David Schneider: Actor/Director turned Social Media EntrepreneurLast Updated: January 1, 2019
The British actor, writer and director, David Schneider, famous for his roles in classic British comedy TV and movies, is now making waves in business, with the social media agency That Lot. David spoke to AGENT about the early years of the business.
LONDON-born actor, director, writer and comedian David Schneider made his reputation on some of the most successful English TV comedy shows, such as The Day Today, Knowing Me, Knowing You… With Alan Partridge and I’m Alan Partridge, and has numerous other acting and writing credits to his name.
“Being passionate and obsessive is the essence…”
As a self-confessed internet obsessive who spends “far too much time on Twitter”, David Schneider was inspired to found the startup social media agency, That Lot, in 2013 (with his namesake, David Levin) when he realised that television companies, and commercial brands in general “just weren’t doing social media well at all”.
Over the past three years since the company’s foundation, That Lot has grown through its early self-funded bootstrapped startup phase (“We started as a couple of blokes sitting on Skype in our pants, so there were very few overheads, apart from clean pants.”) to a workforce of 30, engaged in social media work for some of the biggest names in business and television, including Virgin Media, The Voice UK, The Apprentice, Vodafone, Mastercard and Ford.
David Schneider recently freed up some time to answer our questions about the story of That Lot, and talk about the transition from the well known persona of actor and comedian David Schneider to his new guise as a cutting edge social media entrepreneur.
1. Very simply, what does your startup do?
We create content for social media (and sometimes beyond)—copy, images, video, strategy, ideas etc.
2. What was the ‘Eureka!’ moment?
My background is as a writer/actor/director in TV and film. Having spent far too much time on Twitter, I realised that TV shows and brands in general just weren’t doing social media well at all. Why weren’t they applying the same rigorous standards of writing and production that I was used to in TV and film? #rhetoricalquestion
I was introduced to David Levin (soon to be the co-founder of our company, That Lot) and saw some of the things he was doing for @The_Dolphin_Pub: funny, edgy, innovative. We got chatting and the rest is history… if “history” is defined as “starting a social media content company”.
3. What were you doing before starting?
I was an actor/writer/director in TV and film, and someone who would never repeat themselves in an interview (I’ve changed). I still do some of that stuff (I’ve co-written Armando Iannucci’s next film and direct Josh Widdecombe’s sitcom). I think there’s a lot to be gained by not dividing writing/producing into the worlds of social/digital and more traditional platforms. Applying skills and experience from one to the other can be very useful.
4. How are you funded?
We’re self-funded. We started as a couple of blokes sitting on Skype in our pants, so there were very few overheads (apart from clean pants). Then, as new work has come in, we’ve expanded, so that now, after two and a half years, there’s nearly 30 of us in our nice office where you have to wear more than pants, or HR will want to know why.
5. What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs starting their own company?
I know it’s a bit glib and the sort of thing you’d find on an inspirational picture on Facebook, but you have to be passionate about what you do. You have to love it. I love so much of the stuff we put out because it’s different, innovative, ruthlessly high quality.
I’ve been lucky in my TV career to work with some exceptionally good people (Armando, Chris Morris, Steve Coogan etc), and it’s great to be working now with their equivalents in the world of social. You have to be obsessed, I think. We did a shot of some baked beans on toast with some Nando’s sauce on it for a little video, and everything—the lighting, camera work, the way the beans oozed—was just perfect and I punched the air with joy. And then I thought: I just punched the air because of some baked beans! But it felt good that we’d all worked to get that shot just right. So yes, being passionate and obsessive is the essence. Even when filming a handful of beans.
6. What object would you never leave your house without?
Phone. I know it’s not original, but it’s fused to my hand. I haven’t looked up at the real world in about 4 years. I’m not even sure my neck can straighten any more.