Canadian Creatives | Neil Martin of Clayza: Cataloguing the World’s Creativity

On the first episode of Canadian Creatives, we interview Neil Martin, co-founder of Clayza and Project: Spaces, based in Toronto, Ontario.

A detailed interview with Neil is available below as a supplement to the video.

D: Can you give us a little bit of your background, where did you start, how did you end up in Toronto and how did you end up working for Clayza?

N: I grew up in Ottawa, and I was always into doing lots of creative things. I’ve studied music, arts, and acting as a kid. I ended up going to Queens University majoring in film studies, and I just kind of always love working with other creative people, and towards the end of university, I ended up founding an arts’ magazine, we were called Arts and Ideas magazine, that we ended up spreading across Canada, becoming Canada’s largest university magazine. So right after school I started working with creative people, publishing their work, I found that really interesting. That was a few years ago. About two years ago, I ended up moving to Toronto, to try to, still working on the magazine, I wanted to keep expanding to that, but running a print magazine is very expensive, so we ended up shutting that down. But I had this love for working with creative people, helping them promote what they were doing, so around that same time we opened up a coworking space, called Project: RHINO and we have been running that for the last two years or so, and from running that coworking space, we learned a lot about, not just creative people, but creative professionals. I have always been the type of people who strongly believes you should do what you love. But doing what you love and making a living doing what you love are two very different things, and I hate that, the idea of the starving artist, I would love to kill that. But that was how we got to Clayza, looking at how people in our space, like freelance designers, web developers, filmmakers, and that kind of stuff, and looking at the unique challenges the creative professionals face and we started to think about ways to solve those problems, and Clayza was the child of that.

D: What exactly is Clayza and what does it do?

N: Clayza is a professional website for people in creative industries. A quick easy way to think about it is think about Linkedin. and what is Linkedin in the white-collared corporate world. It’s a place where you can connect with your peers, and you get to say what work you have done, and your experience and essentially connect with work opportunity. One of the reasons why it’s so hard for creative professionals or largely creative freelancers make their living is because creative industries are very fragmented. The first thing we are trying to do with Clayza is that we call it cataloguing in creativity, so it really comes down to taking creative projects. We are starting by taking these projects, mapping out who worked on them, and what skills they brought to those projects. We are keeping it really simple now, and we are creating a very easy to use platform that allows you to upload your creative projects, credit the people you have worked with, and what skills they had brought to that project.

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D: What is one of your favorite pieces in Clayza?

N: I get really excited when I see collaboration on Clayza that I don’t expect to see, or when you see types of people collaborating you don’t see everyday. For example, there was a project uploaded recently where a guy had done some really cool typographic images, where he took phrases and designed them to look super bad-ass, then his friend used a 3D printer to take those pictures and turn them into real life renderings of them. That project is on Clayza now, and what’s cool is that before Clayza, that project would have ended. Clayza is a place where that project can live forever. This project now lives on Clayza, they have been able to credit who did what on that project, and now that is part of their portfolio.

D: Why is showcasing creativity, quality, design, and art so Important to you?

N: I’ve always loved creativity, I’ve never prided myself particularly talented in anyone of creative thing. I’ve played music, I’ve done some arts, I’ve done some acting, things like that in the past. I’m better at working with creative people than I am at being one. So the first business we had, which was the magazine, we were looking for ways to promote what creative people were doing, and offer them tools that make what they do easier, I find that to be what I’m best at. So, when is comes to Clayza, it’s really about how I would love to see a world where people are making a living by doing the creative things they love, and not worry about things like ‘How am I going to eat, or pay my rent?’. We are just getting started with Clayza, but that’s really what drives us, we want to build tools to make that easier.

D: What are some of the challenges, in general, starting up a tech startup?

N: For us, it’s interesting because even though Clayza is a technology startup, we’re really not a technology company, we’re using technology to try to solve these problems creatives are facing. One of the first challenges we faced were how to figure out an effective way to standardize the presentation of creative work. So, right now, when people showcase their work online, they might do it on a niche platform so there are platforms for designers, platforms for actors, for film makers. A big challenge for us is that we need to create a place where whether you are a photographer, or a model, or a hair and makeup artist, or a wardrobe stylist, is instead of being on your own niche platform, is that you can come together on the same platform, and that was our first set of technical and design challenges we had to overcome, which was just an interesting challenge for us.

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D: Can you tell us about the name Clayza and how you got to it?

N: Coming up with the name Clayza was an interesting little journey for us. Naming your product is always a challenge and we wanted to come up with something that could speak to creativity as fundamental sense as possible. At the time I wasn’t even sure what that meant, but because we were trying to build something that was as versatile enough for musicians, designers, and filmmakers, I didn’t want a name that would only speak to one industry in particular, which was a challenge, and I started to dig through Mythology, and stumbled on the idea of clay, which is really interesting because as it turns out that in ancient cultures have these narratives that humans are made from clay, and every culture gives their own spin on that story, but the idea of us coming from clay seems to be ubiquitous to the world. We thought that was a cool fundamental idea to base a platform around. But now a days, the four-letter, correctly spelled, dot com, clay.com, is incredibly hard to come by. We actually reached out to the people who owned that domain but they wanted a million bucks, and we knew that it wouldn’t work. But, we really liked the idea so we started brainstorming, thinking maybe we could put our own spin to it, and we ended up coming up with Clayza.

D: What is next for Clayza?

N: Right now, our mission is to catalogue creativity, and that means showcasing creative projects, tracking who worked on that project, and what skills they brought to it. I think once we can effectively do that, we can create a space where creative people want to be, and it’s cool and it’s easy to use. I think the next phase after that is to start solving some of the more complex problems. I like to call it the ‘Business of being creative’, because someone who is a creative freelancer is also a small business owner, but they probably not passionate about business, they’re passionate about design, or filmmaking, or whatever creative thing is that they love. So I think that’s what the future holds for Clayza. We have some ideas of some tools that we could build, some simple tools to help you, whether it’s quoting jobs, or, one of the pains that we have heard is that creative freelancers spend a lot of their time chasing paychecks, and that sucks when some of the project you work on aren’t that big, so you’re spending this time, chasing a few hundred dollar paychecks, and that sucks for you, so we want to start eliminating things that suck, basically.

D: Where can we find Clayza online?

N: Clayza.com, @ClayzaHQ and Facebook.com/ClayzaHQ

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