The immediate success of a product is always highlighted, but we often forget to mention the time spent hustling to get there. This is especially true in the post-pandemic world, where our lives took an immediate pivot in 2020 and many unique products have been developed as a result. How did a former political campaign creative develop a first-to-market tech product? In this episode, Product Talk host and ALTR Product Lead, Neha Shah, interviews VODIUM Co-founder Camille Padilla who shares her nonlinear path and unique experiences that led her to build a tech startup.
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On the Nonlinear Path to a Successful Startup
Camille started as an athlete and broadcast journalist and took a big pivotal leap into building a tech startup.
“I went to school for broadcast journalism because it was something that I could do with my voice. I can entertain, I can bring people in, and I’m a very curious person. Right after college, I was in a funk of depression fog. I didn’t want to leave Chicago to go to a middle-of-nowhere market. So I hopped on a political campaign.”
She eventually made her way to Washington, D.C. After a few years, she began to look for her next challenge. To express her creative side, she worked at a small creative firm that worked with politicians and executives, eventually becoming the vice president.
Camille was itching for a new creative outlet and discovered this tech idea that could help the politicians and executives she worked with.
“There’s nothing more intimidating than getting in front of a camera and not really knowing how you’re going to come across. Imagine that with me and advertising, I’m dealing with constituents all across the country; their voice, and their face are going to make or break and help momentum in a campaign. And you just don’t know how you come across until you can actually see your own video. …
“VODIUM helps people be a lot more intentional about their connection on video.”
On Building a Great Tech Idea Without a Tech Background
Camilla saw a pain point in the difference between giving a speech at a podium and giving one virtually.
“When the pandemic happened, I was already in the 2020 election. When it happened, I found that there was a huge, pivotal pain point. Never in my life have I felt more ready to build something because I felt as if it was me being a creative trying to bring something to life versus me taking a step back and realizing that I was going to build a whole new company in business.”
Working on a shoestring budget, Camille and her co-founder Mary Mellor built and marketed their startup that brought in politicians and executives who still had meetings to run and speeches to give, albeit virtually.
“In the beginning, it was just Mary and I self-funding at all. When it comes down to connections and my pivot into the tech world, and building something that was very technical, I didn’t have those connections. I didn’t have developers in my back pocket. We found someone who literally built our MVP and website for $5,000. If you’re from a technical background, you know that that’s not really going to be the best-built product in terms of the backend, the infrastructure, and how it’s going to protect the user. But it was our MVP.
“So we have 50 individuals through word of mouth: members of Congress, executives from the New York Times. That’s when we realized we had something here. Ever since then, we’ve been conducting research with users and rebuilding our product. Before our seven-figure seed round, we raised $250,000 so we could just prove to ourselves that we could fully operationalize this company.”
On Inspiration for Great Startup Ideas
Camille digs deeper into why she created VODIUM, sharing with Neha how she came to solve this virtual pain point with her startup.
“Every great idea comes from inspiration from something else. VODIUM, at its core, is inspired by a teleprompter. If anyone’s familiar with a teleprompter, when someone looks at you through the television screen, whether it’s President Biden, President Trump, President Obama, all of our presidents since the technology was integrated into our systems, that’s not memorized. That is through a teleprompter.
“They’re looking right into a video camera that’s of great quality, and within the glass is their projected speech or the notes that they need to relay. I was already working with political individuals of high stature that I knew that once they were in video form, in their home offices, these individuals would not feel that high that they would when gripping an actual podium.”
About the speaker
About the host
My experience covers the trifecta of B2B Product Management, Sales, and Marketing. I also co-founded a B2C startup focused on family and education technology. I believe technology can be a creative and powerful driving force for change, and am passionate about building products that improve every day experiences.