Member News April 26, 2013
Claire Wasserman, CEO / Cofounder at thumbprnt, started the company to build an interactive networking platform where one can network because that is what she is good at and that is what she can share with you! Everyone has a unique skill. Everyone has something unique to contribute. It’s also about things being at your fingertips and you didn’t even know. Find out what she did to find her own path, including producing an Academy Award-nominated short film!
ADC: How did you get involved in producing the Academy Award-nominated short film SNOVI? What did you learn from the experience?
Claire: In college, I meet someone in the film program. He had moved from Bosnia to America when he was thirteen [years old]. He had written a short narrative film influenced by his experiences.
I read his script, and I was very moved by it. I had to be involved and started to brainstorm with him about what his needs were and what I could do, and just started making it happen. Every time I stopped and thought, “Well, I don’t know how to do this,” I would find somebody who had.
During this time, I’m obviously not making any money from this, right? I have to live in New York. I had a series of jobs: working at a restaurant, and I worked in customer service at a wallpaper company. Believe it or not, I got fired from that last one…
So I get a job at a nonprofit called Chess-in-the-Schools. I’m in this world of development, and I learn from it. I find myself writing grants, and then, simultaneously, I’m still producing this Bosnian film.
Then, this film is happening. Now, this film is done, and I’m applying to film festivals, teaching myself how to make media kits. Then, I’m going to the film festivals. Then we’re nominated!
ADC: What else did you do before thumbprnt, and how did it lead to starting your own company?
Claire: During production of the film, my stepmother had met a guy on a plane named Brett Zaccardi, who ran a marketing company called Street Attack. I had gotten to know Brett, and he became a mentor to me.
I appealed to him and I said, “Brett, we’ve known each other for a year. You see what I’ve done. Can you hire me?” He made me wait a month before saying, “Yes.”
It was an unbelievable experience: I basically got to learn while being paid and created great things with a team. It was my school. After my time with Street Attack, I saw two roads in front of me: one that involved creating a resume and applying for jobs, and one that created something out of nothing.
I decided that I had to do the latter and moved out of New York because I couldn’t afford rent during this time, obviously. I called up my best friend whose name is Stephanie Louis. I had met Stephanie Louis at Chess-in-the-Schools. It all started there.
ADC: We notice a networking motif here…
I have made so many contacts from people whom I’ve met on planes and buses. It doesn’t have to be somebody you already know.
Claire: There was the common denominator in all of my experiences. It was the people around me. I’ve always believed in the power of two heads are better than one. I’ve met so many of my collaborators just on planes on buses. It doesn’t have to be somebody you already know, but the ability to just say, “On this bus, who is somebody I could team up with?”
ADC: How did network motivate you to start thumbprnt?
Claire: I’m also somebody who enjoys connecting people. There are so many “Super Connectors” in the city—those people that seem to know everyone.
Putting thumbprnt together, Stephanie and I wanted to turn that into a science. Mentorship component was key, but we also knew that we didn’t want to create a mentorship platform in the way it had been done. We didn’t want to create a charity program. We would rather create a community where “paying it forward”—basically connecting people and opportunities—is the glue of the network.
ADC: What do you have to offer that other social networks cannot?
Claire: First, a community. Also, I think that what we have to offer is a combination of stuff. We want to empower people to believe that their crazy creative ideas aren’t just feasible; it might be the very thing they need to do to launch their career.
Secondly, the ability that we’re giving people to tell their stories and its emphasis on their stories. It’s not about your work experience or about your portfolio, but it’s how both fit into the larger context of your personal story.
ADC: We see an emphasis in art and craft. How are you going to approach people who want to get creative but haven’t really had the experience or the chance yet?
Claire: That’s why we’re doing all these interviews. Somebody who’s never gotten started can browse thumbprnt as a sort of a resource and inspiration tool. They’re getting actual advice, which is great, but they’re also hearing that person talk about what sacrifices they’ve had to make, which can either give them a reality check or it can make them feel very inspired to do it.
ADC:What is your most significant sacrifice?
It’s not the success or failure of that venture but it’s the journey of it. That is enough, which is why you take the risk and you do it.
Claire: Yeah. Here’s the truth. I have lived without my own apartment for nearly a year. Thanks to the kindness of my friends and teammates, I’ve been crashing on couches.
When you get changed in a bathroom before a big event and everyone else got the luxury of their home, you have the most courage and passion in that room. That counts. That gave me so much ability to move forward knowing in my gut that I was doing the right thing.
Every entrepreneur—I think—feels the same way. It’s not the success or failure of that venture but it’s the journey of it. That is enough, which is why you take the risk and you do it.
Visit thumbprnt.com to be inspired to take that risk you’ve been dreaming of or share your own startup story. To connect with the ladies making it happen, follow thumbprnt on Tumblr, Twitter, and facebook.
Editor’s update: Claire is now working for ADC as our Marketing + Communications Manager!
If you’re a member and want to share your story, upcoming event or a new project, contact firstname.lastname@example.org more information!