Name a challenge your team is currently facing.

We’re doing an increasing amount of Machine Learning and AI work. There’s a big misconception with Marketers around practical applications of AI. Specifically, our challenge is trying to find ways to turn experimental concepts into scalable (and brand safe) consumer applications. It’s definitely fun, but absolutely a challenge.

What inspires you in your work?

Hungry entrepreneurs inspire me. I love opportunities to collaborate with founders who have a great idea, the tools, and the means to bring it to life. It’s also really inspiring to get to work with big brands to create products that will make people’s lives better.

It’s not always the warm and fuzzy stuff. Sometime’s it’s just a product to meet someone new or get customer support. Knowing that our product saved them time, made them laugh, or even extended their life, that’s inspiring stuff.

Are there online publications, professionals, industry leaders you follow?

My main focus is on business development, so I spend a lot of time on Linkedin. Once you hide the spammy posters, it’s pretty helpful to keep up with my network. Of course, Twitter and Instagram are also really helpful for discovery.

I’m fortunate to have a great network of peers that I greatly admire. So my favorite source for industry insights is our quarterly founders gathering of tacos and beer at a local dive bar.

Which cities outside where you live interest you creatively?

New York is a huge inspiration for short visits, but my go-to is always a place I’ve never been. I’m a huge explorer, so it takes a very special place for me to want to travel there for a second time. The magnitude and emptiness of Yellowstone is really alluring to me. Cincinnati is also really inspiring as well. I went to college there, but it was a totally different place then. I love the city’s European roots, how far the city’s come, and the great prospects ahead.

Please list a few of your favourite digital brands:

Is this a trap where we have to namedrop our clients?! Man. I love the design and product innovation of Quartz, the boldness of Vice, Google’s insatiable appetite for more, and Amazon’s ability to successfully diversify their suite of products.

What do you like doing in your free time?

Trying to make my house look like a house. I did the thing they tell you to do of buying the worst place in the best neighborhood you can afford. What they don’t tell you is then you have to live in it.

By Geny Caloisi.

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