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Conversations with the Inspiring Nat Kochan

Today we’d like to introduce you to Nat Kochan.

Nat, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
My co-founder Sofi Chirico and I met and became close friends in Beijing while studying at the Beijing Film Academy. Somehow from the very beginning, we knew we would work on a big project together, we just didn’t know what it was. We didn’t see each other for two years after I left China. In those two years, both of us continued working in creative industries, learning about the many layers of life for creative people. There came a point where we were both in between jobs, trying to decide what to do next. We started brainstorming creative projects we could make together – TV pilots, short films, web series, etc. But when we talked through our distribution options, it didn’t feel like there was anything that would really work for us or would be accessible for us. The big eye-opener for me was when I started self-publishing: I noticed that when my ebooks were free I got a lot of downloads, and as soon as they were priced at 99 cents, I got pretty much zero downloads. Then, someone who had gotten the book for free told me that they had read it and liked it and wished they could give me the 99 cents for it after the fact. This got me thinking. The idea for what is now Curensea (a social ad-free publishing site where creative people can post their work for others to enjoy for free, but with the option to tip when people like it) seemed like it just might work. We decided to go for it. Through a lot of twists and turns and highs and lows, we somehow pulled it off. Now we have a site with thousands of creative people posting, tipping, and sharing visual art, writing, and music. We got to where we are today by learning a ton of stuff, putting one foot in front of the other, and not giving up.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It has not been a smooth road, but even bumpy roads have stretches of smoothness sometimes, so it wasn’t horrible. In fact, all the hard times that Sofi and I went through trying to get this thing built are now pretty hilarious memories, even though at the time it did not feel hilarious, and some time had to pass for the memories to transition into hilarity. I feel very lucky and grateful to have been able to go on this journey with my best friend. My advice to anyone just starting on their journey is make time to spend with your friends. Work can get all encompassing, and hanging out and laughing with friends is, in my opinion, one of the best things you can do in this life (and don’t talk about work if you can help it). If you are building something with a friend, make sure you do stuff that isn’t work together too, like go to the beach and take it easy. Fun is really important.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into Curensea story. Tell us more about the business.
We run a platform for creative work where anyone can post their original paintings, drawings, GIFs, photography, poetry, short stories, essays, songs, sound art, etc. Basically any kind of creative work: if you can post it as an image, GIF, text, or sound file, you can post it on Curensea. Curensea has no ads and no algorithms, so you’ll see the posts of the people you follow in your feed chronologically. Curensea uses a tipping system with tokens to make it really easy for people to show appreciation when they are enjoying someone’s work. You can buy tokens for $3, $6, or $12, with $12 getting you 2000 tokens that you can use to tip creative work you love. It’s tip what you want, and there’s no subscription. Tipping unlocks commenting and sharing, meaning once you tip, you can comment on the piece or share it out to your own followers. You can earn tokens by posting your own original creative work and getting tipped, or by curating the creative work of others.

Every week, we send out two emails to our community. Both are meant to spotlight individual creators and make it easier for people to find each other on our platform. One is a creative work feature email based on a theme-of-the-month (September 2018’s theme is LOVE), and the other is our Curensea Interview Series, where we interview a writer, artist, or musician on Curensea to learn about their background and process. We ask everyone we interview “What is the meaning of life?” and it’s really interesting to read people’s responses!

Looking back on your childhood, what experiences do you feel played an important role in shaping the person you grew up to be?
Teachers make a big difference! I had a lot of really great teachers in my life, and I am so grateful to them for all they taught me. I specifically remember my 7th-grade science and math teacher Mrs. Utley, who really inspired me to want to become a scientist when I grew up. I ended up taking a different path, but I still have a great love of biology that can be traced back to her class. My high school English teacher Ms. Leaney told me I was a good writer, and I believed her, and that’s why I became a writer. Also, my Chinese teacher Mr. Zhu in high school. If it weren’t for him encouraging me to keep studying, I might not have ever gone to China and might not have met Sofi, and who knows what life I would be leading now. Teachers are some of the most important people in our society!

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