The Real Version Of The Incredibles: Interview With Emily Holdman, Co-founder Of The Remarkables


If ever there’s a run on the inspiration market, smart money will go to The Remarkables organization. Brilliant, generous people with diverse skills and experience, eager to connect to communities and enliven our most pressing discussions – what’s not to love? Taking advantage of video-streaming technology, The Remarkables seek to provide affordable access to, well, remarkable people. These individuals are the real deal superheroes. Co-founder Emily Holdman shares more of an invigorating vision:


Why did you become an entrepreneur?

I was working in the advertising industry and continuously saw glaring problems that needed to be addressed. So, I started working on a few with peers as side projects first, and eventually found my time being spent primarily on side projects, rather than client work. That’s when I started to identify what keeps my attention, and began to organize my career to focus more intentionally on solving problems about which I am passionate.





What inspired your current startup?

The Remarkables was inspired by a combination of three things:

  1. Preventing or Addressing Narrow Thinking: Groupthink is a debilitating condition. I’ve always been passionate about constantly exposing myself and my teams to new ideas or points of views, regardless of whether we agree, to help understand a subject holistically and understand it a fully as possible.
  2. Understanding the Impact of Globalization: If you actually sit down to consider all the possibilities and ramifications globalization has had and will continue to have in virtually all aspects of the economy and society at large, it’s worth a significant investment of time and discussion on how globalization may effect your business, clients or children’s education.
  3. Democratizing Access to People: Earlier in my career, I had the opportunity to work with “celebrities” and other high-profile individuals, whom the average person rarely has the opportunity to encounter. Additionally, the resource expense of overcoming geographic barriers between people seems to be unnecessary at this point in time. Technology allows us to connect people where they are – saving the planet, reducing costs and providing a platform that encourages two-way dialogue, rather than one-way dissemination.


What makes your startup so killer?

The Remarkables uses technology to connect communities with uncommon people, challenging perspectives and experts. The categories represented by Remarkables range from Big Data to Injustice to Nutrition, but are all complex topics affecting large populations around the world, and thus, worthy of consideration and discussion.


There are other organizations that can connect your team with an expert, but by leveraging video-streaming technology to make that connection, we make the interaction visual, in real-time, and a completely unique experience for your group. All connections take the form of a private Q&A, so your team is able to lead the discussion in the facets of a subject that most interest you; it’s not a one-way or recorded lecture.


Our primary focus is to provide access to uncommon people that can spark internal discussions on relevant topics inside of an organization in a sustainable and affordable way. We work with teams to design series, some of which are designed to dig into multiple perspectives on one topic, while others expose a team to new ideas in each monthly or quarterly meeting. We’re also working with schools and universities to augment existing curriculum with individuals who can relate concepts to current events and careers.


The potential opportunities in this space are seemingly endless, so there’s definitely more to come!


How do you motivate yourself and your team?

Well, we’re nerds, so we get excited about information. The best example is the absolute fascination we have when we interview a potential Remarkable who genuinely educates us on a side of an issue we may not have previously understood or been exposed to before.





If the Internet didn’t exist, what would you be doing?

It’s a good question since all of my endeavors have involved the Internet, but I would have to say that I’d still be trying to create ways for people, cultures and industries to better educate and communicate with each other in sustainable and meaningful ways.


What advice do you have for entrepreneurs who are struggling to get their businesses off the ground?

Make sure you’re truly solving a problem. If you are, then continue to push with passion and conviction and try to mobilize a community to aid in building your efforts.


What has been the biggest startup surprise for you (good or bad)? Have you had any incredible / funny / challenging experiences that you can share with us?

Just because of my personal beliefs, the first few times I heard some form of the following statement from senior executives in major corporations, I was fairly shocked: “We don’t really invest in our people. They are here to do a job and that job description is already defined. It’s a poor use of time and resources to have them think about the future of the company, topics impacting our client base / product / market, their personal health, our company’s definition of our values, etc.”





If that’s the opinion of your organization, I’m respect your self-awareness and priorities, but The Remarkables probably won’t be a valuable resource to such a team.


How do you handle frustration or disappointment?

For day-to-day grind-oriented struggles, I used to run a lot, but lately I’ve been trying CrossFit. Each gym is run by entrepreneurs with a passion for fitness, which means that they’re inherently “my people,” and by the end of the workout, I’ve conquered so many things that sound insane on paper that I can get over any disappointment.


For disappointments or frustrations that need to be analyzed or discussed through and not just shaken off, I usually turn to red wine and pretzel balls with a close adviser / friend.


What are the top 3 online tools / websites / devices that you couldn’t live without? (And why?)

  1. Twitter – I use it as my primary news source.
  2. YouTube – The power and influence of YouTube cannot be explained in this response, but I personally use it as a tool to discover new people and ideas, however amateur in their presentation. Professionally, it’s an irreplaceable discovery and dissemination tool for us, especially given its privacy settings (all of our direct engagements are private).
  3. Online CRMs – I have no idea how teams collaborated without such a system!


If you had $1 million and one year off, what would you do? (Other than work on your current startup)

I have no idea why I would take a year off of my life, but in theory…


I’d probably spend the first half of the year organizing a series of encounters with three types of people around the world: wise (old) people, children, and people who have managed to create a sustainable career for themselves and possibly provide jobs for others in their community, despite a lack of education or in spite of a rigid education system. I think all three types of people can contribute different, yet equally valuable perspectives on what the future of education and strategies for job creation should be – a problem on which I’d like to at least contribute to dialogue at some point.


I’d spend the second half of the year in an apprenticeship of some kind, working my butt off for free for an organization or group of organizations addressing issues about which I’m passionate and that consent to having me help / teaching me.





And then I’d give the leftover money to people on Kiva, IndieGoGo and Kickstarter.


How do you maintain work / life balance?

At this point in my life, I do what is meaningful to me as much of the time as possible. This involves a lot of professional activities – because I enjoy what I do, but also means that I sometimes take a long lunch to go home and sit in the backyard with my dogs on a beautiful Wednesday afternoon. It’s not a perfect system, but I’m pretty content right now and I think that true balance, especially if judged by quantity of time, is unachievable in an unpredictable world.


Who would play you in the movie of your life, and what would be the theme song?

Hopefully, a passionate, aspiring actress would play me in a movie – and maybe that would be her big break.


The theme song would have to be a mashup, like Girl Talk-style, because my life is an eclectic set of elements… Someone would probably need to mashup some Memphis jazz from Beale St., James Taylor, Lil’ Wayne, Fiona Apple, The Doobie Brothers, Amos Lee, George Winston, Afrojack & The Partysquad, and a little Justin Timberlake. Good luck to the person who can do that!


How has being an entrepreneur changed you for the better? How has it enriched your life?

Being an entrepreneur has made me more self-aware and empathetic. I was always fairly confident (some may say over-confident…) and entrepreneurship continues to force me to learn the lesson many times over that even when you have the best of intentions and as much strategic foresight as you can muster, you will be wrong at some point. It’s humbling.


Entrepreneurship has also given me clarity in purpose. I’ve always been curious about a variety of subjects and easily became excited about each new idea. While I still consume information on a ton of topics, I’ve tried to prioritize more clearly how I should spend my time, based on what I want to achieve. I’m sure those ambitions will continue to evolve, but focus has made me more strategic in my moves and a more enjoyable person to be around (I think).


Finally, if I woke up one morning and found myself saying, “I hate my job,” I would have no one to blame but myself. So I make sure I have a good time!


What is the tech scene like where you live?

The tech scene in Columbia, Missouri, is thriving because it is not disassociated from other sectors of the economy. Scientists are working with programmers, who are working with designers, who are working with journalists. It’s an incredible ecosystem supported by the City, the University of Missouri and area professionals and organizations. Columbia has a successful history of entrepreneurship, including Influence & Co.,, Veterans United, Zapier and more.





Where can our readers find you?

On LinkedIn and Twitter.


How can the KillerStartups community help YOU?

The KillerStartups community can help The Remarkables by:

1. Telling us additional types of subjects or areas to which you think we should expose teams and student groups.

2. Support our CGI U commitment by sponsoring an engagement, bringing awareness to student or young entrepreneurial groups you think may benefit from connecting with Remarkables or getting involved directly in some way.

3. Talk with us about how your team would best benefit from The Remarkables. Even if it’s not something we currently do, we are always looking for additional feedback!


The Remarkables recently made a commitment to the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI). Can you explain your commitment?

At the April 2013 CGI University meeting, The Remarkables committed to connecting groups of students and young entrepreneurs with entrepreneurial Remarkables to discuss problem solving and career design. Our intent is to help spark dialogue within these groups about how to constructively plan careers that solve real problems and create jobs, regardless of whether they plan to launch something on their own or work inside a larger organization.


We’re currently organizing connections with student groups and schools at the middle school, high school and university level, as well as young entrepreneurial groups that are a part of community organizations, business incubators and accelerators and other related groups.


Building on the successful model of the Clinton Global Initiative, President Clinton hosts the CGI U meeting each year for students and youth organizations to create innovative solutions to some of the world’s most pressing challenges.


Photo Credits

Courtesy of startup founder | The Remarkables