10 Questions: Courtney Holt, COO, Maker StudiosJanuary 7, 2014: 3:24 PM ET
Why instinct matters for making the right business decisions, and more.
FORTUNE -- The list of former positions on Courtney Holt's résumé is brimming with creative energy: president of Myspace Music, executive vice president of digital music for the MTV Networks Music & Logo Group, and a mélange of media production jobs where he directed music videos and commercials. It comes as no surprise, then, that Holt would become the COO of a company that wants to "bridge the gap between YouTube and television."
Maker Studios' programming covers a range of topics, from music to comedy to do-it-yourself videos. From his home base in Los Angeles, Holt -- who holds a bachelor's degree in film from Boston University -- uses his talents to help artists and entertainers market themselves. We spoke with him.
1. Which technology companies do you admire, and why?
I am a huge fan of Twitter (TWTR) and believe they have a clear sense of product and purpose. Also, living in Los Angeles, I cannot thank [social traffic and navigation app] Waze enough for making a simple and elegant tool for getting where I need to get to on time.
2. Which area of technology excites you the most?
I am fascinated by the opportunity in mobile as it really touches and drives everything, from social to e-commerce to gaming to media creation and consumption and, ultimately, to the intersection of all of these areas.
3. What is the best advice you ever received?
I once worked for someone who was very smart and super-driven but not the best communicator, and would often give me a piece of an idea that I was supposed to develop. At first, I spent my time trying to figure out what he was asking for. Then, I was given the invaluable advice that I should go figure it out what I thought we should do. Basically, I should go figure it out, even if that meant taking the initial idea in a completely different direction. This taught me to go on instinct. This was a huge lesson and something I have applied countless times in my career, as it is rare that you are given all the information to make key decisions.
4. What would you do if you weren't working at your current job?
I have always been interested and inspired by fashion, and I have been paying attention to companies like Combatant Gentlemen, Trunk Club, and Frank & Oak which are doing innovative work using the efficiencies of technology to create and deliver quality product. I am fascinated by their business models.
5. What was the most important thing you learned in school?
I attended the Bronx High School of Science, where I fell in love with photography. But the school's approach to art included emphasis on the science, so we had to learn about all the principles and technology that supported taking pictures. This opened up a world for me and helped drive me to always understand not just the end result but also the process that supports it.
6. What do you do to live a balanced life?
I often have found that setting manageable goals to balance work and family is really key. While there is always one more call, meeting, e-mail, conference, or trip that could happen, being measured about how and when and setting priorities helps insure maximum productivity. It is easy to burn out otherwise.
7. Describe an ideal day.
An ideal day will start with a run and end with a great meal and a glass of wine.
8. What was the last book you read?
I recently picked up Enjoy the Experience, Homemade Records 1958-1992, which is an amazing look at the sub-culture of self-released music in the era before the Internet made it easy for everyone [to do so].
9. What was your first job?
I balanced working as a production assistant at the Monitor Channel, a 24-hour news network, during the [Persian] Gulf War with working at a record store in the afternoon and evenings. This allowed me to feed my love of music and video kind of at the same time. It was definitely a clash of culture going from one to the other.
10. What is one unique or quirky habit that you have?
Whenever I have an important presentation or document to write at home, I need to have music on in the background. Typically for this purpose, I gravitate to more atonal or abstract music. My kids will sometimes stop me, complaining about how much it is annoying them.
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