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Ideas Made to Matter

My Idea Made to Matter

The successes and challenges of a YouTube tech reviewer

By

Jacklyn Dallas is part of a new generation of creatives — self-starting, self-motivating, and doing it all herself. The 17-year-old started her YouTube channel NothingButTech in 2015 after producing how-to videos to help her grandmother. Four years and more than 250 videos later, the channel has 124,000 subscribers and nearly 7 million views.

Like many other late millennial and Generation Z creators working on social media platforms, Dallas does it all herself — writing, filming, and promoting her reviews of phones, laptops, and tech accessories. So when she has an idea, it would seem it’s up to her alone to iterate, test, and execute. But that’s not the case. Dallas visited MIT Sloan recently to speak with students at the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship. We asked her how she works with ideas.

What inspires you?

I am inspired by the creative process. I love to create, and I am motivated by seeing a project completed. I also find inspiration in hard-working people around me in any industry. That adrenaline is contagious. Sometimes a location or a song I hear inspires me, and I can’t wait to include them in my latest project. And I am always inspired by my subscribers. Their feedback and interaction make my day.

Who inspires you?

People who are motivated and work hard toward achieving their goals inspire me. In my YouTube world the first two names that come to mind are two good friends of mine: Casey Neistat and Cody Wanner. I love their positive outlooks and their endless energy, and how that bleeds into all of the content they make.

How do you keep track of new ideas?

I use an app called Google Keep on my phone to keep track of my ideas. Whenever I have a new video idea I add it to the list. The app keeps everything organized, and I always try to have an inventory of ideas so when I have a free second I can work on one of them.

How do you test ideas?

Views and watch time are two metrics on YouTube that are useful to see how an idea and video is received by an audience and whether it’s a repeatable concept. That said, I try to always find a balance between making videos that I know my audience wants and will watch, and the ones that I enjoy producing. Ideally they are usually the same.

When do you know it's time to abandon an idea?

It doesn’t happen often, but there have been times I have invested eight hours in a project and then decided not to post it. There’s no exact metric I use, it’s just a feeling I get. I watch it through and ask myself, “If this went viral, would I be satisfied that this is a representation of my work?” If the answer is “No,” I scrap it.

What was your worst idea?

Last year I was making a video about the size of the new iPhone XS Max. I knew a lot of people were considering upgrading to this bigger phone, but they were hesitant because they didn’t know if the phone would fit in their pocket, their hands, etc. So I decided to make a video comparing the size of the phone to the size of well-known objects, one of which was a banana. After hours under harsh studio lighting, the banana started to overripen and I didn’t have a backup. In the video, the banana looked uniquely unappetizing and kind of bizarre. People were more fixated on the banana than the content. The comment section was filled with people talking about the banana and not the new iPhone. Not my finest moment.

How do you know an idea is a good one?

I know I’m on the right track if the idea seems like it will check both boxes of my mission statement: to create content that is both entertaining and informative. If it does, then it feels like a good idea.

What's the biggest idea you are working on right now?

I’m preparing to launch a podcast with my good friend Darsh Khithani. I’ve known him since the start of my YouTube career, so working with him will be really fun. More on that soon.

At MIT Sloan, we talk about ideas made to matter — ideas that are carefully developed and have meaningful impact in the world. In that context — what is your idea made to matter?

My idea made to matter is to combine my desire to help people with my love of technology. When I started my channel, I didn’t realize that I would have the reach that I am incredibly grateful to have now. My goal is to be a resource for helping people gain a better understanding of tech and to help them make better buying decisions. I'm also often asked about how to make YouTube a business. I have a lot of conversations with people through social media and most recently in person as I have spoken on college campuses and at global industry events to share my experience and answer questions with the hope of encouraging people to get started. Connecting with my viewers is one of the best parts of my job. I will always look for new ways to add value and maintain a dialogue with them.

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