By Porsha Monique
Kobi Wu is the founder and CEO of VisuWall Technologies, a platform where vacant storefront windows become smart eye-level media placements, delivering a new advertising channel and metrics that matter in just a few clicks. Wu is a former music industry executive and has 18 plus years of marketing and advertising experience. She’s worked with global companies producing customer experiences, brand strategies, content and media plans for Nike, Spotify, Smirnoff, Johnnie Walker, Ciroc Vodka, Google, JetBlue and a host of others. Before founding VisuWall, Wu was the SVP of Strategy and Creative for Combs Enterprises where she led strategy for the chairman’s portfolio of brands.
Rolling Out recently spoke with Wu to discuss VisuWall, her career path, her leadership style and much more.
How did you determine your career path?
My career path was inspired mostly by my personal interests, and these are not at all linear or singular. I get completely immersed with each subject during the various phases of my career. From architecture to the music business to the consumer experience, and now being the founder of VisuWall I have layered my career with creative insights and a diverse set of skills that give me a very unique perspective that works really well for me.
What inspires you to show up at work every day?
I love what I’ve created in VisuWall and I like to explore the new heights it will go. Working on the business every day fuels new ideas, new ways of working, and allows me to meet new people.
Please describe your role as CEO.
As CEO of VisuWall my role is to make sure the team has the tools they need to be successful (resources, answers and insights) and then get out of their way so that they can do their job. My role is to keep my eyes on the VisuWall North Star and make sure that the team keeps that vision top of mind in all that they do.
What is the mission of your organization?
VisuWall is a platform where vacant storefronts become smart eye-level media placements, delivering a new advertising channel and metrics that matter in just a few clicks. Our expertise with consumer experiences and care in bridging relationships with property owners provides transparency, efficiency and ROI with each and every placement.
Who or what motivates you and why?
My son is a big motivator for me. He was present when I first pitched the idea at the Entrepreneurs Challenge at NYU in 2015. He was with me when I stopped to take pictures of buildings I was interested in for the model. He heard me talking to my husband about throwing in the towel and said, “Ummmm. Momma you can’t quit. We’ve worked too hard. I’ve had to stand and watch you take too many pictures of buildings for you to quit now. This is our thing!” I appreciate that he sees me working and building something. He knows it hasn’t always been there and we have to work to keep it. So yeah, he motivates me.
What are the do’s and don’ts for young women in business?
• Do be yourself and consider how you want to be perceived.
• Do make sure you take your seat at the table – literally and figuratively. Show up and show up ready to be heard.
• Do make sure you are learned and coachable – it’s a delicate balance sometimes.
• Don’t forget to look around you and advocate for someone else you believe in whether they are senior to you, junior to you or standing next to you as a peer.
• Don’t let someone’s opinion of your idea sway you from putting it out there. Take a pause or pivot if you must, but keep pushing.
Name three successful female role models and explain why you admire them.
I really admire women in business who will take a beat to support other women in business. By that I mean women who will listen to someone’s story, help them work through a need, and maybe even go so far as to put their weight behind someone when they believe in something. Oprah, Michelle Obama or someone else in that stratosphere, are easy to mention, but I have been moved by some less obvious names – perhaps not household names- but names that carry their own [weight] on a lot of levels.
Morgan DeBaun, Founder & CEO of Blavity: When we met, we both came to the table cold, only knowing each other’s name and company accomplishments, but nothing about each other’s personal background. [We had] no friends in common, no jobs at the same place. But she came to the table knowing where I’ve been, what I’m working on and with a vision of how we can perhaps stay connected and work together. We listened to each other, laughed a bit and after an hour I walked away with the kind of ally who will advocate for me and VisuWall and vice versa. I also really, really enjoy Morgan’s instagram feed and appreciate how she’s living her best life.
Isa Watson, Founder & CEO Envest: Isa and I sat on a panel together at Columbia. At that point, I was pre-funded and working through what seemed like an eternity of building traction with no resources. Several months later we met for coffee and a pastry. She asked me about my investment strategy and the next thing I knew she was encouraging me to shift gears, take control and play my cards differently. She was right. I am now funded and it was all about that mind shift.
Marissa Nance, Founder, Native Tongue Communications: Marissa is family. She has worked 25+ years at OMD and recently launched a new entity called Native Tongue Communications. Because I’ve stayed at her home in LA I’ve seen Marissa’s work ethic live and in person. She rises [early] to be able to work on Eastern Standard Time and goes hard all day, making deals and helping her clients understand advertising to diverse groups of people. In between she’s taken time to share resources, make introductions (in fact Morgan was one of those introductions) and has helped me strategize for VisuWall pretty much from day one.
How do you approach business challenges?
There is always a pivot or a level up in business. Running VisuWall, the day to day challenges require a certain kind of mental preparedness that I often liken to sports. Proficiency in simple things like accounting, client management, marketing, and operations is like being able to make a free throw or a layup in basketball. I also like to know and study the players. It makes a huge difference to know who you’re playing with, how they play and what motivates them. It allows you make smarter moves. Then when you come across complex situations like investor presentations, hiring teams, managing distribution of funds, etc., all of those basic skills come into play and knowing them well allows you to level up for the dunk.
How do you evaluate talent you are hiring and what are the skill sets you’re looking for in this market place?
When I am hiring talent I am absolutely looking for knowledge of their craft, but equally a combination of independence, willingness to roll up his/her sleeves, likeability, coachability and creativity. VisuWall uniquely combines two otherwise disparate industries and so anyone who works with us needs to be dexterous enough to understand and apply insights from the other side of the marketplace and the people involved.
Describe your leadership style.
I’m a steward of the VisuWall ship. I work towards strategic goals and try to manage the processes to ladder up to those goals. I like to think I’m a casual leader because I’m rather laidback on most days, but in recent years I’ve realized it’s actually only my attire that is casual: sneakers, tee shirts and jeans; but I’m actually quite process driven.