Being of service does not have to look a certain way. Find the way that works for you.
Kate Glantz has always been driven to serve. “I wonder if [my sense of service] comes from my culture,” Kate ponders. “I’m Jewish, and there is a deep tradition of service, Tzedakah. I’m not religious, but it was always there. I don’t know if that’s what’s influenced my drive towards service.
“I have always been on this mission, and it’s allowed me to say yes to jobs and opportunities that are so seemingly random on paper. But when you’re pretty clear-headed about what you’re trying to do in your life, it makes a lot of sense.”
This desire to be of service has taken her career in interesting directions. “If you see my LinkedIn profile, you will probably have questions about what I thought when I did this, that, or the other,” Kate says. “But service was always the through-line.”
She spent time in the Peace Corps and government service. “I didn’t know that I could be an entrepreneur. I had these parameters on what my education and experience allowed me to do.
“I thought you go and work for a nonprofit, or you go into the government, and that’s how you contribute. You color in the lines, and you do what your boss tells you, and you nudge the ball forward every day. That is not compatible with my true self.”
Appalled by the Status Quo
During her time with the Peace Corps, Kate was struck by an idea. “I was building latrines at the primary school where I lived. I remember sitting in an internet cafe, trying to navigate my budget for how much cement costs that week.
While I was there, I got a wedding registry from a girlfriend at Macy’s. It was all the traditional household things. And I just remember thinking, yeah, How great would it be if I could have a wedding registry for toilets? These puppies would be funded in a week.”
She had the idea for one of the first charitable wedding registries.
It was a seed of an idea, but she says, “I didn’t know that I could be an entrepreneur.”
She put the idea away and moved on to government service. “I found that while I was doing what I was supposed to be doing, I was so demoralized and so miserable. I was not aligned.”
That’s when her idea for a charitable wedding registry came up again. “I realized that I’m young. I don’t have many obligations. When else will I have an opportunity to dive off the deep end and just try and to create something from nothing? And that’s what I did.”
How to Start a Startup
“I knew nothing about startups, tech, and entrepreneurship. I literally Googled how to start a startup.” Kate found a startup weekend, a three-day competition to build and pitch a product.
“We won the whole thing. That was the validation I needed to put my head down and see if I could figure this out.
“I was not at the place to quit my job. I was in my mid-twenties. I was month to month on rent and basic needs. I didn’t have the safety net to go full-time. But it didn’t stop me. And so nights, weekends, on my commute to work, or in the shower. I was always scheming and dreaming.
“I build an MVP (Minimum Viable Product). I got my first couple of customers. There was no backend to the tech side. I pretended it was a white-glove service. I would ask people what causes matter to them and who they were as a couple. I would build a profile of a registry that they would resonate with and want to support
“Little did they know that I had three nonprofits doing favors for me. I would put together a little PDF and send it to them based on what we talked about, even though I only had three options. That’s how I built my first several customers. That gave me enough validation and traction to ultimately take it full time.”
Unfortunately, the business model was not sustainable, and Kate eventually shut down her venture.
Be True to Your Purpose
Kate learned some critical lessons from her startup. “It’s only failure if you quit. By quit, I don’t mean your startup doesn’t work, and you move on. I mean, you walk away from your purpose or your mission.
“I learned how to be a CEO. I learned how to make something from nothing. I learned what resonated with me and what didn’t. And I learned that financial models are actually very important.”
After shutting down her venture, Kate was offered an opportunity to work with Lyft. She brought her lessons with her.
“I was able to take this power of storytelling and this connection to people. My mandate was very broad. It was to get drivers to keep driving with Lyft.
“I had a wonderful manager who said, ‘Just figure it out and let me know how it goes.’ And I took that as, I’m going to build a social impact strategy that makes people feel really connected to our brand.
“Within 30 days of starting as a marketing manager for the Mid-Atlantic, I had built the company’s first social impact marketing strategy. After about a year and a half, they made a new job for me. I got to bring those lessons to bear on the whole company.
“I could let the creativity rip and see what I can do in a way that the government – it’s very hard to have that level of autonomy. And in a startup, t’s very hard to have that level of resourcing. Lyft was really that first time where it all kind of came together. Lyft is a phenomenal company and a great example of doing social impact in a thoughtful way.”
Kate moved on todo important work at the US Chamber of Commerce, and in 2020, Luma Pictures called.
Luma Legacy: A Fairer, Kinder World
“Luma Legacy is a segment within Luma,” Kate explains. “It’s a magical creative studio that’s been in the world for about 20 years. The bread and butter of the business is making movie magic – so visual effects. Luma Pictures makes superheroes fly, creates new worlds and realities, and all of the really fun stuff that keeps us entertained and dreaming big.
“Luma also has a venture capital arm that makes early-stage investments in companies and founders changing the world with really an investment thesis around future of healthcare, future of work or future of food, and the like.
“And the Luma Features is our newest division that’s actually making movies from the ground up. It’s all centered around the goal of creating imaginative, emotionally rich stories that other studios or financiers just might not take the risk on. But these are stories that need to be in the world from voices that aren’t always heard.
“And then finally, Luma Legacy is that the segment of Luma that I was brought in to help figure out. And the mandate, the very broad, bold, ambitious mandate is to help create a fairer kinder world for everyone.”
A Company Built on Compassion and Empathy
“Facing any of these existential threats that are imminent, be it climate change or things we don’t even know about yet without a certain sort of adherence to participating in the social fabric of what makes us human through compassion and empathy – we’re kind of screwed.
“We’re really looking at this work is by grouping underlying root causes to some of society’s greatest problems. So, we talk about it sometimes as rather than taking medicine for a sniffly nose or itchy eyes, what’s actually making you sick?
“There are a number of underlying causes that have driven this heightened state of polarization and intensified prejudice. But two that we’re looking at are apathy and intolerance. When you flip those, you’re looking at empathy and participation, and tolerance
“That has helped us create these three pillars, which are:
- Building bridges across America.
- Catalyzing civic participation.
- Promoting equity and justice, specifically the people and policies that are helping to solidify equity and justice under the law.
“Behavior change is a really important component. If you are inspired, educated, or moved, it’s not sufficient to then walk away and make a sandwich and go back to life. There needs to be a clear call to action.
“At that very high level, our goal is to influence outcomes at the ballot box so that we can create a truly equitable and representative democracy.”
Luma Legacy’s Theory of Change
Luma Legacy is creating all sorts of media. “It’s going to be what it needs to be to meet people where they are, where they gather, where they play, where they scroll.
“And so our theory of change is essentially trying to shift conversations in the culture at the level where pop culture happens. And that’s in various segments of entertainment and arts. So music, arts, gaming, food – where people are is where we’ll be. And each initiative might have a different audience and a different medium, but the goal will always be consistent with those pillars that I shared.”