Why I invested in JellyJanuary 8, 2014: 1:02 PM ET
Emmy award-winning director Greg Yaitanes explains why he sees potential in Biz Stone's new question-and-answer startup.
FORTUNE -- On Tuesday, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone revealed what his new startup, Jelly, was all about. It's a mobile application for asking questions and giving answers, and distinguishes itself from similar services like Quora and ChaCha by allowing people to ask questions with images rather than words. The company's success is predicated on the hope that images are powerful enough to drive people to come up with answers by sharing questions with their social networks. Social, mobile, visual: Stone's startup hits all of today's tech buzzwords.
Greg Yaitanes is one of Jelly's angel investors. He knows a lot about the power of images: As an Emmy-award winning director for the hit television series Lost, House and Grey's Anatomy, Yaitanes has built his career on creating thought-provoking stories through film. Others outside of show business have taken note, including Stone and Square founder Jack Dorsey, who sometimes rely on Yaitanes for advice when they are launching a new company. (Yaitanes was an angel investor in Square and Stone and Dorsey's claim to fame, Twitter (TWTR).)
In an interview with Fortune, Yaitanes explained the potential he sees in Jelly and why it is the investment he is most excited about right now. Below are his words, edited and condensed for clarity.
I got married in France a little over a year ago. On the way home from my wedding, Biz told me he was drawing all of these sketches and creating the framework of what would become Jelly. It blew me away.
Biz says he wants to help people; Jelly really helps people. Jelly helps you think of what your friends might know when you have a question. At a time when there is only four degrees of separation between people, the idea that we can be connected by our knowledge is powerful. Everyone has a story -- Jelly taps into that.
Do you know anybody that doesn't give you their unsolicited advice? Everybody wants to be heard. It is something I learned as a show runner: Everybody has a voice, and those voices are worth listening to. I have been sharing and forwarding questions on Jelly, and it means a lot when people forward questions to me that they think I can answer. It gives me a positive feeling. I like sitting down on the couch and figuring out how I can help.
Jelly's mission and my work with film are similar in that both are about communicating an idea. I want people to see Banshee [a Cinemax drama series for which Yaitanes serves as showrunner --Ed.] and understand what I saw in the images. On Jelly, people take photographs to communicate their ideas about what they are capturing -- what is interesting to them, how they took the picture, and why they want to get the answer to the question. That communicates an idea as well.
I love when people look at my work with a finer eye. Every time I look at Jelly, I see it as an opportunity to learn more about a person. I want to help them. Like with Banshee, all I can hope is that my ideas have been communicated and someone can appreciate it. Banshee entertains people; Jelly helps people.
Jelly is one of the investments that I am most excited about. I invested in it because I loved the idea from its initial concept through its execution. I look at the people and I look at the team, sometimes more than I look at the product. I look at the passion. I have invested in good people before, and the startup went bust. But I would still go back to those entrepreneurs in a heartbeat when they have something else, because I know they have the makings of a good company when all the stars line up.
Biz and I don't blindly get involved with each others' stuff. We believe in each others' ideas. Biz has my back -- that is something I can't say often about others. In terms of the way that we work together and collaborate, I feel like we have an honest and complementary relationship. We know each others' strengths. We are in two completely different industries with enormous similarities, and we exchange ideas about that.
When I look at Jelly, I see what I saw in Twitter so many years ago. It is astounding. Now that it is out in the world, it will only further its potential. Jelly 1.0 is just the beginning.