Joel Karsberg

The CEO of Kreativ Inc., which he formed in 2017 in cooperation with award-winning Bunim/Murray Productions, Joel Karsberg presently resides in Los Angeles, where he serves as the company’s president and chief executive officer. Karsberg has been working in the television industry for more than twenty years, beginning his career in 1997 as a producer for Strix Television, one of the largest production firms in the Nordic nations at this time. Sixteen Nine Film & Television was the name of his next company, which he founded in 2000. He frequently worked with O3 Games, for whom he developed and directed in-game movies, commercials, and music videos. After a brief but fruitful stint at the company, he moved on to Jarowiskij, one of Sweden’s top production firms, where he worked as executive producer for a number of years. Previously, Karsberg worked for Jarowiskij for more than seven years before joining Friday TV in 2007 as the company’s director of development.

Karsberg worked at Friday TV, where he contributed to the creation of entertaining, daring, and unique television formats. When Clash of the Choirs was broadcast on NBC in 2007, Friday TV made history by becoming the first Scandinavian production studio to have a show broadcast on one of the three main US networks. In 2009, they were commissioned by NBC to create a game show called Minute to Win It, which was broadcast on television. The following year, Karsberg departed Friday TV to become the chief creative officer of Zodiak Media AB, which operates in the Nordic region. Zodiak produced over 90 television shows, several of which went on to become top performers in their respective areas. By 2014, he had risen to the positions of CEO, COO, and chairman of the international development board for Zodiak Americas. From 2014 to 2017, Karsberg was in charge of overseeing the development of new programming for 48 subsidiaries in 15 different countries. He formed Kreatic Inc as a result of the merger between production behemoths Zodiak and Banijay. Kreativ Inc. is a content production company that focuses on bridging the gap between international and domestic markets through the creation of new content for broadcast, cable, and streaming platforms.

Mr. Karsberg has more than twenty years of experience as a development executive, having worked on a wide range of formats, such as game shows, large-scale live events, and documentaries, amongst others. Over the course of his career, he has produced more than 450 hours of programming for networks in the United States, Scandinavia, and other parts of the world. In addition to the critically acclaimed documentary Surviving R Kelly (Lifetime), his executive producing works include The Selection (History), Undressed (MTV), Celebrity Wife Swap (ABC), Planet Primetime (Travel), and Dropped (TV4). In addition to receiving several Emmy nominations, Karsberg’s work has received other honors, including the Associated Press program of the year award, MTV Movie Awards, Critics Choice Award, and the Peabody Award. He remains focused on his work as CEO of Kreativ Inc., as well as on the company’s objective of producing fascinating content for audiences all around the world.

Where did the idea for Kreativ Inc. come from?

I founded Kreativ Inc. after the merger between Banijay and Zodiac. I was previously CEO of Zodiak USA and Chairman of the International Development Board, but I had many years of experience in the production world and was ready to launch the next phase in my career.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

A typical day for me is pretty schedule driven. I spend the first hour or so checking email and making note of any immediate needs for the day. After that it is generally a combination of team meetings, client calls, and staff meetings. We have of course made use of virtual meetings and teleconferences much more than in the past.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I like to keep an idea journal or notebook to jot down anything that comes to mind so that I don’t lose track of any ideas. From that initial seed, I like to use a variety of exercises and methods—free writing, brainstorming. I’m a big believer in getting a creative group together to hash it out and see what an idea can turn into. I think having input at an early stage opens up a lot more possibilities than waiting until editing time.

What’s one trend that excites you?

I’m excited by how much work is coming from minority voices or from underrepresented groups, especially in the field of documentaries. With the reduction in production costs over the last decade, it has really opened up the possibility for a more diverse range of viewpoints.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

It sounds simple, but not procrastinating. My parents taught me the value of not putting off the difficult parts of a project, and ever since I was a kid that has been a big part of my being productive.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Think big picture. The details are important, of course, but if you worry too much about all the little things, you’re never going to get off the ground.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

A well-written TV show is as culturally relevant as a well-written novel.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Seek out objective criticism. If you don’t look for some blunt feedback from those you trust and allow yourself to be open to it, it is going to come from someone else at a very inopportune time and possibly in front of an audience. And probably cost you in some way.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

For us, it is all about creating compelling content. The best thing I have done to grow my business is to be in touch with the culture of the moment—what is important to people, what are the important stories that need to be told. Everything else is a part of the business. But if we don’t have a story worth telling, we don’t have anything.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I’ve had many failures. In the entertainment business, no one has had success from the first attempt. You have to have a thick skin and be willing to fail. I continue to overcome failure the same way I always have…I start on the next project.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

This is definitely now in my wheelhouse, but…. a cashless payment app that allowed for crowdsourcing micro loans.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

Drinks for the team. We had worked a long hard week, and everybody needs to hear a sincere “thank you” and to get a free drink from the boss once in a while.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

It’s not complicated, but we like to use Microsoft Teams. It’s easy to use so it can be tapped into by a big team and it is easy to keep organized. We use it for all kinds of file sharing, planning, and meetings.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman. It helped me learn about my own thought processes, and that is invaluable for both business and personal life.

What is your favorite quote?

“The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.” I’m not sure where that comes from.

Key Learnings:

  • The best way to overcome failure is to start on the next project.
  • Think big picture. If you worry too much about the details, you will never get started.
  • You have to have a compelling story to tell—no matter what industry you’re in.