Many say that you have to fail a million times before you can succeed. But some people hit that winning combination of passion and vision so early on that they don't even need to fail. Paris-based Romain Colin is one of these. At only 30 years-old, he commands one of the most influential curated design platform on the web: Fubiz. Started as a passion project, the website-turned-media company just unleashed a powerful new version that involves organically curated content to suit your tastes, an e-commerce platform and a sleek new design. And that's just the tip of the iceberg: Romain has a lot on his mind right now.
A few days before the launch, we caught up with this young visionary to pick his extremely fast-paced brains on his story, his vision, and the future of online publishing.
"I started Fubiz as a side-project back when I was studying communications, 10 years ago. I thought I was going to work in the advertising industry or in an agency, or to end up an editor-in-chief. I’ll do this and that, and 2 years later I’ll be promoted, and 3 years I’ll do that.
I had no idea of what I was created. I often say I was at the right place at the right time. I knew I had the singular ability to find the most beautiful and interesting things. There were no curating platforms back then, except from YouTube, Vimeo or Dailymotion which were just emerging; there was no Tumblr, no Facebook, no Pinterest, no Twitter. Today, there are hundreds. We’ve gone back to an era of recommendations: what does your friend think, Pitchfork reviews, advice from The Verge, album ratings on Hypetrak… So I was curious about one vertical, and then I moved on to another. I learned by doing."
The evolution of publishing
"I aim to do content that is fresh, trendy and in-depth, but without talking to the small niche of people who get Canon 5Ds, slow-motion, GoPros and drones. I try to bring specialized content to the masses, and vice versa. It’s tricky sometimes – the web and the online content of 10 years ago are totally different from the ones of today – but I strive to maintain this same direction when dealing with brands, even when they don’t have the same likability as Nike or Coca Cola.
A few years ago, we constantly wondered “What can we do to ensure that we remain the cool guys with our media, that we’re still as widely read by our community and that we bring it something precious?” Our contents are less and less precious, seeing as they’re everywhere. So how can we push it further today? I’m trying to find my new singularity. Maybe it lies in my relation to brands, or in my way of packaging content. We’re going to transform our editorial content drastically: short stories will be improved, and we’ll had very long ones, around 30k-40k signs. [ed.note: The new version of Fubiz launched a few days ago, and it is gorgeous!] But we’re still keeping our website visual, with more animated images, and more viral is possible - viral is not a bad word. I want to follow consumer habits as closely as possible. Should I use Push notifications with my iPhone app? Should I develop service-based apps, such as Uber? I believe the services that we use have a lot of influence on shaping our media.
What motivates me everyday is the transformation of my media and my will to make it even better than the previous day. Staying one step ahead. I like the idea of people thinking that I’m still in the starting blocks when I’m already a couple stages forward - they just can’t see that yet. Sometimes it’s complicated, because there’s only so much time, and while you’re waiting for 8 months to have something ready, other people aren’t waiting, and they might be putting better things out there than you would."
Evolving as a business owner
"For 10 years, I’ve been serious and rational in my decision process. I’m starting to take more risks, to delegate, to surround myself with more people. The end goal is to one day transform what I’m doing into something that is not only my own vision but that belongs to other people. It’s already the case with activations for alcohol brands where we invite 900 people. But then, who’s better shaped than I am to talk about my media? I don’t have the answer. What I know for sure is that, in the future, I’d like for it to be incarnated by several faces, not only mine. Right now, I’m seeking talents who will do things differently, who will challenge the status quo, who will dare being in the opposition.
It just so happens that I don’t have as much time on my hands as I had 10 years ago. Both my professional and personal life are overloaded, I can’t no longer be the one to decide if I prefer red or blue, a square or a circle. I have many other places where I can intervene: in my relationships with brands, in my personal stuff. In my spare time, I advise musical acts on their videos and who they surround themselves with for their promotional material; I enjoy that role. It allows me to speak my mind. It’s also nice not to think about my media all the time. Right now I’m busy managing it and accelerating its growth: the new version of Fubiz is launching next week [Ed.note: yup, it launched!], we’ve been working at it for 8 months. I can’t be handling the curation every day - I have to focus more on the product."
The downsides of being passionate with what you do
"I keep in close touch with what’s happening. Where will the next hot venue be? I’m passionate with locations, whether they’re used for brand events or concerts. The scenography, the lighting, the decor. I might be passionate, I can’t manage to disconnect from my critical sense. Some people don’t care and live in the moment – I’m constantly analyzing what I’m feeling, do I like it or not.
Being a business owner with employees, I can’t unplug. Whenever I try to relax, it soothes me but I feel guilty of kicking back in a way. My position isn’t a smooth one. So I surround myself with other business owners and I try to take in them advice. A lot of my decisions come from this struggle between my personal and professional lives. My professional responsibilities don’t allow me to do what I please in the nights and evenings; I have to be selective. When I was 20, I was motivated by being granted access to these exceptional places, to these exceptional people – that was my ego thinking, maybe. Nowadays, I rationalize more: what will it add to my business, what will it bring me as a person, is it a waste of time?
Sometimes I wish I was on the other side of the fence. In the arts, for example, as a director or something. I believe a change of direction is possible, a bridge between my current career and my future one. It’s really important for me to start defining today tomorrow’s job. I’m a Slasher; I can definitely say that. I belong to this generation who strives to have several careers in one life."