Sometimes when you let life happen great things are in-store for you. Alex Serio, the Executive Creative Director of soon-to-be online video viewing platform, Nameless, started out her adult life with dreams of becoming a neurosurgeon. Fast forward a few years and she's studied the water in the Panama Canal, helped Vice start up it's music counterpart, and is now about to launch something that is going to change our online viewing experience.
Do you remember your first week in New York?
I do. I was living in Panama and I was doing a water study of the Panama Canal. I didn’t know what to do as a young kid right out of school, so I was applying to jobs and thinking of places I wanted to live. San Francisco, Toronto or New York.
I got an interview in New York. So I flew up for four days and I was spending the weekend at an ex-boyfriend’s house. I ended up getting the job. It was the first interview I went on.
I moved to New York with a suitcase and my parents’ bought me a bed. It was a complete culture shock going from Panama to New York City.
How long were you in Panama?
I was there a little over a year. I remember I moved to New York on July 3rd 2007 and it rained every day that week. It was super hot and I was completely ill equipped. I remember coming to work completely soaked.
I was doing market research and I absolutely hated it. I lasted about eight months there. I couldn’t do it anymore.
Do you have a background in science?
I have a degree in neurobiology. After that first job in New York I started doing freelance copywriting. I made a living doing that for about two years and I was also project managing at various creative agencies.
I started a music blog around 2008 as a hobby. It grew into something that I really enjoyed. Going to all those shows and getting them comped ... it really subsidized the budget for my music consumption. The blog grew and we ended up getting pretty high profile interviews. We interviewed Yoko Ono…
And this is all from a blog that you started on your own?
Yeah, it was great. I really wanted to move more into entertainment marketing. That’s when the Vice opportunity presented itself to me.
Vice was launching a music vertical called Noisey and they didn’t have a digital marketing person. I was thrown into that position as a 26-year-old and it was the best learning experience I could have asked for.
I was at Vice for two and a half years, working on and off Noisey for various projects in the digital marketing, content development realm. At that time you could wear every hat in the building. [Laughs] It was tremendously useful and taught me how to talk-the-talk and walk-the-walk.
At that time in 2011, when I started, we were really establishing the monetary value of a brand impression. All of that stuff was such wet cement. It was really fortuitous that I was there at that time. It was such a gift.
Then I went to on to two other companies. I was at Superfly, who were the brains behind Bonnaroo Music Festival, and Outside Lands, they have a creative agency as well and they work for everyone in the business, from Target to AT&T, doing experiential marketing.
After that I worked for SFX, they owned Beatport, which was basically a music store. It launched the same time as iTunes. They wanted to pivot and make the store much more of a consumer facing editorial site. I did all the content strategy, video and editorial for them.
The Vice experience was all incoming information. It was like “I’ve never done this before. This is great!” The Superfly thing was fantastic and I learned so much about experiential design, how you build a team around it and execute. By the time I got to SFX I was like, “I know how to do this.”
My dad had always been pestering me to start my own business but I hadn’t felt ready until very recently. I felt like I had the wherewithal and the knowledge to kind of field anything that came my way.
My partner and I came up with the idea of NYCTV in October last year. We had made a short film and didn’t have anywhere to distribute it. We thought about the Huffington Post, we thought about Laughing Squid but there’s was nothing really that spoke to the New York metropolitan area and the people that would understand this short film that would house in perpetuity.
We were like "public access is such a great idea". Anyone could have a show. The cream always rises in any scenario. That’s the idea of how NYCTV came about.
We launched in June of this year. We’ve been going about four months now with a distributed media model and entertainment content, which just means we publish the videos to places that people already go, Facebook, Twitter, in some cases Instagram, definitely YouTube. You’re bringing content to places that already exist where people are watching content.
Everybody is like, “Oh you’ll probably have a proprietary tech element that will come out of everything that you do.” A need basically, that’s how proprietary tech usually presents itself and we do, we’re re-launching NYCTV as an entity called Nameless in November with a proprietary tech element on the backend and a consumer offering that kind of solves the issue of choice.
You go to Netflix and spend about 45 minutes just deciding what you’re going to watch. Netflix has enough content that if you watched every title back-to-back it would be six years of content. We’re at a place where on-demand content is readily available, so the question becomes not so much how and when you’re watching but it’s really what you’re watching.
Nameless is a live programming block, so you’ll come to the site and there will be something for you on the homepage, a hodge podge of things that we think are great. You can watch it on demand, you can affect the live viewing experience, kind of like Prime Time, but then you can search below the fold by category. Interests such as cooking, music, politics etc. and it kind of aggregates “the best of the web” for entertainment purposes or in some cases, news purposes, based on what’s going on. It solves the problem of consumer choice.
You’re coming to us for the viewing experience and knowing that we’ll find stuff that you like.
Does it have a New York element to it?
We will have verticals. It’ll be New York, it’ll be LA, Paris, Berlin, but it will be much more language focused.
How are you going to get it “out there”?
I think we’re just going to let it grow organically. We’ll have a soft launch so we won’t do any press for it.
How do you feel after your dad’s been pestering you for so long to start your own business?
I’m so happy that I started this business. At the end of the day they’re all my decisions and that’s great because I work best when I have all the responsibility..
Is that not terrifying?
I’m not terrified. You just can’t put too much pressure on yourself with a new business. You roll with the punches, make adjustments as necessary.
When you went to college for neurobiology, what did you have in mind for your future?
I was going to go to medical school. 100%. Then I dated a man that was going through his neurosurgical residency and it was just really taxing. I think medicine is one of the best positions that you can have in the civil service. You’re there for the greater good of someone else. You’re a mechanic for the body. But it just seemed like a lot of red tape to affect a change and a lot of studying. I still think about going back to medicine potentially.
Why did you want to be in New York?
I think people end up in New York because they don’t feel like they belong anywhere else. It’s such a magnet for the world. If you can’t get something in New York City, it’s probably really hard to get it anywhere else.
I know I was always drawn here. I lived here for a summer when my dad was working here and I swore I’d be back.
How do you like living in Bushwick?
I love Bushwick.
Do you have any favorite bars in the area?
El Cortez just opened and they do a really nice job. I also like The Narrows for a quick drink. I love Bushwick's Living Room, it’s my favorite place to go on a Saturday or Sunday by myself for breakfast.
What’s the best piece of advice you could give?
I would say the biggest piece of advice I could give anyone starting their own business is to look at it as a privilege. The privilege that you get to create something, it’s all yours, and that you’re able to really put your mark on something.
There is so much stress and so much pressure from everyone from investors, to stakeholders, to your parents and your partner. Really look at it through the lens of, “This is an honor and a privilege that I get to do this.” And it makes the day go by so much faster with love in your heart and a smile on your face as opposed to angina. [Laughs]
What is your favorite place to take out-of-towners?
I’m a creature of habit and I like to stay close to home so I really like Montana’s in Bushwick. It’s great atmosphere and good food.
Roberta’s is great. You gotta stop by Roberta’s for some pizza when anyone’s here.
Have you had a favorite New York moment since you’ve lived here?
It’s my boyfriend and our first kiss. I thought we were on a friendly date. We were out late and walking down the street about to part ways. We weren’t dating yet but we had just been to see Sleep No More and he still had the mask on and he just grabbed me and pushed me up against a minivan and made out with me.
There was a full moon that night and he said the moon made him do it and I was like, “Whoa that is brave dude!”
So that was a really good New York moment. That left me very weak at the knees.
Guys do not usually have the balls to do something like that.
Yeah, guys don’t usually have the gumption and I’ve been told that I’m scary for whatever reason. So that was surely brave of him. Great move. [Laughs]
What does New York mean to you?
New York is the most special city in the world I think. Just because you’ve got Yemeni Jews living next Arabs, you’ve got Taiwanese and Chinese… everyone’s living side-by-side. You’re doing your job and you live in America.
I think everyone views it as a privilege and an honor to be here and all differences are set aside and you’re American. It’s the fully realized American dream in New York City just because of the melting pot of cultures.
That’s kind of what it means to me, and that’s why creativity and a myriad of other things flourish here. Just because there are no rules here and you’re going to be really close to somebody on the subway so make the most of it.