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Carter Sharer: Award winning designer to Influencer

Our interview of Carter Sharer for “The Creative Influencer” podcast is available today for download on iTunes.

Carter shared the following takeaways:  

Jon: In your teens, you started to design and create innovative walking devices?

Carter: So, this was I think probably about 2009, so I’m in high school freshman year. I get on YouTube, I remember even to this day and if you look at my like saved history from back in 2009, I had these videos, I would scour the Internet for all these, like mechanical like linkages, what they're called, where you have like different bars connected together and then like one spins around and you get other movements out of like—so you start with a rotary input like a bicycle pedal, but then you can use linkages to create different outputs, and I found these, this one Dutch creator Theo Jansen. He made this rotary mechanism that mimics a leg movement. So it creates these features that can walk, and when I saw that I was blown away. I thought that was so interesting, and so I just spent hours and hours scouring the Internet looking for all this stuff I can find, and there wasn't a lot of stuff. You have to go really deep into like YouTube. And so I think that's also part of why I understand YouTube so well because I spent so much time kind of almost reverse engineering at the time, trying to find content and so now I understand it better. I got obsessed with designing these legs, these mechanical legs. And so I made my first one um maybe my freshman or sophomore year. 

Jon: What did it do? 

Carter: You could sit on it and you spin it around and it’s two legs out front that walk and pull you across the ground, kind of like very spider like. So that was the first one. The next one I made, I wanted to mimic humans. I wanted to mimic—so I remember measuring my sister, how long her like hip to her knee and then her knee to her foot. 

Jon: Was she a willing participant in this? 

Carter: Yeah. And so then I would use those measurements and try to design the ratios and figure out how to make it you know make the movement work. And by changing the lanes that each of the linkages in there, you get a different effect, and also spent many times and I would start with a quick wood prototype, put it together and then make a metal one and you know, so on and so forth and just, you know, and each one of these things would take hundreds of hours to develop and um, then I eventually made this human walking machine and which was all welded you know, creation with the gears and very complicated like to get out a single motor that powered four legs that walked you know, from a drill. I used an old drill, you know, and so I had like the drill input and I’d have to gear it down, and then I had a drive shaft and that had to have coupling joints that go out to 90 degree gear boxes, then gear it down again, that goes into the linkages for all four legs. So just an absolute, like pretty, uh, pretty impressive, like mechanical feet, especially for my age.

And then I enter that into like a engineering competition and I won the regional and then went onto states and won the states, and then there was a global competition where there's like over 25 countries around the world that fly in to compete, and I won that competition as well. 

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A transcript of the full interview follows: 

Jon: I am joined today by Carter Sharer. Welcome to the podcast. 

Carter: Thanks for having me. 

Jon: You have 2.4 million YouTube subscribers

Carter: Mhm.

Jon: Over 360 million channel views and over 130 videos. 

Carter: Okay. 

Jon: When did you start doing this? 

Carter: I first started in 2017. I remember the first day that I was like officially full time for YouTube was April 1st, 2017. 

Jon: Is there, is there a significance with April Fool's Day? 

Carter: I just remember it because it was April Fool's. 

Jon: Okay. 

Carter: It was the start of the month, that's when I moved home so that—I'm really bad with dates and times, so like that's how I remember. So ,I have that day but I started a couple months earlier. Um, so I just graduated school and that summer, um, my friend invited me out to Philadelphia to work on a startup with him. 

Jon: And what was—I was going to talk to you about that in a second, but let's talk about it now. What was that startup? 

Carter: So that startup, it was called Ottermed named after our dog Otter. And uh, it was a medical device company where we are going to automate like pill dispension so people can like better adhere to the medication and so completely different like topic and so we're using like engineering to manufacture this thing and it's a very difficult problem to have a device that can hold any different types of medication and a variation of different sizes and be able to just dispense the correct dosage very accurately because they can't mess up. You can kill people, right? 

Jon: Right, right.

Carter: It has to be—so it's a very difficult engineering problem—

Jon: And did that get figured out?

Carter: We started to, yeah. So we worked for that duration of the summer. We were also invited to an incubator program at the University of Pennsylvania and during that time I met a professor at the University of Pennsylvania that worked in the embedded systems lab, which is like programming microcontrollers and robotics and stuff, and he hired me part-time while I was working on there. 

Jon: And what did you do for him? 

Carter: I did a couple of things. I was one, I was a research assistant and then I was helping him like create curriculum, and I taught a few classes in the graduate program for the masters of our products and like the full, I guess the main focus of that, of the work that I did with him was to build this intercollegiate self-driving car competition where different colleges can like build their own self-driving cars, program it, and then come to the competition and compete and they drive autonomously.

Jon: Now how big were the cars? 

Carter: The cars were like maybe 1/10 scale. Their track’s for RC cars. So they were like off the store. You can order from Amazon—everything you get from Amazon. And so this is what I was designing. I was designing the laser printing chassis that I would send to them, the kit to attach all the sensors and computers, everything, so it's a full manual. I also had to write the entire manual, build the entire car for these other colleges to get so they can drive their own self-driving cars. 

Jon: Did it ever come to fruition where there was a competition? 

Carter: Yes. 

Jon: How many schools showed up? 

Carter: I think the first one was like eight or eleven. 

Jon: And is there a road course they would have to follow that they would program it in? How would it work?

Carter: So they were small, so you’re not out in the streets with these. 

Jon: Right. 

Carter: But you know you have like a big, like area, like in the courtyard and you can map it out by either painting lines on the ground, but in our case we had like bumpers, so they're off the ground like about six inches high and this is what the car is. We're using—they had lidar sensors and cameras and any variation of sensors that you would choose. All very low budget sensors and that's the whole idea is to push the performance of self-driving cars with cheap hardware. Google has crazy cars out there that work really well, but they have over a million dollars of sensors on each vehicle. This is all about really cheap, $20 sensors. How can you use sub optimal data and write better and better algorithms to use that data to learn how to self-drive. 

Jon: So do you think that's coming for full size cars?

Carter: Yeah, we had a full-size car that we were using at the same time.

Jon: Which I'm going to take you back and this a perfect transition back to your background. 

Carter: Okay. 

Jon: I'm going to start with your LinkedIn page of all things. 

Carter: Alright.

Jon: It says that you've been creating, captivating, and integrating devices virtually your whole life and when you were really young you didn't play with commercial toys. You had to modify them. Tell me about that? 

Carter: Yeah, I mean as far as I can remember, and I—probably half of these memories are so old that they’re just my parents like telling me of these times when I'm like very young. But I mean ever since like I was—had a strong passion for RC cars. I always thought they were very interesting. So for my birthday I always wanted a new RC car and I remember early on having quite the collection of various RC cars and my friends would come over and drive them out in the driveway, but they oftentimes wouldn't remain in one piece. I’d take them apart, I’d try to like double the batteries because doubling the voltage on a DC motor like makes it go twice as fast and I’d burn them out and break them, and so then I had like a garbage, like junk yard.

Jon: Your junk yard of cars.

Carter: And then I remember sometime in, I don't even know how old I was, probably in the seventh grade, you know, uh, since I have all these RC cars, I'm learning more about like computers and stuff so I’d take them apart and so it’d have like the transmitter and then the receiver that could control a motor and I remote controlled the blinds in my room and the lights so I could sit there with a controller and turn open and close my blinds and turn my lights on and off, you know, with having very basic understanding of how any of it works. As my dad, he was a chemical engineer so he knew about like chemicals and stuff, which I thought were interesting also, but never—no one ever told me about how like electronics worked, you know. So I would love to kind of figure out my own. 

Jon: And then it goes on that you designed your own engine power devices, including a hovercraft and unique go-karts out of wood. Yeah. Tell me about the hovercraft. 

Carter: The hovercraft, I think that was also in seventh grade and this was something that I had—

Jon: Of course, this is what you do in seventh grade. Let me make a hovercraft. 

Carter: This was something that, I'm not sure exactly how I came across hovercrafts, but remember like watching a video of them, and I don't think I was on YouTube at the time. I don't think I came on YouTube until 2009 and this would be 2007. So, I don't know where the videos came up but there was some sort of platform that I was watching videos and I saw hovercrafts and I remember talking to my dad and showing that these are really cool. He said, “Oh, we can make one.” I’m like, “Okay, let’s try it.” So we went and got a piece of plywood. We got tarps for, to build the diaphragm. We got leaf blowers and you know, we were able to successfully make it work, but not that great, but it was enough for me as a cool project. 

Jon: And then this is the part I love. At age 11. You got a welder for your birthday? 

Carter: Yeah. 

Jon: After apparently some convincing of your parents. 

Carter: Yeah. So for a while, you know, um, I've done all kinds of stuff, you know, I was always into like riding ATVs and dirt bikes and I think we got my first ATV at like fourth grade or something and just or we got a go-kart earlier and then the ATV later and I just love that kind of stuff and the go-kart was like really junky, so it constantly needed like maintenance for the brake pads and the chain would fall off so it's getting hands on with that kind of stuff. And I was also like building a lot of projects at the time so I knew the limitations of wood and I wanted to use metal and metal is very difficult to like—it's more difficult to cut and then drill and then bolt together. But I figured if I had a welder you can basically—it's like glue.You can glue and it’s  very strong. And so that idea just was like so interesting to me and so I asked my parents for a welder, I got one for my twelfth birthday and then, you know, they just let me be out in the garage and I just figured out—I taught myself how to weld and I started welding everything I could. 

Jon: Now when you started to teach yourself to weld, was your dad out there as well?

Carter: He didn't know how to weld, but he was out there for the—

Jon: Because I told you I went before we started. I grew up on a farm and I welded at that age to only my dad was always there. 

Carter: Gotcha. No, I mean often times it's, you know, I'm in, outside of the garage from when I get home to school to 12:00 at night. My parents are bringing me dinner in the garage because I'm not eating, I'm just working out there, you know, very obsessive personality. Um just making everything I can possibly can.

Jon: And then in your teens, you started to design and create innovative walking devices?

Carter: So, this was I think uh, probably about 2009, so I’m in high school freshman year. I get on YouTube, I remember even to this day and if you look at my like saved history from back in 2009, I had these videos, I would scour the Internet for all these, like mechanical like linkages, what they're called, where you have like different bars connected together and then like one spins around and you get other movements out of like—so you start with a rotary input like a bicycle pedal, but then you can use linkages to create different outputs, and I found these, this one Dutch creator Theo Jansen. He made this rotary mechanism that mimics a leg movement. So it creates these features that can walk, and when I saw that I was blown away. I thought that was so interesting, and so I just spent hours and hours scouring the Internet looking for all this stuff I can find, and there wasn't a lot of stuff. You have to go really deep into like YouTube. And so I think that's also part of why I understand YouTube so well because I spent so much time kind of almost reverse engineering at the time, looking—

Jon: --trying to find—

Carter: --trying to find content and so now I understand it better. Um, and so I got obsessed with designing these legs, these mechanical legs. And so I made my first one um maybe my freshman or sophomore year. 

Jon: What did it do? 

Carter: You could sit on it and you spin it around and it’s two legs out front that walk and pull you across the ground, kind of like very spider like. So that was the first one. The next one I made, I wanted to mimic humans. I wanted to mimic—so I remember measuring my sister, how long her like hip to her knee and then her knee to her foot. 

Jon: Was she a willing participant in this? 

Carter: Yeah. And so then I would use those measurements and try to design the ratios and figure out how to make it you know make the movement work. And by changing the lanes that each of the linkages in there, you get a different effect, and also spent many times and I would start with a quick wood prototype, put it together and then make a metal one and you know, so on and so forth and just, you know, and each one of these things would take hundreds of hours to develop and um, then I eventually made this human walking machine and which was all welded you know, creation with the gears and very complicated like to get out a single motor that powered four legs that walked you know, from a drill. I used an old drill, you know, and so I had like the drill input and I’d have to gear it down, and then I had a drive shaft and that had to have coupling joints that go out to 90 degree gear boxes, then gear it down again, that goes into the linkages for all four legs. So just an absolute, like pretty, uh, pretty impressive, like mechanical feet, especially for my age.

And then I enter that into like a engineering competition and I won the regional and then went onto states and won the states, and then there was a global competition where there's like over 25 countries around the world that fly in to compete, and I won that competition as well. 

Jon: Where was that? 

Carter: That was, I think that year was at the University of Michigan or Michigan State University for that one. Yeah. So that was a huge competition.

Jon: Now did your parents keep all of these? Did you keep all of these? 

Carter: I still have that one. 

Jon: Okay. Oh, okay. The one that won international prize, yes, but the, all the other inventions and all the other gadgets that you have, are they in the garage somewhere? 

Carter: I'm constantly battling them from throwing them out, so I have some left. Some of the bigger ones.

Jon: So they want to throw them out or you don't want them to?

Carter: I mean they just sit there and you know, I always say I’m going to use them for something, but—

Jon: I'm just smelling more videos.

Carter: Yeah and we've used this one for a very old video way back when on Stephen’s channel. 

Jon: Now you are recently moved to Los Angeles? 

Carter: Yeah. 

Jon: Or in the process? 

Carter: I’m in the process, yeah. 

Jon: Are you going to bring your welder? 

Carter: No, that's a very old welder. It’s time for a new one. 

Jon: After high school you win, you win design awards? 

Carter: Yeah. 

Jon: Where'd you go to college? 

Carter: Carnegie Mellon. 

Jon: How'd you pick Carnegie Mellon?

Carter: It was one of the best schools that I got accepted to. It had a great swim team and I was a swimmer at the time. 

Jon: Where you from originally?

Carter: Washington DC, like northern Virginia. 

Jon: And the secret service didn't come pay you a visit when you were making all this stuff? 

Carter: No. No. 

Jon: What did you study at Carnegie Mellon? 

Carter: I initially—so you know I have this mechanical background in high school and so I came in and I was thinking about doing something similar. I found physics my senior year in high school, I was very interested, so I went in as a physics major. That's how I applied and got accepted. Um, quickly after, once I got to quantum physics I realized like this isn't going to help with like the stuff I want to do, and so I made a career change and I was thinking, okay, well do I want to do mechanical engineering? And I turned against that because I felt that I already know everything about mechanical engineering, all self taught and you know, I'm only a sophomore at the time, but it's a pretty bold claim. But then I say I, I love like robotics and that's where I want to go. These mechanical legs, I can only get so much more mechanical. I need to get like intelligent. I need to be able to program them and put actuators and motors and that's all robotics. And so, um, I looked into doing um, computer engineering, uh, and it, you know, some classes I didn't like. They didn't all align with what my interests were so I ended up creating my own major at the school. 

Jon: Which was? 

Carter: And so I could—it was basically like a robotics major. I picked a name for it um, it was called—I called it, uh Digital Systems and basically is the idea of, they didn't have a robotics major, but they had so many great courses and so many great computer science courses in electrical engineering, but they didn't have a major that had—

Jon: I’m actually surprised Carnegie Mellon didn’t. 

Carter: They had a robotics major, but it was a secondary major, which means you have to double major in order to add that one on. But I said like, “No, I just want to study what I want to study,” and so I ended up creating my own major and so I was able to pick and choose all the courses that were going to help me in my interest of building robots and learning about this stuff. 

Jon: So let's shift to social media because your robotics and your building has been a big part of YouTube videos. 

Carter: Mhm.

Jon: Tell me about the moment you decided to start a YouTube channel. 

Carter: Well, I created mine in 2009 technically even the one to upload today, but I didn't start it as a YouTuber. I just started to view content. I was working at Philadelphia or at U Penn at the time in Philadelphia. My brother was home, he finished a, a year or two at a job that he didn't like. So, he was back home and it was only a three hour bus ride. So I came home every now and again and he was in the process of looking for new jobs and kind of doing other things. And one thing, he was—more of like a hobby at the time was YouTube. And so at the time I was like, that's kind of cool like I'll help out with some fun videos while I'm home for the weekend, you know, and then I think we kind of found like other people on YouTube are doing this full time, like it's their job, and, I was curious. I think that's kind of interesting like it's fun to make these videos. I looked into it, I started doing my research, and I was like, you know, slowly learning that like, yeah, lots of people are actually doing this as a full-time career. And I started to become more interested in it. 

I started to look up like, you know, how, how many views do you need to make? Like how big would you have to be in order to be considered full time? Do you need 50 million subs like PewDiePie or can you be at like—

Jon: And when did you do this research? When were you doing this?

Carter: While I was still a full-time job at, in Philadelphia. 

Jon: And at that point, well that’s a couple years ago, correct? 

Carter: That was like early 2017. 

Jon: Okay. At that point, how many subscribers did you think that you needed to make this a full-time job? 

Carter: It was hard to say, but I think 100,000 subscribers was a big deal. One because recognize—YouTube recognizes that as a huge accomplishment and that's when you think the first play button, the next milestone is a million and then 10 million. Um, so, you know, receiving that first silver play button is like a very huge thing and people have it on their walls and it's a huge thing to look at. And so— 

Jon: And you guys have a bunch on your walls, correct? 

Carter: We have a lot now. Yeah. It fills that the whole wall at this point. Um, so at the time, you know, I was with my brother and so we had a little bit of traction getting started. We made a little bit of money, and I was kind of like, shocked. I was like, wow, this is more than I expected from just a video that took off. 

Jon: And was this just from AdSense or from sponsors?

Carter: Yeah. No sponsors don't come for another year down in the storyline. Um, and so I was kind of like surprised. I was like, wow, that's interesting. So maybe these numbers I was doing research on, which I didn't believe were real, you know these people could be making good money. 

Um, and so then I joked with Stephen so I think we were at—so his channel just at the time, like a dead channel that he's had since 2009 or whatever, just because he was viewing content—he uploaded a few in high school, whatever, you know, probably had 16,000 subscribers from years ago. He hasn't uploaded content and like eight years, you know what I mean? 

Jon: Right.

Carter: But we're like, okay, well it's still a bigger number than my channel, which probably has like 100 subscribers or whatever. And so, you know, we started uploading content on his channel because we thought that would be our best foot forward, our best chance of making something happen. 

Jon: So you start uploading content. Did you in any way advertise it? Did you in any way a promote it? 

Carter: Um, no. 

Jon: So the content basically promoted itself? 

Carter: Yeah. Yeah. And so, you know, at the time, uh, you know, so I guess as like we got serious and we got focused, you know, I joked with Stephen said that 100,000 subscribers, you know, I’ll quit my job and we’ll go full time, we’ll really dedicate ourselves.  So until that time, you know, I spent as many hours as I was obsessing in the garage welding or doing anything else in my past, I'm now trying to reverse engineer YouTube, I have a coding background. I understand how computers work and how programs work and how algorithms work. And so I'm using that knowledge to then study YouTube, look at research papers, you know, look at articles, looking all this stuff to understand how I can like use my knowledge to reverse engineer this to almost manipulate my way to getting views by like exploiting and you'd like—

Jon: --to know how the algorithm works and what you need to do?

Carter: Yeah, if you know how to, you know, if you know how it works, you can almost play it. And so that's what we did. And pretty quickly I started learning how to do that, you know, it's a combination of, you know, making good content but also like packaging it the right way. 

And so by understanding how YouTube works, I knew exactly what keys to hit, you know. So if I have a video that's good, you know, that's the formula, a good video and knowing what keys to hit.

Jon: Right.

Carter: You can stick it out there, and the videos started taking off, you know, at some point I remembered thinking if I could just get two videos a month to hit a million views, you know, that might be enough to really consider like a new career change. And at some point, we probably had 20 videos in a single month all over 3 million views, you know, so it started really taking off. And so by the time I quit my job and moved home, we went from 100 in that period of time of me quitting and talking with my boss who just hired me. Um, you know, by the time I moved home April 1st, we already over 200,000, we doubled. 

Jon: And how was the conversation with your parents? I'm going to quit my job and move home and make YouTube videos?

Carter: Yeah. So it was pretty nervous at the time. I was very nervous about it, you know, I was—probably made me more nervous talking to my professor who hired me and we built such great bond together and we did such great work together and he really helped me out a lot. That period of time in my life, this opportunity he gave me. So that was a very nervous conversation. Um, and then I didn't think I'd be too nervous about my parents, but I was very nervous about it. And also just nervous as a life choice—pretty big thing, but I thought it was—

Jon: Well in talking to a lot of parents, a lot of parents don't understand it. They're like—

Carter: Yeah, I mean I think my parents, my whole life have been extremely supportive with any crazy project or thing that I've done in my past, and so I think that happens a lot—

Jon: They bought you a welder for God's sakes. 

Carter: Yeah, they got me a welder and other crazy stories. 

Jon: Yeah.

Carter: And so, you know, I just, just like anything else, I just say, you know, this is what I'm going to do. And just letting you know, I was like, I'm telling them kind of thing and they're just there to support me. But I know for this one they just didn't understand. They were like, I don't know, this is kind of crazy. Like, I know my mom might've said a comment that was kind of like harsh, you know, because she was just shocked, you know, and then my dad, he just had to trust me, you know, and so that's what I did. I moved home and they were open to that, to the support, you know, and we just, from there we just kept going. 

Jon: Your most popular video is RC CAR DRIVES ON POOL!!

Carter: Yeah. 

Jon: Where did you get the idea to drive, and it’s not really a pool but a pond kind of, but where'd you get the idea to drive a car on a pond? 

Carter: I always thought that like these hydroplaning videos I've seen, you know over the years are really interesting. I didn't really see a lot with RC cars, but I saw a lot with like a snowmobiles can drive on water because they have such a large surface area and they go really fast. Dirt bikes can do it even if you have to go really fast. ATVs you know, stuff like that. And I always had this crazy fascination of like building some like dirt bike or something that was more designed to drive on water. And um, so that came up with this idea. Okay, I'll try and driving an RC car. They're super fast now, you know, compared to when I was younger. They have like brushless motors and they're extremely powerful and you get paddle tires that can really grab the water. 

Jon: Did you put special tires on this car?

Carter: So I put paddle tires on this, you know, we stuck it on the side of the pool and had no idea if it was going to work. But I thought it would make good content and put some slow mo’s on it—and slow mo with water always looks cool, and so we drove it across and worked really well. 

Jon: I was watching the GoPro version of it. It was a view that you don't see. 

Carter: Yeah, it's pretty wild. 

Jon: Did you build the car yourself or did you modify it? 

Carter: I modified it a little bit. I added a more powerful battery and larger paddle wheels to it. 

Jon: Then you have a whole series of videos about a safe. 

Carter: Yeah. Now we're getting into some good stuff. 

Jon: Yeah. How did you come up with the idea of, of a safe? 

Carter: Yeah, that's a good question. Um, you know, again, I look at and study YouTube a lot and so when something does well, I see it, and I've noticed these like treasure hunt kind of style videos doing well for other people where they kind of are like treasure hunting or maybe they find like a treasure box in the sand or something in the house or whatever. There's lots of variations of it. I think it's kind of like a common theme that just humans in general are interested in and a lot of this is kind of understanding psychology and I have no education on that, but just self taught kind of understanding of it. And so one day I needed to film, I needed to upload tomorrow, it's at the end of the day and I just need something quick. And so I asked Liz if she wants to film, she says no, I'm like, come on, I'll be quick. Like, we’re just gonna run upstairs, I have a safe in my room—

Jon: Well you—okay, okay, I gotta stop you a second because that was going to be the next question. Where did you get the safe, but no, it was in your room. What were you doing with the safe in your room? 

Carter: So I had one from way back when I used to collect coins back when I was like 12. I got into like, gold antique coins and whatever. So for one of my birthdays my parents got me a safe, you know, as another birthday present. And so this one just sat up there and then since know mid-high school I kind of just lost interest in and it just kind of sits. But you know, I remembered I had that so looking at these treasurer things, okay, well let's film something with the safe, I'll pretend to find it in my room, I’ll try to crack into it and find all these coins, it’ll be really cool and this is not the safe series. This is the precursor to this. And so then Liz didn't want a film, I just kind of pushed her ,and I was like, c'mon, it’ll be really quick. 

And so I grab her, we make a really quick video, it's probably like a 15 minute video filmed in 17 minutes, which isn't the case, that's how people think it is. Normally it's like three hours and get like six minutes of content. So this one was just like straight on, you know, right across—

Jon: --almost vloggish 

Carter: Very vlog—but even when we film vlogs, it's not as easy as you would think. So this one was very easy. Like I was like, wow, this is kind of like crappy video like I don't know, but let's just it put up, I don't have anything for tomorrow. And so we put it up and ends up doing really well, you know, and this is one of those videos that just continued to just non-stop, never died out. Just, you know, now it's one of my top videos. So knowing about that a few weeks later, you know, I'm trying to think like what do I want to get into. And there was this abandoned town that also had a lot of success of us exploring. Like what if we combined the two and I find a safe in that abandoned town. And so I go on Craiglist and I look up safe. I look for a really old antique looking one and I find one, I called the guy up, we go drive out there and we go buy it and then it's really big, it's really heavy, you know, and so it takes like two, three people to lift it up into the bed of the truck. And then we had to park the car and then use a dolly and go through the weeds and over the grass and solid van and we throw it in this, you know, abandoned town as we filmed the video of us finding it there and that one did okay. And then the next one is we go back to the abandoned town and bring it back home. That one didn't do that great. And then we um, this was another quick one. I think we were leaving for a trip. So I was like packed my bags, like Uber is like almost in the driveway, I film a quick video of me trying to smack it open with a sledgehammer, and that did really well. People really were very curious about trying to open it. And so I built a whole series of videos of me trying to open it. 

Jon: You dropping it from up high. 

Carter: Yeah, I dropped it off a 6- foot j-lift onto the ground, we did liquid nitrogen, we drove a monster truck on it, we, we sunk it in the bottom of the pond for a week. Like all kinds of—we got in to all crazy stuff. Very exciting series, you know, and each of those videos just kept doing very well. I think it was very interesting and a huge curiosity factor involved with that one. 

Jon: Yeah like what's in, what's in it? 

Carter: Yeah. And so then we finally get into it, you know, at some point I realized that, you know, there's been enough videos, people, it's been like a month or two at this point. 

Jon: Yeah. 

Carter: You know, it's time to open this thing. And so we build this whole huge finale and um, you know, originally when I got the safe, I figured it was only going to be a three part series. I find it, I tried to open it and then open it. Three videos, you know. And so we filled it with a million dollars in cash inside the safe, you know, and um—

Because who doesn't have a million dollars laying around?

Carter: Yeah, so it was prop money and we get it like a custom order to be aged and the right bill era from the 1980s and everything. So it looks like very old, you know, in 1980 money. We stick it in there. Uh, so after we tried to open this thing, you know, then we get a plasma cutter, we cut into this thing, we open it up and then we call the cops and the FBI shows up and then they ended up arresting us for having all this, like, you know, because they think we might be part of it and we'd been tampering with the evidence, it was trespassing and we stole safe. And then, you know, we talk to the cops, it all works out and the cops get their money and they leave. And that was the end of that series. 

Jon: It was an entertaining series. 

Carter: Yeah, it was a good one. 

Jon: Are you a car guy? 

Carter: A little bit.

Jon: Because you feature Lamborghini.

Carter: Yeah.

Jon: Or well, I mean there's a bunch of high-end cars, but do you own any?

Carter: I do yeah. I have a Lamborghini. 

Jon: Which one? 

Carter: It’s a Gallardo. 

Jon: How long have you had it? 

Carter: About a year maybe. A little more than a year at this point. 

Jon: How did you pick a Lamborghini over a Ferrari, over Porsche or over? 

Carter: It's a good question. I was thinking about this earlier today and I think it was like month three into YouTube. We bought a Lamborghini, you know, like we quit my job, you know, we started to make a little bit of money, and the first thing we do, empty our bank account was for Lamborghini as you can imagine, a great investment. 

Jon: Yes.

Carter: And it's funny, but um, it actually was. I think it was a really great choice and we did a lot of research on how to own an exotic. And this is where my brother comes in because he's much more interested in exotics and understand there’s this huge market that people don't understand about these, you know, I guess it's technically a used. I mean, we got it 4,000 miles, 2012, you know, a few years old. Basically brand new, not a scratch on it, you know, but you know, you, the reason why is, you know, you get—if you were to buy a Lamborghini now drive it off the lot, it's going to depreciate a huge amount. A couple of years later, you know, the depreciation is still dropping, but it starts to level out. And after a certain point is for these exotic cars, they could, they always hold value. Even old Lambos. Old Lamborghinis now are actually worth more than they were brand new, you know, so they start to gain in value and Lamborghini, given the brand name, you know, they do such a great job of holding value and so if you look at like the depreciation curve, we’re right flat on this vehicle and then on top of that, since Lamborghini acquired Audi into the early 2000s or something like that, the cars are extremely reliable, there's low maintenance on them and so you can actually own one affordably and you can even own one, sell it a few years later and make money. And so we did all our research on this and this was the perfect vehicle, but it also happens to be the most flashy because lime green, you know, so it's just was, it was just perfectly aligned for us to make this choice. 

Jon: Now what made you decide to do an off road video with a Lamborghini? 

Carter: That's just something that I always wanted to do. I remember, you know, hanging out in the backyard, driving dirt bikes and saying if I ever got a Lamborghini, I'm going to, I'm going to put a lift kit on my tires and take it off road, you know, and so then, you know, sure enough, I then I got a Lamborghini, I was okay well I got to off road it and see how it does.

Jon: Most of your videos are filmed outdoors because we've talked about the pond, we've talked about dropping safes. 

Carter: Yeah. 

Jon: A Lamborghini off road. How will moving to Los Angeles affect that? 

Carter: Oh, it's going to affect it a lot. Not necessarily for the negative. I think it could be positive. I think being out here in Los Angeles will open up a lot of different opportunities but also close some. I'm not going to have a huge yard and a pond in the backyard anymore. Um, but you know, it's, it's better weather so it's a little bit easier, especially during the winter months to be out here. 

Jon: They do have an ocean.

Carter: But you know, there's also places we could travel. So I mean it’ll be different and I'm excited to see, you know, how it'll work. 

Jon: What are you goals for 2019? For the—basically you're now going to be out, you’ll be settled in. What do you want that first year out here to be? 

Carter: I want it to be fun. You know, we've been working really hard for a long time and struggled through a lot of very difficult things up until this point. And so I want to kind of enjoy a little bit of the fruits of our labor, you know, being out in a new area and also just, you know, have fast growth. 

Jon: Which leads to the next question. What's your long-term goal for the channel? 

Carter: Long-term? I just want to keep things going at a steady pace. Um, keep things growing, you know, because there's always this fear or there's always this possibility of things crashing and burning. It happens all the time. I see it all the time. Huge channels that came up and they're huge or that used to be big when I was younger and they're just dead now. Happens, it's very easy to do, and you know, gets caused by creator burnout, or not understanding YouTube, or not sticking with the changes or any number of reasons. And so that's always a possibility. And so I'm trying—I want to diversify. 

Jon: What are you going to do to diversify to keep your content fresh?

Carter: Yeah. Just staying on top of it, and that's important with connecting with fans through comments. Um, and just kind—you know having that feedback, you know, you can't just be putting videos out there blind. You have to be seeing how they, they do. 

Jon: You mentioned earlier that you have spent a lot of time on YouTube and kind of figured out the algorithms. How many hours a day are you on YouTube?

Carter: It varies, but a lot. 

Jon: A lot means 15 minutes or three hours, four hours? 

Carter: I would say probably every 10 minutes. My eyes are on YouTube throughout any day. Just constantly. 

Jon: What is your average day. I mean your average workday? 

Carter: My average workday? It's different every day I guess but just kind of to give you an idea. I wake up in the morning on a good day, I'll work out and then come back for breakfast, have morning meeting, with the team, you know, figure out what we have planned for the day. Um, you know, usually I'll have like a video scheduled, okay, I want to do this today, and so then we'll talk about who is going to help me with that. Liz might have a video or it might be producing other things. I might have calls with people or meetings with people, kind of go through all those things and uh, it's pretty action packed. And then if any downtime I have, then I'm on my computer, I'm studying the analytics, I'm looking at YouTube, I’m trying to figure out, you know, just trying to organize my content, I'm trying to optimize my analytics, stuff like that. 

Jon: How far in advance do you plan your videos? 

Carter: It really, it just depends. I would say right now it's kind of like I have a decent idea for the next couple, you know, and I need to film today in order to post tomorrow. That's how it is now. We've experimented in the past with building a backlog of five videos, which is about a week buffer, you know, and there's, there's pros and cons to that, you know, I kind of prefer staying on top of, like short, you know, maybe having like one backlog. 

Jon: How long does it take you to film your average video? 

Carter: Recently it's been getting, you know, a little bit shorter. I think I'm a lot more efficient with it now. And so if I want to make a, like, uh, I like to make my videos over 10 minutes, around 12 minutes as a sweet spot, it'll probably take, you know, under an hour to film it.

Jon: And you have somebody edit it for you. Do you edit it yourself? 

Carter: I have an editor, yeah. 

Jon: How long into the process before you got the editor? Because I've talked a lot of people and it's like, that takes days editing. 

Carter: Yeah, editing is tough, you know, I've only ever edited one video in my life and so early on the split was, we filmed the video, my brother would edit the videos and then I would do everything else, which is the thumbnail and all the metadata and the optimizations because that's, where I came from, my understanding. 

Jon: What's been your favorite video? 

Carter: The favorite video. It's always tough to pick a favorite, but um—

Jon: It's like picking a child. 

Carter: It's like picking a favorite food, you know, it kind of changes from time to time. But the RC car on water ones are always a lot of fun, you know, because it's, it's a combination of not a lot of people have done it, you know, it's really hard to find like I'm kind of like the first, not exactly the first, but probably close to it. And then also, you have this $500 RC car, you know, and I packed it in a suitcase and flew out to Hawaii and only have one of them. And I need to produce content, right? So it's risky. I'm driving over this water. You can't sink it right? So then you're sitting there counting down and you're really nervous about driving it right so you don't sink it, ruin the car and kind of ruin the investment of hauling it all the way out to Hawaii. 

Jon: The video where it went across the pond, where was the pond located?

Carter: I've done it a few times. So the one that I think you're referring to, it's probably just in my backyard and those are also fun because if it sinks, you know, shoes are coming off, I'm jumping right into save it. 

Jon: Somebody did jump in to save it. 

Carter: Yeah. So depending which one it is, I think you might be talking about—we had this really big truck, it was like orange and it was a gas gasoline engine, which I don't, I've never seen a gasoline engine RC car drive on water because gasoline engines and water—

Jon: --don't mix—

Carter: Are not a great combo. Electric cars aren't so bad because they're easy to waterproof, but engines suck in air and gasoline and air filters, and right, and so that one was a lot of fun. That was like a three day project to make that video work and you know, drove it across the water, almost made it, did way better than I thought and then it sinks and Hunter had to jump in and pull it out and you know, we quickly had to tear the—pulled out the spark plug, take off the air filter, drain the fuel, get all the water out, otherwise it’d sit and rust and we were able to put it all back together and it worked probably about an hour or two. So the next day we go back down to film it again, and we did it a couple times after that and that was just a lot of fun, these things.

Jon: What precautions did you have to take with TSA to be able to ship one of those to Hawaii?

Carter: Nothing, which is crazy.

Jon: They just—really? 

Carter: Yeah. So I had the biggest suitcase, I had to take the wheels off just to fit it in and cram it all in, and then I have these giant lithium ion batteries, they're very large, very dangerous, you know, what happens like when your phone messes up, it can be a little flame, but these ones are the size of brick on a house and I had like four of them and, I looked on the Internet of how to get them out there and they just said, bring them—you can't check them but have them on your carry on. So I had them in my backpack and there as heavy as a brick too. And so I'd go through security, get stopped every time, get searched and swabbed and stuff, and then they'd let me go. I don't know why they allow that on a plane, those things are huge and dangerous.

Jon: I'm going to change gears.

Carter: Alright.

Jon: You've heard these questions, but I'm still going to ask you, what is your definition of an influencer? 

Carter: Someone who can influence people. 

Jon: Do you consider yourself to be an influencer? 

Carter: I think officially yeah by definition and even now, now that I can see it, yeah. I can influence thousands of people. 

Jon: When did you first consider yourself to be an influencer? 

Carter: I guess like going back to that April 1st, 2017—

Jon: When you quit your job? 

Carter: I mean, I'm more so I would call it a YouTuber, you know, that's how I kind of thought of it. I remember laying in bed thinking like this is it, like I quit my job, like it's time to focus and I had no aspirations of looking back. 

Jon: When somebody asks you what you do, what do you tell them? 

Carter: That's a difficult question, sometimes. I mean, it depends who it is. I'll just say I'm a YouTuber, you know, I think that kind of gets an idea across. I mean—

Jon: Does it matter on the generation of the person? I mean how old they are.  

Carter: I don't know. Yeah. I don't know. Sometimes you can just tell like if I say it and they don't really get it, then I'll switch my answer a little bit or explain exactly because I do more than just YouTube videos. You know, that we do a lot of stuff outside of YouTube as well. 

Jon: Right. I mean you've had phenomenal success in a short period of time by comparison to others, but if you could start again, would you do anything differently? 

Carter: I'm definitely sure I would, but I made some mistakes in the past. I probably would've started in high school if I would’ve knew, you know, that would give me a few more years. 

Jon: It would've been interesting to see you film some of those early contraptions, some of your inventions.

Carter: Yeah, and I did and they’re actually on my channel, but they're not public anymore, but I have some content of that.

Jon: Why aren’t they public? 

Carter: It doesn't fit the theme of my channel, you know, they're filmed on an iPhone 4 or whatever I had at the time and there's no commentary and I’m just filming it and you know, whatever, like they're cool videos to have to keep personally and, but they're not a—it’s not a vlog. It wouldn't match. 

Jon: You said you spent a lot of time on YouTube every day just doing research basically. 

Carter: Yeah. 

Jon: What's the next big thing? 

Carter: The next big thing within YouTube? I don't know. I mean, YouTube is going through a lot of changes and since I've started, it's actually amazing kind of looking back at how different it was just two years ago and you know, the really—YouTube’s really kind of evolving to be clean, you know, like good family friendly, like brand safe content. They're really pushing for that kind of stuff and really weeding other people out. You know, there's creators that I've looked up to that have been large since before I ever even considered YouTube and are now just absolutely struggling to stay afloat. 

Jon: Yeah. Last question.

Carter: Alright. 

Jon: Where can people find you on YouTube?

Carter: Carter Sharer on YouTube.

Jon: Thank you. It’s been a pleasure.

Carter: Alright, thank you.

______________________________________________________________________________

The Creative Influencer is a bi-weekly podcast where we discuss all things creative with an emphasis on Influencers. It is hosted by Jon Pfeiffer, an entertainment attorney in Santa Monica, California.  Jon interviews influencers, creatives and the professionals who work with them. 

  • The Creative Influencer , Podcast , Influencers | Social Media
  • Nov 07, 2018

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