Seattle animation startup launches with first project, a Startup Foundation animation

Jen Zug

A new startup specializing in explanatory animated videos is launching in Seattle this week — and for a group of people taking the entrepreneurial plunge, it would be hard to imagine a more appropriate first project than this video.

The startup, called What Now? Exactly! made this animation for the formal debut this week of the Startup Foundation, an initiative launched by Seattle-based Startup Weekend in partnership with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

What Now? Exactly! is a partnership of writer and producer Jen Zug, the president and CEO; strategist Bryan Zug; and illustrator Andrew Imamura, the art director for the startup. The Zugs and Imamura met while working as contractors at another Seattle animation company, lilipip.

Bryan Zug

“As contractors, we bumped into each other on several projects and soon realized we had the perfect chemistry for cooking up some great animated explanations. This gave us the entrepreneurial itch to start our own thing,” explains Jen Zug in an introductory post.

She adds, “That’s why I’m so excited about our first client, The Startup Foundation. It’s their mission to help folks like us do what we did – plant a flag in the community and start something new.”

Also working on the new venture are illustrator Yas Imamura and animator Linda Spain.

Andrew Imamura

The startup’s name, What Now? Exactly, speaks to the growing trend of videos that give clear, watchable explanations of complex topics. Online giants such as Google and Twitter have helped to popularize these types of explanatory animated videos.

Seattle has become a hotbed for experts in the field, with another firm, Common Craft, recently launching a new business model around its videos.

Bryan Zug explains that companies sometimes get so caught up in their own internal language that they have a difficult time explaining the value of what they’re doing to the outside world. The videos are an antidote to that.

As he puts it, “It’s great that you have 50 features, but what’s the real problem you’re solving?”

  • http://twitter.com/RedRussak ‘Red’ Russak

    Great video quality! Now the hard part – pricing model? target market? Epipheo and others do an incredible job of being unaffordable by Startups that need them most. Any plans to help out the little guys?

    • Andrew Imamura

      Hi Red,
      Thank you!  Don’t worry about the target market…we’ll hit it spot on for just about anybody; we’ve got range baby.  :)

      For the prices, you should check our landing page: http://whatnowexactly.com/ 
      It has a few ranges for budget, and while I’m not sure exactly how others do it, I think we cater to the little guys pretty good; we don’t forget our roots!  :)

      Best,
      Andrew Imamura

      PS–THANK YOU TODD BISHOP!  Great article, and many thanks (again).

    • http://zug.flathatter.com Bryan Zug

      Red –

      Thanks for the compliment and great question on pricing. Wish we had easy answers. 

      We’ve got a huge heart for startups and have worked with a ton. The business reality is that many, if not most, don’t have the budget to cover the amount of work that goes into creating a well crafted explanation — and we’re not talking about the bigger explanation studio pricing.

      Big bummer, but honestly that’s what we see. 

      So we do our best to keep our process lean, prices affordable, quality great, and team sustainable (sane work load, healthcare as a reality and not an aspiration, right gear for the job, etc.).

      At the end of the day, since teams like ours can’t resell an hour of their work over and over again, there’s only so much give among those variables before the quality goes south fast.

      What I find really intriguing is the bigger question that all startups (and businesses in general) are wrestling with — What is a reasonable price for great design/creative/story?

      We definitely see a lot less of the “my cousin with photoshop/flash/after effects could do that” attitude that proliferated before iP.E. (the iPhone Era), but most ideas about what it costs often still cannot account for designers and story crafters making a sustainable living.

      We should host a forum to talk about creative pricing and expectations. 

      The discussion around that at Hive11 a few weeks ago was pretty great, but would love to see it proliferate to a wider audience.

      – bz

  • http://www.commoncraft.com leelefever

    We’ve been working with Bryan and Jen for a couple of years now through their work at Lilipip, which is a part of the Common Craft Explainer Network (a directory of explanatory video producers).  It’s awesome to see them doing their own thing *and* something they love. We expect big things from What Now Exactly! in the future. 

    Also, while you’re talking Seattle as a hotbed of explanatory videos, don’t forget that some of the Epipheo Studios (epipheostudios.com) team is in the area as are the folks from ‘Splainers (www.splainers.com) who are in Issaquah. 

    Lee (of Common Craft)

    • http://simplifilm.com Chris Johnson

      Lee- 

      I love what you do. (you know this, I’ve defended you publicly, as you know).

      I don’t like your “explainer network.’   As a source of authority, it’s no better than a classified ads section.

      It also corrupts you. There is poor work that is on the explainer network. There is good work missing.  

      The whole “pay to play” model for a directory is subject to corruption which creates erosion of craft. 

      …or maybe I wish I’d thought of it first ;-).

      • http://www.commoncraft.com leelefever

        Wow, didn’t see that coming, Chris.  We’ve never been accused of being corrupted or anything even close. I’m kind of speechless and, well, perplexed by your words and what would motivate you to post this comment.

        If this is meant to be humor or your way of saying that your company should be a part of the Explainer Network, it’s having the opposite effect.

        • http://simplifilm.com Chris Johnson

          Hi, Lee-

          Well, no. It’s beyond obvious we’re not there.

          I left 50 grove for the same reason. I love wistia and the intention behind it. The end result is commoditization, Simplifilm isn’t one of many. 

          I can’t see Simplifilm joining the others and being in the category of providers that are in some group directory. 

          I do love the standards you’ve set, and it did take me a while to understand that the explainer network was a paid directory.

          -Chris

          • http://twitter.com/RedRussak ‘Red’ Russak

            Can I just chime in and add how impressed I am at how calm and civil this argument is. I’ve seen a lot of comment threads that take a more direct approach ;) Thanks for playing nice on GeekWire. A lot of people will benefit from you two taking the time to spell out your points in detail. 

          • http://simplifilm.com Chris Johnson

            Heh.  Well, I was a little more direct.  I like Lee a lot, I love Common Craft.  I think that the paid transfer of his authority and dedication to craft is a grave error.  

  • shanereiser

    Great video. Love the name of your company btw.

    • http://twitter.com/jenzug Jen Zug

      Thanks!

  • http://simplifilm.com Chris Johnson

    May you get all of the business we don’t! 

  • Fancy Morales

    For the folks wondering about the broken link to the video — you can find it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v3889mqP8WU