Editor’s Note: This article is part of our Founders Series where we get insights and analysis from founders of various different companies in the tech industry. Jane Chung worked as a designer and creative director in advertising agencies such as iCrossing, Sapient, Razorfish and Leo Burnett. She briefly quit the advertising world and lived in the slums around the world to help the efforts of entrepreneurship in local communities. She is now the Co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of Klooff, a user-generated pet entertainment company.

So often startups lack the processes and budget that agencies have while agencies lack the agility and innovation that startups possess. We speak to Jane Chung, co-founder of Klooff, who has had a taste of both worlds.

What can agencies do more of that startups are doing?

I spend 80 percent of my time working on product in the startup world whereas in agency, I spent most of the time educating clients. Clients tend to be conservative and understandably so. If you have an existing platform that already has millions of customers, you take fewer risks on ‘experimenting.’ If you mess up, your job might be on the line, but if you do well, there’s little reward to reap. It’s a hard environment for innovation to thrive in. Agencies should invest in creating space for innovation to keep everyone on their toes.

With that said, agencies tend to overthink things and stunt momentum. I remember we had this one client where we had to decide where the shopping cart went. We presented several options, and the CMO had to get everyone and their dog’s approval on it. That took a month. In contrast, when Klooff toyed with the idea of e-commerce, we curated products, built an e-commerce site, found some chihuahuas, did a photoshoot, and ran an email campaign, all in less than 3 weeks under a $300 budget.

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And vice versa?

Startups have to be less ‘sloppy.’ With so much emphasis on getting a minimal viable product out the door and ‘time is of the essence’ mentality, the quality of the work is often compromised. While things can always be improved along the way, we need to always keep in mind that every touch point will make an undeniable first impression. People are less willing to give second chances with so many things already competing for their attention nowadays.

What are the biggest challenges you have to deal with in a startup?

If you’re a co-founder at an early-startup stage like I am, you’ll always have a budget at the forefront of your mind. Every penny needs to stretch to a dollar, every second of your time needs to be prioritized and focused. While you do keep budget in mind at an agency, you deal with bigger budgets and there’s always a little wiggle room.

What advice would you give to someone in the agency world who’s curious about jumping into a startup?

If you’ve always been curious or you feel like you want to explore something different, don’t be afraid to let go of your comfort zone and try it out. There’s a lot of fear because the nature of startups is so volatile and financially insecure. Yes, you’ll be forced to grow a new skillset and even discover things about yourself that you never knew. But it’s an opportunity to find your passion. The worst that can happen is you realize you hate it, but at least you satisfied your itch. Just don’t stay stagnant and feel like you can’t do anything about it.

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What are some skillsets you had to grow when you first jumped in?

I happen to be an entrepreneur by nature, so it felt like a fluid transition for me. When I was in an agency, I looked over the copywriting, collaborated with strategists, mobilized the design and tech team, and projected estimations with the account executive. This always gave me a sense of how everything worked. Now between the 3 of us at Klooff, we can’t just know it, but we actually have to do it. I recently had a meeting with an investor and had to talk numbers and crack open an Excel spreadsheet. I hate Excel. But now I have to face the music because no one is going to do it for me.

Any last words?

I understand the tension between choosing a ‘realistic’ path that will put food on the table and pursuing your dream. In both worlds you are going to pour your heart, time, and energy into it. If you have the luxury of the latter, I say you have nothing to lose. But whether it is a startup or agency, if we position our attitude with a sense of gratitude, curiosity, and putting out your best, you’ll enjoy both worlds.


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