That Time We Almost Became a Music Company

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So, yep, we made some pretty kooky music videos as part of a team building exercise for our company holiday party. Some of us even seriously considered pivoting. If you can’t wait for the end of the story, check them out here. Otherwise, keep reading to find out how it all went down.

The build-up

It was all very hush-hush. Something was going to happen at 3pm on December 4th, but only Chelle knew exactly what. Nate knew props were needed, but with Nate, there are always props, so that didn’t really help with the mystery.

Finally the time came, and we went downstairs to the speakeasy room. Waiting for us was a man in an orange jumpsuit with a bunch of giant duffel bags. “Oh my god, we’re going skydiving,” I thought. “Skydiving with props.”

That’s me holding the coffee cup in fear and anticipation.

But actually, it was much scarier than that.

“You’re going to make music videos!” said Jumpsuit John. “In two hours!”



We were stunned. Excited, of course. But… Well, here’s the thing. At Keen we always say we’re more than just an analytics company. We’re a people development company. We give people the tools they need to create amazing things. It’s just, we didn’t realize those tools might be duffel bags full of foam wigs and inflatable saxophones.

For a few moments, we hesitated in our groups, spread out around the room, pawing through costumes. The pressure mounted. After all, we were going to be screening the videos at the holiday party in two hours.

Jumpsuit John was not impressed by our dithering and vacillation. “Go, go, go!” he said. “Pick a lead singer. Decide on your characters and your story. The clock is ticking. Go!”

Shooting the Dream

We dispersed throughout the building. Micah led my team to a floor I didn’t know existed. It was still under construction, dusty, live wires dangling from the ceiling, generally the kind of place you’re pretty sure you’re not supposed to be.

“We need a story.”

“It could be a love story.”

“Maybe a love triangle.”

“There’s a bunch of us. It should be a love rhombus.”

“A love trapezoid.”

“I vote hexagon. Love hexagon all the way!”

From there, my group kind of spitballed as we went, prodded along by Jumpsuit John’s helpful texts, such as: “Why haven’t you sent me any scenes yet?” and “You’re running out of time!” and “Start!”

Other teams had different approaches. The *NSYNC group white-boarded the scenes in advance, broken down by the number of seconds per shot, just as Justin Timberlake would have done if he were secretly a data scientist.

Amazingly, every group finished their video in time and felt pretty psyched about the results. The same people who had been scared and confused at 3pm had now become rock gods, or at least a lot closer to rock godhood than we had ever expected to get.

When the screening ended, Nate popped the cork on a giant champagne bottle that shot confetti across the room. We voted on winners, but we seriously all felt like winners. (Disclaimer: I say this as someone who did not win anything. The winners probably felt even more like winners, especially since they got cool Oscar statues and got to give speeches. Best speech award goes to Andrew Koester. It was three words long: “I was home-schooled.”)

Special Thanks

I have to end with some special thanks and some semi-maudlin reflections. First, the thanks. Chelle, thank you so much for putting together the perfect team-building event and party! Thank you for keeping it a secret, which built anticipation, maximized impact, and spared us days of anxiety about how on earth we were going to make music videos. Also, thanks for not booking a skydiving day, because that would have been seriously terrifying.

Thanks also to Nate for always adding fun and creativity to everything he touches. Props for the props.

And thanks to Jumpsuit John for being an extraordinary producer/team-builder/taskmaster flash. You gave us just the right amount of structure, encouragement, tough love, and duffel bags to pull this off.

Semi-Maudlin Reflections

This whole video business was tons of fun, but it also made me think about what we’re trying to build here as a culture and a company. At Keen, we talk a lot about how important it is for us to be able to be vulnerable with each other, to trust each other and care about each other as people. I’ve heard almost everyone here say in one way or another that this core value is what made them want to join the company. Certainly that’s the case for me. It’s what makes me want to do the best work I can, and it’s what makes me feel safe trying new things even if I might not be the very best at them the first time I try. That’s how we grow as people, it’s how we will grow as a company, and we hope our customers will see and feel that we’re a people-driven place even though we have a data-centric product.

And if we can be vulnerable with each other, we want to be vulnerable with our friends and readers and customers and onlookers, too. So we’re sharing our music videos with the world. Maybe you’ll love them. Maybe you’ll hate them. Maybe you’ll be super glad that we’re an analytics company and not a music label. Either way, Happy Holidays from Keen and enjoy the show!

If you want to make your own music videos — or if you just really want to meet Jumpsuit John and his duffel bags — go check out The Go Game. It’s seriously awesome!”

The big debut at BoxSF.

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