From a very young age, Alia J. Daniels recognized the power of representation within the media. Quickly identifying how few women looked like her across entertainment, business and politics, Alia became determined to make an impact. She equipped herself with bachelor’s degrees in Music and Communications Studies with a Mass Media emphasis from Albion College, and a Juris Doctorate from Loyola Law School and sought out to change the face of media.
As a business and entertainment attorney, Alia has not only represented clients in the digital entertainment and tech space but is also a featured speaker on the ever-changing streaming entertainment arena. Since 2015, Alia has been consistently named to the prestigious Southern California Rising Stars list by Super Lawyers for six years in a row.
Today, Alia has found her niche at the intersection of entrepreneurship, entertainment and social impact as Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer for Revry, a global queer streaming tv network. As an advocate for inclusion for all underrepresented communities, the cornerstone of Alia’s personal mission is to create avenues for authentic representation in media and business.
In This Conversation We Discuss:
- What Alia pulled from her experience in law school that she uses in her career today
- What Revry is, it’s function towards the queer community and how it’s grown
- How Alia and leadership team stay on the same page from a vision perspective to figure out the proper execution
- The importance of inclusive representation in the media
- What decisions are being made that are allowing Revry to stay lean and to grow
Connect with Alia J. Daniels: LinkedIn
Revry – https://revry.tv
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Our guest in this episode is Alia Daniels, the Co-founder and COO of Revry. From a very young age, Alia Daniels recognized the power of representation within the media, quickly identifying how few women looked like her across entertainment, business and politics. Alia became determined to make an impact. She equipped herself with a Bachelor’s degree in Music and Communication Studies with a mass media emphasis from Albion College and a Juris Doctorate from Loyola Law School and sought out to change the face of media.
As a business and entertainment attorney, Alia has not only represented clients in the digital entertainment and tech space but is also a featured speaker in the ever-changing streaming entertainment arena. Since 2015, Alia has been consistently named Prestigious Southern California Rising Stars List by Super Lawyers for six years in a row.
Now, Alia has found her niche in the intersection of entrepreneurship, entertainment and social impact as a Co-founder and Chief Operating Officer for Revry, a global queer streaming TV network. As an advocate for inclusion for all underrepresented communities, the cornerstone of Alia’s personal mission is to create avenues for authentic representation in media and business.
I am super psyched to talk with you. Alia, welcome to the show.
Thank you so much for having me.
You are doing some cool stuff and I have mad respect for you getting your Law degree. I did an undergraduate degree in Law but that was like getting an Arts degree with an Economics major. You went all the way.
Did you want to be a lawyer when you were a child or what was your drive for that?
That’s so funny you asked me that question because, in third grade, I started telling people that I wanted to be a lawyer but truthfully, I wanted to be a singer. When you tell people you want to be a singer, they ask you to sing and I was super shy as a kid. My best friend in third grade was obsessed with being a lawyer. I was like, “That’s the ticket,” so I started telling people in third grade I wanted to be a lawyer, then here we go. Fast forward several years later, I decided to become a lawyer. Who knew?
One of my kids, when he was about five, said he wanted to be a bus driver. I was like, “You could have a chain of buses.” He’s like, “No, I want to drive a bus.” When he was twelve, I was like, “What do you want to do when you grow old?” He goes, “I want to be a bus driver.” I’m like, “We are in trouble here. This is a vision we need to work on.” For law school, what do you think you pulled from the law school that you use now in your career other than the traditional law like contract law or employment running?
I think a lot of lawyers say this as well. The thing about law school for me was that it teaches you how to think differently. When it comes to business, it helps to review all of our contracts from a legal perspective but you don’t necessarily think from the present standpoint. You’re always thinking, “What does this maybe look like 2 or 5 years down the line? What are the potential impacts that this could create for us? What is it we truly need out of what this deal or situation could be?” It forces me to think from a very broad perspective and not so siloed into, “Right here, right now, this is what we’re doing.”
Lawyers tend to think about risk mitigation and COOs tend to think about how. We’re putting the systems and figuring out how to make the vision come true. You’re also in an entrepreneurial organization and affecting change. Juxtapose, how do you deal with both of those two issues? The fact that you’re supposed to be watching for risk but also you’re supposed to be driving forward at 1,000 miles an hour.
I’m very lucky because I’m a co-founder of our business as well. There are four co-founders total, myself, our CEO, Damian Pelliccione, our Chief Business Officer, Christopher Rodriguez and our Chief Product Officer, LaShawn McGhee. We all play our different roles in that. Damien is 100% the visionary. He had the idea for Revry. He is always pushing forward, big thinking and forward thinking.
Chris and I met in law school. We became friends in law school together. We both are always thinking about mitigating risk from a big perspective. There’s something that I’ve learned about not necessarily being so risk-averse because often, the big reward does require big risk. I only have five years as an entrepreneur and in my short time, it has allowed me to reassess my overall feeling when it comes to risk and what’s worth taking the risk for. This is a chance to do something different and break the mold until let’s go for it. That’s something that I’ve been able to do. I can say, in the beginning of the business, I was very risk-averse, especially because I came from a litigation background in addition to doing some transactional work.
It sounds like you’re getting to be a teenager all over again where you are going to break the rules but not too far. Four of you as co-founders of the organization and when did you start?
We got together in November 2015 and were in beta by March 2016.
It’s a pretty fast launch. How did you divide and conquer the roles? How did you decide who was going to get to do what?
We naturally fit in. I was doing marketing and operations. My background is in employment law, so I was doing HR as well. Damian and LaShawn were doing the tech. Damian was also doing sales. He had a lot of business development work that he knew how to do. Chris was very instrumental in the content side, acquiring content and contract work and all of the legal work. Chris and I are very lucky in that because we’re both lawyers. We get to split the legal work, so we’re not 100% lawyers. He gets to do this legal work. I do this legal work but we also do other stuff, too, so it’s nice.
Let’s go back and talk to us about what Revry is then. Walk us through layman’s terms. Is it like Netflix for the queer media, or is it all sides? Is it everything? What’s the deal? How do you make your money? How does that all work?
Revry is a digital cable network for the queer community. 3 out of 4 of the founders are queer. I am an ally. We birthed it out of the new Apple television. The new Apple television came out and we searched the app stores for the first time. You could search app stores and download things. We searched LGBTQ, gay, queer, trans and lesbian. Everything you could think of underneath the sun to try and find something and there was nothing there.
It was a quick conversation of, “We should do this.” I was like, “We should.” We started out as a subscription video-on-demand platform where you could find our app, download it, subscribe, and get access to all types of content. We’ve always had films and shows, music and podcasts. We expanded our overall offering to include advertising video-on-demand, so you could watch things for free with an ad in front of it.
Now, when you look at our service. We offer live, linear channels, so you can watch 24/7 channels for free with queer content. We’re available on Roku Channel with Samsung TV Plus. We have channels on so many different platforms, but we have all of our channels on our platform as well. When you go to the application or the website, you can see five different channels that are live. There’s a news network, OML on Revry, which is the first ever queer women’s focus 24/7 live channel. We also have Revry Two, our regular Revry live channel and Revry Three. There’s literally always something to watch.
You’re more like a portal for all of this than a Netflix, aren’t you?
You’re more like the Apple TV versus Netflix even. You’ve got all the apps and streaming coming through you.
The goal is multiple channels so you always have something to watch. The idea is that from a community perspective, you’re able to always turn on Revry and be able to see yourself.
Who do you compete against? Do you compete against mainstream TV, or are there other channels that are competing for the same niche?
It’s not doing the exact same thing that we’re doing. This is part of the forward-thinking, big-thinking thing. When we first started subscription video-on-demand, it was us and a couple of other places. We started thinking as consumers, people who watch and engage with content. I give Chris full credit for this. He was like, “I make decisions all day long. I’m constantly thinking about what I’m going to do here. I want to come home and turn on something and it’s playing for me. I don’t want to decide what I’m going to watch.” From that, it sparked us doing our live 24/7 channels. We realized there was such an opportunity to be able to offer something like this because it hasn’t been done in this way before.
Is Netflix dead or dying? It feels like they have a lot of competition they didn’t have years ago.
I think that’s the nature of the game. This is a constantly evolving industry. I like to joke that no one knows what they’re doing. The big guys and the little guys don’t know what they’re doing. It gives a little bit more of an even playing field in terms of figuring out what works for people. Netflix figured out a way to get these originals that become talked about. If you think about Bridgerton now, everyone is talking about it and got to see it.
They figured out ways to do that’s going to keep bringing people back. Does that mean they’re going to stay on forever from the subscription perspective? Who knows? They will come back to watch this zeitgeist content that they’ve released. That’s a part of it, but we’re seeing this. Look at the rise of Tubi and what Peacock is doing. People also want to be able to come in, turn on their television and have something played for them. They don’t always want to have to think about what they’re going to watch.
How did you fund this startup of the company?
We did friends and family initially. We’re closing out around now. We’ve taken on investments and we’ve built our business from there.
Is it profitable?
How many employees?
Have you announced the round yet as to what you raised?
We did, certainly.
This is early stage but already successful.
We’re available in over 250 million homes and devices.
What’s the player? Are you going to need to do another round? Was this debt round or equity?
Debt with convertible notes.
You are in a good position. Are you going to turn around and sell this thing or continue to grow it?
We could keep growing it. We’ve hit understanding what the audience wants, the audience needs, getting amazing content and build this into something amazing, which I’m so excited about.
Do you RevShare with the shows? Is that how they make their money? Are you paying them? Are you more licensing than giving them a percentage? Is that how it works?
We do RevShare and sometimes an MGs. It depends on negotiations for the show.
Did I hear you say doing podcasts as well?
Interesting. Very cool model. There are four co-founders start off the company together. I’m sure it’s been completely easy years.
It has worked out well, and I’m so grateful for that.
There are normal ups and downs. How does the leadership team function? Is it the four of you making decisions together as a board then you run the business more as a leadership team?
We do make up the board as well. We are very clear about what hat you’re wearing at what time. Are you wearing your executive hat or your founder’s hat? That helps because it helps you to understand exactly what role you’re in at that moment. We have very clear founder’s meetings where we talk about big-picture items in the business, things that we have to get approval for and things of that nature. As far as the actual business day-to-day running, it’s more from a leadership perspective.
How do the four of you stay on the same page from a vision perspective? How do you all get aligned with the vision so then you can figure out execution?
Clear and lots of communication. This is our fifth year, so we’ve now figured out what works best for us in terms of doing that. We always check back in to say, “This was our big goal last year. This is what we did.” At the end of every year, we have a big vision meeting where we talk about what’s the next step. What is the big vision of the company that we’re working towards? From there, once we know at the end of the year how we’re doing it, at the beginning of the year, it’s all about execution. We’re like, “Let’s set up all the processes and protocols and figure out what it’s going to take to execute on that vision.”
The fact that you didn’t raise money other than friends and family round, is that why you were able to stay at sixteen employees? Are you going to use this money to then grow? Are you able to stay lean like this?
We’re going to keep expanding but being lean has been helpful for us because it allows us to be a little bit more nimble. As we make any types of shifts and adjustments, you only have a department of 3 or 4 that you’ve got to completely turn around versus 10 or 12 or more.
Clubhouse is running at 10 to 15 employees now. WhatsApp, when they sold for $1.8 billion, had 55 people. You folks are on that very similar trajectory. What are the decisions you’re making that are allowing you to stay lean or to scale or grow when you’re so lean? Give us some of the business secrets. The stuff that you’re not taught in school.
Understand your business. If you understand what your business is and how you make money, then you don’t necessarily spend a bunch of time doing things that are not going to make you money but they seem cool and super fun. Understanding that allows us to say, “Now we need to focus on doing this specific thing because it’s going to expand our footprint in the way that we need it to. It’s going to also help us bring in more revenue.” For us, it’s looking at our distribution like, “How many different places can we have our channels be available? Now let’s focus on getting our channels in as many places as possible.” A goal for us to have Revry everywhere.
Are you saying no more often than you say yes as a company, or is the clarity of vision allowing you to not even need to say no?
Sometimes you understand that the no is a not now. If something comes to us, we’re like, “This isn’t a Q1 initiative but come back to us in Q3 and maybe we can talk about it.” Understanding not every no is a full no because if it aligns with the business but being clear on what is the focus for right here, right now. We focus quarter at a quarter, month at a month and week at a week to understand and make sure that we’re staying on track.
Sometimes you understand that the “no” is just a not right now.
When were you first approached to sell the company? It’s not even were you. It’s when was it.
Is it no, not now or just no?
It’s too early.
You don’t trip across companies like this often that is so early. I told the founder of Uber, “It was the stupidest idea I’d ever heard because it was earlier than this.” He hadn’t even hired Travis yet. It was still Garrett Camp with a concept. I was like, “Dumb idea. You’ll never be able to scale that thing.” What are the struggles? What are the different hurdles you guys have had to come through over the last number of years?
Understanding the investment game is very interesting, especially when you are so early. Understanding what is the big picture and being able to have folks wanting to do that. People are afraid of entertainment, which I get. It may look on its face like an entertainment play but it isn’t. There’s a lot of education that’s required to be able to have people understand what our business is and what we do. It’s not like we’re out on sets making content, which is what a lot of people think that you’re doing. They’re like, “I’m never going to see. Turn off that.” That’s not what we’re doing. When you can get the education piece of it in focus, people will understand and get like, “This is very big.”
What is it if it’s not entertainment? Is it a tech play, a platform play or a media?
I would say it’s a combination of understanding. It’s distribution and tech. Ad sales is a big part of it too. When you can understand all of those things put together, you can see that it’s not folks being outset on set with a camera shooting content.
What parts of the business are you outsourcing? You guys must have gotten creative at outsourcing some components of the business. Do you outsource the ad sales or some of the acquisition of shows? What do you outsource?
We outsource ad sales. We have an outside sales team. Our CEO, who’s an amazing salesperson, does some of our sales. That definitely helps.
What else? All the shows are being developed from outside, so you not having to do any of that.
Correct. For the most part, we have several originals. What we like to do is to partner with producers who know what they’re doing, then we participate, but we’re not necessarily in the day in, day out of the actual production of the content, which is helpful.
Do you have to say no to some of the content as well?
Sometimes we do. We have a submission process, so people submit their content. In the beginning, it was us going out to folks that we knew who had content and saying, “Come be a part of our platform.” Now we’ve gotten lucky and have people come to us, bring us their content, and ask to be a part of the service.
Your timing is so right on this as well in terms of where society is. I’m part-time from Vancouver. In Vancouver, the L-word was produced. It was the first gay or lesbian show on TV. Now I watch any of the episodes, I’m like, “That’s as far as we’re going? That’s so PC.” Where’s the company going next?
We were continuing to expand, have our channels in as many places as possible, and develop new channels. As I said, we launched our Revry News and OML in Revry in 2020.
With sixteen employees, at least you didn’t have to outsource or move 400 people from home, but Did COVID throw a wrench into your plans at all?
Surprisingly, no. It was a transition. I was very happy with how everything we could transition to work from home. For the most part, we were already on Slack, which everyone loves, I’m sure. We do more Google Hangouts than we have ever done before. In a lot of ways, we are still able to be very efficient in what we’re doing.
We are still being able to get things done. We are also being able to find interesting ways to continue to create that company culture and to allow people to still feel connected to a team, even though we’re all working remotely. We have game nights with the team to be able to see each other. When you think of the logistics of a virtual escape room, it’s fun. We had a virtual escape room, which was a fun time to do. We’ve done things to be able to have camaraderie with our coworkers.
That’s cool. My sister had to pivot drastically. She ran a big business with about 150,000 people playing co-ed intramural sports. You can’t play volleyball in your living room. She paused that company that she’s been running for many years and she started an online business running events. One of the events they do is escape rooms for people. They do escape rooms, trivia, bingo nights and these crazy, fun events for people all over the world. She’s growing like nuts. What were you doing before COVID to build your company culture?
We were in the office together, so it made it a lot easier. We would always have happy hours and game nights together. We would have our company end-of-the-year holiday party, which got to be via Zoom in 2021, which is fun. We always would do things with each other. Having company lunches, being able to talk to each other that’s not at your desk, talking about what the next task is going to be, and getting to know each other as people. We’ve been lucky that all of our employees have gotten along with each other and become friends. It helps.
What do you look for when you’re hiring people?
We’re looking for someone who is aligned with our vision. That means that they have a passion for creating, supporting, and serving a community. They’re not necessarily someone who’s coming to work to get a check, which is valuable at times. There are only sixteen of us. There’s not a lot of us, so you’ve got to be willing to say, “Today, I’m doing this, but tomorrow, I might have to do a little bit of this, which is different.” You’ve got to be nimble and flexible. If you genuinely believe in the vision and everyone deserves to see themselves in media, then it allows for you to be able to want to be a part of something like this. That comes across pretty clearly and quickly.
Is part of your vision the whole representation and inclusion in the media? It was something that I read in your bio that I wanted to ask you about something that you’re passionate about. Is that part of the vision for the organization too? What does that mean?
For me, it’s about being able to create spaces where people genuinely can see themselves and not paying lip service to it. Queer media is a great example of this. Traditionally, when you looked at queer media, a lot of times, it was like cis gay, White guys, and that was it. That was the only story that there was when there were so many other people in the community who never got their time to shine.
At Revry, we tried to focus on making sure that we were offering stories at our POC. Making sure that we have stories of women, offering trans stories, asexual stories, and stories that are genuinely not being told in different places. That’s one of the things with OML in Revry we were so excited about because there’s never been a channel that’s 24/7 for queer women. Being able to create something like that where someone can literally turn it on and go, “I resonate with that. That may not look like me but I understand that perspective.”
That is what it truly means for me to create authentic representation in media and pay attention to not just who’s in front of the camera but who’s behind the camera and who’s writing the stories. It can be someone who has no idea what the experience is but saw something once. Now they think they can tell the story. It comes across very quickly whether or not someone knows what they’re talking about.
It feels like we are but are we at a stage now where there’s enough great content that you can be as inclusive all the way back to who the directors are and who is working on the films versus the story itself?
That’s what we’ve been trying to do. We’re always looking at not bringing on content and going, “It’s a queer story.” Instead, we’re like, “Who’s the writer? Who’s the director? Who’s a part of this?” That’s important as well.
That’s intriguing. With your skillset, where have you had to grow?
For me, it is understanding that I don’t have to do everything. It’s my greatest strength and my greatest weakness. I have no problem getting my hands dirty, especially when you have a startup. In the startup, you’ve got to get your hands dirty. I went from uploading content myself and building awful graphics for social media. I am not a graphic designer by any means.
Understand that you don’t have to do everything. It will be your greatest strength and greatest weakness.
Doing everything as you can to be able to go, “I can take a setback. I have a team. Let my team do this. I know that they can do this. I trust them. I believe that they can handle this.” Allowing myself to get into the nitty-gritty of, “Let’s keep executing. Let’s look at the other places that I can help.” That, for me, has been a fun challenge.
How about your big mistakes? What do you think you’ve screwed up? I got some big ones in my career.
Similarly, I had a period of time when I was trying to do everything. At one point, I was recording our podcast, editing the podcast, running HR and marketing, and doing all of the things at the same time.
Was it because revenue was starting to come in that you could start using some of that cash to hire, or was it finally saying no?
It was a combination of both. It’s understanding your needs and saying, “I get where we are. I need someone else who can do this because my time is better spent doing this versus editing a podcast.” It’s more effective for me to be reviewing a contract than editing a podcast, being able to have the revenue coming in, and having investment here and there come in. Be able to hire folks to be able to take things to the next level.
It’s funny how easy you are to speak with. I feel like we’re sitting and having a conversation because I almost said, “I have a podcast too,” I’m like, “I’m talking to you on my show.” This is so weird. I was excited to tell you about the Second In Command show. I’m like, “Wait, that’s what we’re doing.” I’m either tired or I was excited talking to you. Do you think that your funding put the company at risk at any point that you were bootstrapping for too long? Did you almost wait too long at any point, do you think?
I don’t think so. We bootstrapped, but it always came at the right time. It would come in and we’d be like, “This is perfect timing. Now we can hire that extra person. We can get this different technology that’s going to take us to the next level. We can start to execute on this next thing that we’ve been putting off.” It always has come at the right time, so we’re very lucky in that regard.
I was talking to someone about this and they’re like, “I can’t hire that person. It’s $150,000.” I’m like, “Not now. It’s $12,000 this month and only $3,000 this week.” He goes, “I can do that.” I’m like, “Exactly.” Many people get so scared of the big number without thinking it through. That’s what was partially successful for you guys. You grew properly.
You’re 100% right. Before I did this work, as I said, I did employment law. I worked with startups, businesses, entertainment, and tech. Those are the conversations that I would have. It’s always fun being on the other side of the table going, “Now your turn. Don’t look at the big number. Look at what’s your payroll cost going to be on a monthly basis. What’s your payroll cost going to be even just paycheck by paycheck.” You think to yourself, “I can do this.” This thing is going to change your world. Doing this one thing will help.
It’s always fun being on the other side of the table going, “now your turn”.
Is the funding going to change your world this round?
It has. It’s allowed us to be able to do the hires that we’ve wanted. It’s helped us to be able to partner in different ways with some other vendors that are going to help us to expand our footprint. For us, it’s all about scaling. We’ve built the business. It’s now about scaling it out, which is a great place to be, to be honest with you. When you’re no longer building it and figuring it out but scaling it. It’s exciting.
It’s interesting because once you have the pieces in place, it scales pretty quickly, too, doesn’t it?
Yes. It’s cool.
What business ideas did you throw out along the way?
In terms of things that we should or shouldn’t have done?
No. Things that you knew you shouldn’t do or you just decided not to do? Were there any things that you were like, “Not even the not now but the no, we’re not going to do it?”
There are things that we tried that we were like, “No. That wasn’t the look.” We launched so maybe within a year of us launching, we were going to launch a second app. It was like, “No, let’s focus people on the app that we’re focused on like Revry. Go get that one then we can talk about the other one later.”
You guys were all in the same office until COVID hit. Are you starting to hire people that are not based in an office now?
Most of our hires now have been East Coast. We’ve got three people on the East Coast now, which is awesome. All of them have been awesome. Again, had we kept ourselves in the box, we’ve got to be here in LA. You’ve got to be in the office this way, and it’s changed our business overall because now, moving forward, as we keep growing, we know that for hiring, you don’t have to be in-house. A lot of businesses understand that their idea of not a work-from-home business is not true. They can still grow their business and do what they need to do.
I spoke to a past guest, the Second In Command for the AARP, the American Association of Retired People. They’re classically a very older run business with 1,400 employees. He said, “If you’d ever asked me if we could work from home, no. We’re going to shut it down. Within a week, we were all working from home.” What a game-changing mindset of what if we could, right?
I think a lot of people realize that because so many times, it’s like, “That’s not even an option for us. We can’t do that. That’s impossible.” It’s pretty possible now.
Will you go back to the office?
Whenever we can, we will go back to an office but I don’t think it’s going to be a requirement that you work in the office.
It’s interesting. We’re not quite sure when and what it’s going to look like. Talk about some of the meeting rhythms that you have for your management or leadership team. What do those look like?
The way that we work now, which flipped around because of COVID, we have our regular exec standup that happens once a week. In that meeting, we’re going and talking through what our goals are for the next week based on the goals that we set for the quarter and the month. We then set our goals for the week. We talk about what was accomplished and what wasn’t accomplished, and we figure out any things that we need to change. The next week, I will do about a 30-minute meeting with each of the department heads to check-in. In the exec standup meeting, it doesn’t have the time to get into the nitty-gritty around certain things.
I meet with each of the department heads and talk through, “What’s going on in your departmet? Where can I support you better? Do you need more support? What can I do to help you out? How do you feel about the goals? Is this feasible for you? Do you need an extension? Do we need to switch things out?” I’m trying my best I can to be there because then, I will have a better understanding that when I do my meeting with the CEO, I can go back to him and say, “I know we said we were going to get this done by this date but it’s looking like we might need a little bit more time. Let’s try and maneuver this a little bit better here.” I have a better overall picture of what’s going on in the company for me to be able to report back to him.
Tell me about the big wins that you folks have had at Revry. Are there any big home runs?
As crazy as 2020 was, we were a part of the Goldman Sachs’ Black and Latinx Entrepreneur Cohort, which was amazing. It was the inaugural year. It was the first time they’d ever done it. We got connected with so many other entrepreneurs and people within the Goldman Sachs organization. Those relationships have helped us to do some different deals, which has been awesome and helped us understand some different things better.
As I said, 2020 was a big year for us. We went from having one channel to having five different channels going in so many different places. Being able to be on the Roku Channel and be a part of Samsung TV Plus, and we’ve got so many more that are in the pipeline of launching that I’m so excited about. Two hundred fifty million homes and devices are nothing to stuff at.
It’s pretty massive. I don’t even know how this thing goes. How did you learn business? They don’t teach in law school.
They don’t. It’s so funny. One of my biggest regrets is I realized the summer of my second year that I wish I had gotten my MBA. I was like, “I wish I would’ve done that.” I’d had a corporate law track, so I did learn some things from that perspective. I worked with a lot of entrepreneurs. It was during the two summers that I worked for a business, and I got to work with their in-house counsel.
I also worked with their CFO, and that was my first, “That’s how this works. This is interesting.” From that perspective, having that understanding, taking the courses in law school. When I started working with entrepreneurs as an attorney, I could talk the language a little bit more but it never truly prepares you for being an entrepreneur. I pick the right degree, luckily. Getting in, doing it, and having amazing advisors to help have made a big difference, not trying to always figure it out on your own.
It’s like case precedent. There’s also some business precedent. Follow the business precedent and do what the smart people did. I have a close friend from school growing up. He got his Law degree from Ottawa U then got his MBA from Notre Dame. When he graduated, he was smart enough on the business side. He’s like, “I don’t want to go work for a law firm. I want to start one. I don’t want to start a small one. I want to start a big one.”
He started a big tech law firm in Toronto and he ended up leading the public offering for research and motion, which was Blackberry. That was one of their first big deals. Now, his company in Toronto is this massive law firm and he’s still the principal with one other partner. When you get off the elevator lobby, there’s this massive silver pool table right in front of you. He said, “They wanted to rip people out of their perception of what a law firm was going to be like.” His law firm feels like an internet company. It’s super cool. If you wear a tie, they’re going to cut it off. It’s cool. Alia, if we go back to the 22, 23 or 24-year-old Alia graduating from law school, what advice would you give yourself that maybe you know to be true now but what do you wish you knew back then?
You’re going to learn everything you need to know. Don’t rush it. I remember, at that point, I was having big regrets about not getting my MBA at the same time as getting my Law degree. I was like, “I don’t want to go back to school and spend more money on it.” I was trying to be one of those smart people and looking online for all the online courses you could take for free that basically made up an MBA. I was spending so much time thinking I had missed out. At the end of the day, I got the best MBA equivalent by having this business.
I’m curious, what do you think of the traditional university education system now? Would you tell twenty-year-olds to go to university, or would you say, “Go work for some fun entrepreneurial companies and cut your chops?” Unless you want to go be a lawyer, an engineer or a dentist.
That’s something you have to have a degree with. I think gap years are not a bad idea. I took a gap year between college and law school. If I had jumped right into law school from college, it would’ve been a whole different story. College, at the end of the day, is going to teach you knowledge, but it doesn’t teach you experience. You don’t know what it’s like in the office, in business, dealing with customers or dealing with things like that.
College, at the end of the day, doesn’t teach you experience.
If not a gap year, take a lighter load and get an internship and work somewhere that is what you want to do. A lot of times, I know people poo-poo at the internships thing but at the end of the day, it’s not so much about necessarily getting the experience. For me, it was understanding what do I want to do? When I went and made the decision to go to law school, it was like, “I want to work in entertainment.” That’s all I could talk about.
I knew that that’s what I wanted to do, but by the time I graduated from law school, I had worked for a small firm that worked with independent producers. I’d worked for an in-house at an actual production company. I’d worked for a major studio. I think being able to have all of those different experiences helped me to understand very clearly that the big studio system was not for me because you are very much a tiny cog in a very large machine. You have no idea what anyone else is doing.
If you’re a person like me who wants to see the big vision and have a bigger, better understanding of that, working in the studio system wouldn’t work. It wouldn’t cut it but if I had gone through law school, not done that, gone and worked for a studio, I probably would’ve hated it. I also would’ve been like, “This is the dream.”
What did you do for your gap year?
I worked in a law firm and that’s what was so crazy. I hadn’t planned on it. In spite of my third-grade musings, I did not plan on going to law school. I didn’t plan on becoming a lawyer but I graduated in 2007. I was living in Michigan. The economy tanked there before it tanked everywhere else. I got very lucky and got a job at a law firm for one of my best friends in college. It was her dad’s law firm. I worked there for a year.
It was in that experience. The thing wasn’t that I loved what they were doing. They did workers’ comp and things I was not into. What I was excited about was that it was never boring. I was never going to be able to do everything by rope. I like being simulated mentally, being able to have something new and exciting, and figuring things out. Working in this industry where nobody knows what they’re doing, I like the challenge. Being able to work in that law firm, I could see how that was something that I would be able to enjoy and making the decision to go to law school made more sense for me.
You’ve got new and exciting in front of you. Alia Daniels, the COO for Revry. Thank you so much for sharing with us on the show.
Thank you so much for having me. This was awesome.
Thanks so much. It’s amazing.
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About Alia J. Daniels
Alia J. Daniels is Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer at Revry where she oversees overall operations, finance, sales and strategy. A socially conscious media entrepreneur and attorney with 10+ years of experience advocating on behalf of underrepresented communities in and out of the entertainment industry, Alia found her niche at the intersection of entrepreneurship, entertainment and social impact. Alia holds bachelor’s degrees in Music and Mass Media as well as a Juris Doctorate from Loyola Law School. Since 2015, Alia has been consistently named to the prestigious Southern California Rising Stars list by Super Lawyers for eight years in a row and this year was named to the Emerging Leaders list by Fierce Video. Revry was a member of the inaugural Goldman Sachs Launch with GS Black and Latinx Entrepreneur Cohort. Alia is also one of the first 250 entrepreneurs recently named to the inaugural Forbes Next 1000 List in 2021, highlighting upstart entrepreneurs who are redefining the American Dream and selected by a panel of judges including Ayesha Curry, Reid Hoffman, Melody Hobson, Alex Rodriguez, Sheryl Sandberg, Ciara and Russell Wilson.