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236: Emojis, Expression & Leadership with Holler’s Travis Montaque

Travis Montaque, founder and CEO of Holler

On this 236th episode of “Marketing Today,” host Alan Hart speaks with Travis Montaque, the founder and CEO of Holler. This messaging technology company uses AI and content to improve consumer communication online. Holler is on the frontline of the ongoing battle to bring human emotion into the world of technology.

The conversation with Montaque begins with his time at Chick-fil-a as a teenager, starting as a cashier and eventually working his way to the role of district manager by the time he was 19-years-old. Montaque was able to make the “fastest transition from Main Street to Wall Street” that I have ever seen, leaving Chick-fil-a to work for a private equity firm at only the age of 20. Montaque then discusses the difficulties of deciding not to accept an offer with Goldman Sachs and instead start Holler and how the pursuit of passion “inspires people around you to invest with whatever they can.”

We then dive into Montaque’s efforts as a successful black entrepreneur to bring diversity into the corporate environment, but “diversity shouldn’t be the end goal, changing the current corporate culture should.” Holler is working to create a culture that is inclusive and focused on belonging. Finally, Montaque breaks down this idea of “service, not surveillance” and how big-tech needs to change how it interacts with its consumers if there is to be a relationship of trust heading into the future.

Highlights from this week’s “Marketing Today”:

  • Travis went from working at Chick-fil-a as a teenage cashier to a private equity firm in Miami during college. 1:43
  • At an early age, Travis was able to learn valuable lessons through hard work at Chick-fil-a. 4:00
  • Travis had aspirations of working on Wall Street but ultimately felt that he couldn’t make the impact that he wanted. 4:28
  • A side data in Big Tech led Travis to leave his job at Goldman Sachs and start Holler. 5:38
  • It was a rough process to explain to his mother the switch to a job that didn’t guarantee an income, but it was worth it. 6:58
  • Holler uses AI to make consumer conversations online better by providing content that consumers want. 8:19
  • Any sticker that you have been able to add to a Venmo note has been provided by Holler. 9:41
  • Travis partnered with students in the engineering school to create the prototype, pitched to investors, and hired employees. 10:18
  • Until he had the seed money that he needed, Travis had to use inspiration to bring in the investors he was looking for. 12:40
  • Initially, focusing on expressive emojis wasn’t a thing, but evolving from the initial company brought the ability to share feelings. 14:16
  • There has been a rise in categorical messaging, spreading to just about every category you can think of. 16:06
  • Body language makes up so much of home emotions are perceived, which led to the use of emojis in Holler’s peer-to-peer communication. 17:12
  • Holler is expanding into different brands and marketing companies, allowing those companies to connect with their consumers. 18:35
  • Share rates have reached up to 21% with some companies, bringing engagement to an all-time high. 21:10
  • Travis has achieved a tremendous amount of entrepreneurial success and also happens to be a black man; unique experiences have been had. 24:18
  • There is an issue of investment pipelines in industries where institutions only get their resources from the same source. 25:45
  • Travis believes that America’s entire corporate culture needs to be changed to include diversity at the highest ranks. 28:45
  • Holler is working on expanding its perspectives to include people from all over the world. 30:20
  • There are so many issues at this moment in time that the responsibility of leaders to take care of people is more prevalent than ever. 33:03
  • People will get upset when their leaders don’t know their beliefs, but that doesn’t mean they need to know all the answers. 36:00
  • Travis’s experience as a first-generation American and watching his mother’s work ethic shaped who he is today. 37:41
  • As a younger man, Travis learned from the fundamentals that he gained from his first jobs. 39:41
  • Bringing good practices and standards into how next-gen tech companies behave towards their consumers is something that Travis supports. 42:14
  • Travis believes that the largest threat to marketing today is the inevitable end of identity. 44:19

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