Jesse Richard, Founder and Executive Director of Coldstream Tales
Jesse is a software developer, habitual CTO, and recovering XL spreadsheet junkie, talks about what led him to create an inclusive and accessible universe where everyone is welcome.
Polymath might be the best term to describe Jesse. The term is used to define someone like him who, despite having no formal secondary education, has spent his life cutting his teeth in all aspects of a growing business. He took night classes to learn computer programming at the University of Calgary when he was just thirteen and started building PCs right out of high school. Within about a year, he founded a small hosting company and taught himself the ins and outs of software engineering. More recently, he was co-founder and CTO of a company that became one of Alberta’s largest tech acquisitions to date. We talk about how and why he moved from the startup technology sector to build a universe where everyone is welcome.
What inspired you to take on THIS project?
I think people often move through their life and careers thinking they will make time later to do something good. Something that gives back. Personally, when I look at my career in startup and tech, I see points where I wanted to do the right thing or work for the right company, or make a difference in the world. But I didn’t take the opportunity before this. So when Coldstream Tales came up – a chance to do something good – I jumped at it.
It’s so easy to get caught up in your family life, your career or whatever, and to think there’ll be more time in the future, so doing good goes on the back burner. It wasn’t until I was nearly 40 before I felt I had the time to do better, and jumped at the chance.
I think when I came out of high school and into the adult world, I was very myopic toward my career goals…very focused. I thought later down the line I’d be able to live up to my potential and give back. Coldstream represents my opportunity to do that now. So when I saw the opportunity, I knew I had to take it. Coldstream allows me to grow more into the person I want to be. The Dad I want to be. To learn the skills it requires to be considerate and inclusive and to lead with my heart.
What do you think your experience brings to the project?
My career hasn’t typically been in entertainment, though I did a brief stint working on an entertainment startup in California a few years ago. Coldstream Tales is far outside of what I would consider my “normal” track, which was more around banking, security, and law. But being part of the startup ecosystem, especially early startup, means you’re required to be proficient in technology, business, law, banking, process, project management, and anything else that comes up. So that lent itself to accumulating a large amount of experience around what was needed to get this off the ground.
What is your hope for the project?
When I look at the cast of characters and storylines that we are developing at Coldstream Tales, I always try to keep in mind the community I grew up in, which was very diverse. I can still see the world through my eyes back then – the eyes of a child where inclusivity and diversity are not only normal, but accepted and needed. I believe that’s what the world needs more of right now – acceptance and learning and inclusivity. We can reach kids (and parents) not just here in the very real Coldstream, BC, but all around the world.
This project has also taught me that there is room for dads to read to their kids and be a part of the magic that you can find out there when you read with them.
What have been the biggest challenges with the project?
Well, we built it during COVID and lockdowns and all the craziness that has been the last year. So that’s a thing.
There’s an old adage about putting the wings on the plane after you drop off the cliff. Admittedly, we’ve done that more than a few times in this company. In order to build Coldstream, we had to build two things:
- A universe that was inclusive and accessible, and that put the thoughts and feelings of parents front and center, and
- We needed to build our own software to support that universe.
Either of those things individually is a difficult task on its own. But together, they created a bit of chaos. It’s a big job. We have a lot of balls in the air at all times. Despite that, our VERY – and I cannot stress this enough – VERY small team has been so amazing and dedicated to their individual contributions, that although it’s taken longer than we anticipated, Coldstream Tales is also turning out much much better than we originally imagined.
Where do you see this company in five years?
Coldstream Tales is built to be a small and agile transmedia publishing company where we can continually produce content for segments of the market that are traditionally ignored by large publishers. At a bare minimum, If we find a proper market fit that keeps food on the table for our very small team, I’ll be thrilled.
But because Coldstream Tales was built as a transmedia company, it’s multilingual, customizable, and has an international storyline, I have big hopes that we’ll reach far beyond our own borders in Canada and the United States. I hope that if we achieve our five year plan, reaching out to different corners of the planet with our stories, we will also have a big impact through contributions we make to benefit charities focused on children and families.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
This is the first project in my life that I hope is my forever project. I hope to remain here, working with this wonderful team that we’ve developed.
What’s the most rewarding part of working at Coldstream Tales?
Coldstream Tales is the first project where I’ve led with my heart and not the balance sheet. extending empathy and trust with those I work with at every turn. And it’s the first project in which my entire team is completely reciprocal in their hopes and dreams for the future. As cheesy as it sounds, the people are the most rewarding part of working here. It’s amazing how much we’re accomplishing with such a small team, and I think it’s because everyone feels heard.
If you had one thing for parents to know about Coldstream Tales, what would it be?
We see you. We hear you. And the steps that we’ve taken – building a universe and our own software – is in a bid to support you where you are, or meet you where you might be in the future. I’m a dad myself. I know it can be tough. And that’s why we wrote the universe for you too. Spoiler alert…there’s a much bigger universe we haven’t shown you yet…
Coldstream Tales wouldn’t be what it is without Jesse’s heart and passion for this project. We can’t wait to see where that drive and experience add to the Coldstream Tales universe.
Do you have a question for Jesse? Do you want to collaborate with him on a future project? Leave a comment or question below or submit a collaboration request.