Lizz Warner

Founder of Gleam

Lizz Warner is the CEO and founder of Gleam, a video dating app that sets up users on 10-minute video dates before they can text, based on their schedules. Formerly, she’s a director, executive producer, and innovation lead at BuzzFeed and was a producer on the Biden for President Campaign. She created and led the growth of the Bring Me! travel franchise, which became the #1 travel publisher on the internet in under a year with 4.3 billion views. She worked closely with the sales team to pitch ideas to well-known brands partnering with BuzzFeed to create viral marketing content, events or stunts. Lizz was also a content producer for the NBC Snapchat channel for the Rio 2016 and PyeongChang 2018 Olympics, where she ended up on the front page of the Korea Herald for a viral story she created about going on a Tinder date with an Olympian. She’s best known for fusing data science with creative ideation, with videos directed, shot, and edited amassing over 1.6 billion views.

Where did the idea for Gleam come from?

Having been so focused on my career, I found my precious free time was spent catching up on basic chores and squeezing in minutes to go to the gym. The modern workday made me realize how little time there is to date; as a woman, the additional energy we have to spend on meeting a stranger usually ends up as a waste of effort. Dating apps are built to keep the user on them as long as possible – not to find love. Tired of how corporate America has turned even love into a money-making scheme (with no major changes to dating apps in the last 8 years), and after listening to the qualms of my friends, I decided to create a video-based dating app to tackle these issues head on. It’s built for busy people who don’t have time to spend on bad first dates. Matches can’t be messaged until you’ve gone on a short video date, essentially cutting out all the BS of the other apps.

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

During the pandemic, my day goes from my bedroom to my living room. It’s a wild time. Sometimes I switch it up and get *cRaZy* by working outside on my balcony. To stay productive, I make a list of things I want to get done that day – and check it repeatedly until all tasks are complete. Taking on new hobbies and finding ways to have fun is a huge help too (like rollerblading, my latest hobby).

How do you bring ideas to life?

Talk about them! It’s surprising how easy it is to make something come to life by just talking to random people about it. I also surround myself with a team who are great at making things happen. We have a lot of brainstorms where we not only come up with new ideas but also on how to best execute them.

What’s one trend that excites you?

How the pandemic has changed the way we date. Dating app business has exploded, and video calling has skyrocketed as a byproduct of social distancing. Gleam [the app I made] came out just in time for all of this and I’m excited to see the long term impacts of dating behavior post-pandemic.

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

Setting a cutoff time for work. I will go long into the night if no one stops me – only to find myself far less productive the next day. I have to remind myself that things can wait. No one is going to respond to an email at 2am. By setting a cutoff time, actual working hours are much more productive – leaving more downtime for rest.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Not making a decision is a decision. I was someone who would weigh my options so carefully and take much too long to pick an answer. The best advice for someone who is totally unsure of what to do is to get a few expert opinions and then make a decision. If it’s wrong, you’ll fix it!

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

That I should take on the dating space. Lol.

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

Setting priorities and realizing that only one thing can be done at a time. There are an infinite number of things to do in a day and not enough hours… It’s so easy to get side tracked with emails and messages, which is why it is important to set goals at the beginning of the day and stick to them, so that real work gets done despite the distractions.

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

Someone suggested this book to me called “Hacking Growth.” I’d highly recommend it – it gives a lot of great advice and methodology for how extraordinary companies rose to the top. It gave me the idea to build features in the Gleam app for growth, including one we’re working on now that is custom-designed for influencers and celebrities.

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

Expecting things to get done in a normal amount of time. I’d say my consistent failures are when the plan calls for things to happen quickly, only to find it takes 3-4 times as long. This applies to almost everything!. To overcome this, I add on a major time cushion in strategic planning.

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

Automatic plant waterers that actually work! Please, someone make this. I would love to not have to stress about finding plant sitters, especially during the pandemic. Hit me up when it’s ready and I’ll be the first customer.

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

Professional: Hired an up and coming Tik Tok star to make an ad for us – she totally killed it, and it feels much more genuine and authentic than a more traditional ad.
Personal: Takeout food from a Taiwanese restaurant. It was a long week.

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

Asana! I absolutely love it. It’s so great for keeping track of tasks, assigning responsibility and deadlines. Super useful.

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

The Mom Test.” It’s an awesome book that explains how to validate ideas without external bias. Talking to customers is crucial for the growth of a business and yet it’s very easy to screw up and hard to do right.

What is your favorite quote?

A friend said to me recently, “Success comes to those who keep going.” At times where I was feeling down or received bad news, this quote picks me back up and reminds me that this is all part of the process.

Key Learnings:

  • It is so easy to get sidetracked with the sheer amount of work there is to do in one day, along with getting bombarded by messages and emails. Take time at the very beginning of the day to set realistic goals about what needs to be achieved.
  • Set a cutoff time! Working crazy late into the night will only leave you burned out the next day. That last email can be sent tomorrow. Take time for yourself and take care of your mental health.
  • Not making a decision is a decision on its own. Talk to experts, stick to your gut, and in the end if it’s the wrong decision, you’ll course correct. Trust your ability to make a decision and also to make things right if it doesn’t turn out the way you wanted it to.