N100 sat down to chat with our newest sponsor, Chris Oliver, Founder of CCO Productions. CCO Productions has generously supported N100 by providing a $2,500 cash prize for the winner of the Audience Choice Best Pitch Award, as part of the N100 Pitch Contest event on Thursday, September 13th 2018, live from Venture13 in Cobourg. You can get your tickets here and cheer on the N100 startups as they compete to advance to the Board Room finals of N100 Evolution: Northumberland’s $250,000 open invitational biennial technology startup competition.
The format of our conversation with Chris invokes a circa 1940s Seventeen magazine celebrity interview with a nod to the Proust questionnaire.
JOHN HAYDEN, N100: So, Chris, what is the origin story of CCO Productions? How did it all begin? CHRIS OLIVER, CCO PRODUCTIONS: CCO Productions actually began as a high school grade ten business project but I didn’t take it seriously until my early twenties… it was the encouragement of Northumberland CFDC that got it started, actually. People were asking me to shoot videos for them coming out of my internship and Wendy Curtis and John Hayden at Northumberland CFDC told me I should start up and go out and land the business. The rest is history.
You just came back from Japan? Yeah. I’ve been twice in the last four months working on a collaborative project with an American artist who has lived in Kyoto for forty years: Daniel Kelly, you’ll find his works at the Met, at the MoMA. The concept for the series in general lies in profiling artists who work and live abroad. A documentary that is both art and travel. What did you enjoy about Japan? I actually first stopped in Taipei, Taiwan, which was all about the street food. Getting up in the morning… xiao Long bao… dumplings. In Japan, it’s different, more restaurant based, but it’s about trying everything you can. I also got a very local experience working with Daniel in Kyoto that allowed me to really get to know daily life there and also in our travels around the country… including Hiroshima and Tokyo. Each city had its own flavour and fascination.
What lies ahead for CCO Productions? So CCO Productions primarily focuses on corporate work, tourism, education, business, government, but I’m trying to shift that in the next three to five years to produce more original content. This Artist Abroad series I mentioned is really an exciting new trajectory for our company. Who doesn’t want to shoot film, travel and work abroad, right? I have a great clientele here, and will hang on to that while also developing original content, too. I am in a fortunate position where I can produce this content either solo or collaboratively. Finding time is always hard but it’s worth it in the end to pursue your vision.
Give us some interesting biographical factoids about Chris Oliver. Born in Peterborough, 1988, started CCO Productions at age 22. Wrote and directed my own indie feature at 27…
We’re looking for something more idiosyncratic/quirky in terms of the information you’re giving us: I have a pet rabbit named Bella who is 13 years old and I’m literally trying to beat the official World Record which is sixteen years old for a domestic rabbit. Currently she is in perfect health. She’s actually been through the whole entrepreneurial journey with me.
What do you think about N100? N100 is fantastic. I love entrepreneurship and really respect people who can break the mold of normative expectation. N100 is the perfect opportunity to go out on your own and make something amazing happen. A lot of people I know aren’t necessarily happy with where they are in terms of jobs and professions and working life. N100 gives us a glimpse of what lies beyond the expected.
Why did CCO sponsor the Audience Choice Best Pitch Award this year? I’ve been to N100 every year since inception and I have such respect for these entrepreneurs. When Northumberland CFDC approached me to do this I thought there is no better way to support N100 than to sponsor this award for one of the competitors. The Audience Choice factor makes it fun and participatory. Also, CCO Productions has been working with tech startups for a number of years. Tech is big business and the ideas that are coming through N100 are at the frontier. Like my Artist Abroad series, CCO is interested in stories about people pursuing passion and breaking the mold, being disruptive. There is a crossover here in the aesthetics of art and entrepreneurship.
Let’s move onto the Lightning Round: Sure.
Science Fiction or Fantasy: Science Fiction.
Freud or Jung: Freud. And I think Freud because I think sex has a lot more to do with how our society functions than what we might admit.
Select two colours at random: Blue and yellow.
Your favourite pre-twentieth century female mathematician and why: Florence Nightingale, who used math to save lives.
Your earliest childhood memory: Looking out the door of our first house… looking out the door in the rain and seeing a rainbow. I didn’t have to wrack my brain. This is it.
Ok, what is the worst planet in our galaxy: Mercury. It’s a hot rock and who the hell would want to go there?
The shoes you are wearing right now: Adidas white and grey Stan Smiths.
Places you love or things you love to do in Northumberland County: I love the rolling hills of Cold Springs. I grew up in Camborne, just down the road. I did a lot of cycling and walking… probably a lot of trespassing in farmers’ fields. Today… hands down Port Hope’s restaurant scene compares to the best food downtown Toronto. Pad Thai, Italian, steak, all of which is in Port Hope.
What are some trends in video based digital marketing that you think technology entrepreneurs should be paying attention to? The big trend that I’ve noticed is that content is shorter form. What was one minute three to five years ago is condensed to twenty seconds now. People are scrolling past. We need to say it in fifteen seconds. With video, in fifteen seconds I need that key messaging, the hook. This is relevant for N100 where you have to present your business in a three minute verbal pitch. The whole opportunity and the ask. I find people generally can’t tell me what they’re doing in a concise and effective manner. I’ve attended dozens of pitch events and a lot of Founders still can’t communicate effectively. They just need to say what they do. Know and hook the audience as fast as you can. Short is good. Go into detail later. Also… video promotion for your company is very effective but it could also hurt you if you don’t know what you’re doing. If you don’t know what you’re doing maybe you shouldn’t do it. Yes you can shoot your own videos now but production values matter and you need to set a high bar for your brand.
Any words of advice for N100 startups? What I want to say to N100 Startups… people at N100… judges, participants, partners, they are genuinely interested in your idea… they want you to succeed… it’s not like America’s Got Talent… where judges’ hands are hovering over a buzzer waiting for you to fail and say you’re out… ready to boo and jeer… N100 wants you to succeed and for everyone to be advanced on their path of entrepreneurial development, while keeping things competitive, of course. If you’ve made it to the Top 8 you must have a great idea. In terms of the actual pitch, people get stuck on exact wording, a script, memorization, etc. which can work if you’re great at presenting but it has its downsides if you falter and get off track. Relating this to the world of video… getting off script isn’t really so bad… let it flow… don’t ever apologize… speak genuinely… don’t worry as everyone wants you to succeed and always if in doubt come back to what you do. Always return to that simple principle.
Thank you again, Chris!