Kevin Shaw – Founder and CEO of Zagga Entertainment

[quote style=”boxed”]Compliment your team members often and at random. You’d be surprised how many times an encouraging word, text, email, phone call or tweet will get your team member to do their best work. I make it a habit to shoot a quick email to people telling them how much I appreciate their effort or to complement them on a job well done.[/quote]

Kevin Shaw founded Zagga Entertainment after being frustrated with navigating silent DVD menus and finding no described video on any popular VOD service.

Despite losing his vision at 19, Mr. Shaw has forged a successful career in radio advertising and broadcast management, having spent 8 years as the Technical/Production Coordinator at CHRY Radio in Toronto, Canada. He has been nationally recognized for his creative advertising and has received awards and accolades for his audio and music production work.

Over the past 15 years, Mr. Shaw has assumed leadership and entrepreneurial roles in live entertainment, music production and communications. He has earned a reputation as a thorough, skilled, action-oriented leader and communicator by successfully completing and executing a variety of media and entertainment projects including music albums, live broadcasts and advertising campaigns.

Kevin holds a B.A. in Radio & Television Arts and an M.A. in Media Production from Ryerson University. Mr. Shaw offers a unique perspective on accessibility, user experience design and disability awareness as he is both a media creator and consumer.

Kevin has lived in Toronto for over 25 years. He loves jazz music, plays the drums and enjoys a good tandem bike ride.

Where did the idea for Zagga come from?

I was at home several years ago and wanted to watch a movie. I had a shelf full of shrink-wrapped DVDs I’d never watched. I asked myself why and I realized I didn’t want to have to go through the frustrating process of navigating the on-screen menu to select the audio description track on the disc. I went looking online for a described movie, but none of the popular VOD services had any. What was even more frustrating was that many VOD sites I visited were inaccessible to someone using a screen reader.

This was when the idea for Zagga snuck up on me—a fully accessible VOD service featuring movies and TV shows with described video or DV. DV narrates what’s happening on screen in between lines of dialog.

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

My daily routine begins with prayer, lots of water and getting informed on what’s happening in the world via radio and social media. I try not to dive into work as soon as I get up, as I find it’s a quick way to lose track of time. I also never skip breakfast.

At the office, I make it a point to schedule myself with reminders, a calendar and occasionally a timer to focus on tasks that need to get done. Each day is different and I stay productive by setting a goal or challenge for the day and checking off reminders as I go through them. I do work after dinner and will spend time each day reading through business articles and blogs. Occasionally, I’ll journal. I’m fairly rigid with a bed time as I don’t think it’s possible to function without good rest.

At the end of the day, I remind myself of 3 awesome accomplishments or events that day. It could be finishing a proposal, receiving a phone call, nailing a press interview or accomplishing a specific goal. If more than 3 awesome accomplishments come to mind, I know it has been a productive day. If I struggle to find 3 things, I will examine why and make course corrections for tomorrow.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I’m a big fan of visioning and believe it’s important to begin with the end in mind. I love to write. I’ve scripted the entire Zagga product launch, complete with audio and video cues. I go back and reread it occasionally for inspiration.

Visioning allows me to do two things. First, it lets me work backwards to find the right people and resources to make the vision happen. If I can create a vision that can inspire others, then I can create an environment and build a team of people who believe in creating a great experience. Second, the visioning allows me to make course corrections when our focus drifts. This has empowered me to say “no” when something comes up to take our attention off of our goals.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

I’m excited about the coming golden age of accessibility and universal design. In the past, special “disability” products and services were created out of necessity and were ugly, expensive and poorly made afterthoughts. Today, companies are starting to see the benefits of universal design and accessibility built in to their products and services. Customers with a wide variety of abilities can now use an entire suite of products and be included in every service offering—without compromising on aesthetics, price or quality.
Apple is great at this. Every Apple product comes with built-in accessibility features that can help someone who is blind, or someone who has one hand on the wheel and their eyes on the road. Disney is another company that takes inclusion and universal access very seriously in its theme parks.

For a long time, companies have been creating products and services that have been disabling by design. Now, legislation and increasing consumer demand is starting to bake the idea of universal design and accessibility into the DNA of many major brands. The great part about this is that companies are starting to get the message that universal design is a great way to keep customers loyal and that accessibility has gone beyond serving what is traditionally thought of as the disabled consumer. Look at the benefit of curb cuts at an intersection for anyone with a stroller, skateboard, bike or luggage on wheels and you’ll understand the benefits of universal design.

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

I like to brainstorm ideas and let ideas flow naturally. As a creative person, I need this outlet to synthesize new ideas and examine all options on the table. I keep my brainstorming in a journal of sorts. I will go back to it on occasion and track the progress of the company and my thought patterns over time.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

When I was in high school, I worked in our school store for a semester. I learned that people’s passion and ambition build an organization’s culture. If the employee can’t be passionate about the customer, the product and themselves, then culture, morale and productivity suffer.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

Even though my entrepreneurial gland has always secreted at some level, I wish I’d taken business courses in university to learn how to do financials. Even though I haven’t done that, I appreciate all of the experiences I’ve had to understand perceptions, marketing and project management.

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

Compliment your team members often and at random. You’d be surprised how many times an encouraging word, text, email, phone call or tweet will get your team member to do their best work. I make it a habit to shoot a quick email to people telling them how much I appreciate their effort or to complement them on a job well done.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

I’m a big fan of managing image and perceptions. When I worked in community radio, I decided right away to bring a polished aesthetic to my work and produced radio commercials that would rival or crush anything that came from an ad agency. This elevated the overall production aesthetic of the station and put us on par or above many commercial stations in the country.

With Zagga, I make it a point to manage those perceptions by ensuring we’ve invested in design, the right words, the right tools and smart people. While many of our customers may never see our logo or the colour scheme on our website, an investor, friend, journalist or family member will. I want to be able to stand beside that work and never have to apologize for it, whether it’s our website, a video or a proposal.
This strategy has helped us make a solid first impression with investors, customers and vendors who have brought their A-game to our mission.

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

In the early days of Zagga, I hired a developer to complete the full version of our website and app. The company was in worse financial shape than they let on and eventually went bankrupt. The site wasn’t finished and my personal funds had been spent to pay the developers. Our app code was gone and I had no one to pick up the slack.

That experience taught me that no entrepreneur gets it right the first time and mistakes are part of the landscape. I also learned that it was important that I not take on everything myself. I’m proud to say we’ve got a great team of people on board with Zagga and our development efforts are now on track.

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

I think it would be neat to create an app that could use positional wi-fi information to assist the blind in navigating indoor spaces like grocery stores, shopping malls or subway stations. If something like this could be combined with machine vision, that would change the way the blind navigate their communities.

Tell us something about you that very few people know?

I have two uncles who are blind for reasons not related to my eye condition. While I still had sight, I learned how to use access technology and a lot about their perspectives through what they did, as well as through their networks. This made the transition to living with sight loss much easier, as I had family who could help me navigate the process.

What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?

I love WordPress as a content management system. Many of the plugins and templates are accessible and it allows me to edit copy for our site with little difficulty. There are plug-ins for just about everything and I like how flexible and dynamic it can be in creating accessible websites.

I’m an Apple fanboy and use iWork, Reminders and Calendar every day. When I do use a PC, I like geeking out with Excel for cash flows and financial projections.

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

Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek. Every entrepreneur should read this book in the first year of their business, NFP or charity. Having a clear “why” serves as true north for your organization’s purpose and will guide you in darkness. The one line from the book I resonate with is: “People don’t buy what you do. People buy why you do it.”

What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?

Steve Jobs:
I love that he understood perception, design and technology. I think many people miss that in the accessibility world and can benefit from his approach to integrated software and product design.

Bob Lefsetz: .
He’s best known for writing about the music industry, but his observations on other industries, trends and the economy were influential in helping me shape the Zagga idea.

Simon Sinek:
I really started to grasp the concept of “why” organizations do what they do. I wanted to be sure Zagga had a clear and evident “why” when we started—a “why” others could believe in.


Kevin Shaw on LinkedIn:
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