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 probably about 2009, so I’m a high school freshman. I get on YouTube, I remember even to this day and if you look at my saved history from back in 2009, I had these videos, I would scour the Internet for all these mechanical linkages where you have different bars connected together and then one spins around and you get other movements so you start with a rotary input like a bicycle pedal, but then you can use linkages to create different outputs, and I found 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 the stuff I can find, and there wasn't a lot of stuff. You have to go really deep into 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. Um, and so I got obsessed with designing 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, very spider like. So that was the first one. The next one I made, I wanted to mimic humans, so I remember measuring my sister, how long her 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 the movement work. And by changing the lanes of the linkages in there, you get a different effect, and also many times I would start with a quick wood prototype, put it together and then make a metal one and so on and so forth and each one of these things would take hundreds of hours to develop and then I eventually made this human walking machine which was all welded you know, creation with the gears and very complicated to get out a single motor that powered four legs that walked from a drill. I used an old drill, and so I had 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 pretty impressive mechanical feat, especially for my age.
And then I enter that into an 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 over 25 countries around the world that fly in to compete, and I won that competition as well.
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
Jon: Over 360 million channel views and over 130 videos.
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 a significance with April Fool's Day?
Carter: I just remember it because it was April Fool's.
Carter: It was the start of the month, that's when I moved home—I'm really bad with dates and times, so that's how I remember. So, I have that day but I started a couple months earlier. I just graduated school and that summer, my friend invited me out to Philadelphia to work on a startup with him.
Jon: 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 it was a medical device company where we are going to automate pill dispension so people can better adhere to the medication and so completely different topic and so we're using engineering to manufacture this thing and it's a very difficult problem to have a device that can hold any different type of medication and a variation of different sizes and be able to 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 he hired me part-time while I was working.
Jon: And what did you do for him?
Carter: I did a couple of things. I was a research assistant and then I was helping him create curriculum, and I taught a few classes in the graduate program for the masters of our products and 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 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 maybe 1/10 scale. Their track’s for RC cars, so they were off the store. You can order everything 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?
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.
Carter: But you have a big area in the courtyard and you can map it out by either painting lines on the ground, but in our case we had bumpers, so they're off the ground about six inches high and this is what the car is. 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.
Jon: I'm going to start with your LinkedIn page of all things.
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 telling me of these times when I'm very young. But I mean ever since like I was little I 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 double the batteries because doubling the voltage on a DC motor makes it go twice as fast and I’d burn them out and break them, and so then I had a garbage junk yard.
Jon: Your junk yard of cars.
Carter: And then I remember sometime in the seventh grade since I have all these RC cars, I'm learning more about computers and stuff so I’d take them apart and so it’d have 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 with having very basic understanding of how any of it works. My dad, he was a chemical engineer so he knew about chemicals and stuff, which I thought were interesting also, but no one ever told me about how electronics worked, 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 I remember 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 to build the diaphragm. We got leaf blowers and 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?
Jon: After apparently some convincing of your parents.
Carter: Yeah. So for a while, I've done all kinds of stuff, I was always into riding ATVs and dirt bikes and I think we got my first ATV in fourth grade or we got a go-kart earlier and then the ATV later. I just love that kind of stuff and the go-kart was really junky, so it constantly needed 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 building a lot of projects at the time so I knew the limitations of wood and I wanted to use metal and metal is 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 they just let me be out in the garage and 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 too, only my dad was always there.
Carter: Gotcha. No, I mean often times I'm outside in 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, 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 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 saved history from back in 2009, I had these videos, I would scour the Internet for all these mechanical linkages where you have different bars connected together and then 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 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 the stuff I can find, and there wasn't a lot of stuff. You have to go really deep into 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. So, I got obsessed with designing these mechanical legs. And so I made my first one 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, very spider like. So that was the first one. The next one I made, I wanted to mimic humans. I remember measuring my sister, how long her hip to her knee and then her knee to her foot.
Jon: Was she a willing participant in this?
Carter: Yeah. Then I would use those measurements and try to design the ratios and figure out how to make the movement work. And by changing the lanes of the linkages in there, you get a different effect, and many times I would start with a quick wood prototype, put it together and then make a metal one and so on and so forth and each one of these things would take hundreds of hours to develop and then I eventually made this human walking machine and which was a welded creation with the gears and very complicated like to get out a single motor that powered four legs that walked from a drill. I used an old drill, and so I had 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 pretty impressive, like mechanical feat, especially for my age.
And then I enter that into an 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 over 25 countries around the world that fly in to compete, and I won that competition as well.
Jon: Where was that?
Carter: 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 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 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 recently moved to Los Angeles?
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 design awards?
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 are 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 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. Quickly after, once I got to quantum physics I realized this isn't going to help with 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 love robotics and that's where I want to go. These mechanical legs, I can only get so much more mechanical. I need to get intelligent. I need to be able to program them and put actuators and motors and that's all robotics. And so, I looked into doing computer engineering and had 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: It was basically a robotics major. I picked a name for it. I called it, Digital Systems and basically the idea is, 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, “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.
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 U Penn at the time in Philadelphia. My brother was home, he finished 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. I'll help out with some fun videos while I'm home for the weekend and then I think we found other people on YouTube are doing this full time, it's their job, and, I was curious. I think that's kind of interesting, it's fun to make these videos. I looked into it, I started doing my research, and I was slowly learning that 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 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—
Jon: And when did you do this research? When were you doing this?
Carter: While I was still at a full-time job in Philadelphia.
Jon: And at that point, well that’s a couple years ago, correct?
Carter: That was 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 YouTube recognizes that as a huge accomplishment and that's when you get the first play button, the next milestone is a million and then 10 million. Receiving that first silver play button is 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 the whole wall at this point. So at the time, 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 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. So I was kind of 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.
So then I joked with Stephen. His channel at the time, a dead channel that he's had since 2009 or whatever, just because he was viewing content—he uploaded a few in high school, probably had 16,000 subscribers from years ago. He hasn't uploaded content in like eight years, you know what I mean?
Carter: But we're like, okay, well it's still a bigger number than my channel, which probably has 100 subscribers. And so, 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, at the time, as we got serious and we got focused, I joked with Stephen and said that at 100,000 subscribers, I’ll quit my job and we’ll go full time, we’ll really dedicate ourselves. So until that time, 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, look at articles, looking all this stuff to understand how I can use my knowledge to reverse engineer this to almost manipulate my way to getting views by exploiting and you'd—
Jon: --to know how the algorithm works and what you need to do?
Carter: Yeah, 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, it's a combination of making good content but also packaging it the right way.
And so by understanding how YouTube works, I knew exactly what keys to hit. So if I have a video that's good, that's the formula, a good video and knowing what keys to hit.
Carter: You can stick it out there, and the videos started taking off at some point I remembered thinking if I could just get two videos a month to hit a million views, that might be enough to really consider a new career change. And at some point, we probably had 20 videos in a single month all over 3 million views, so it started really taking off. 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. By the time I moved home April 1st, we were 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 I was pretty nervous at the time. I was very nervous about it, 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. 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.
Carter: And so just like anything else, I say, this is what I'm going to do. And just letting you know, I was telling them 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. I know my mom might've said a comment that was kind of harsh because she was just shocked, and then my dad, he just had to trust me, and so that's what I did. I moved home and they were open to that, to the support, from there we just kept going.
Jon: Your most popular video is RC CAR DRIVES ON POOL!!
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 these hydroplaning videos I've seen over the years are really interesting. I didn't really see a lot with RC cars, but I saw a snowmobile 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 building some dirt bike or something that was more designed to drive on water. And so I came up with this idea. Okay, I'll try driving an RC car. They're super fast now compared to when I was younger. They have 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, 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. Again, I look at and study YouTube a lot and so when something does well, I see it, and I've noticed these treasure hunt kind of style videos doing well for other people where they are 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 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 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. We’re just gonna run upstairs, I have a safe in my room—
Jon: 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 gold antique coins and whatever. So for one of my birthdays my parents got me a safe as another birthday present. And so this one just sat up there and then since mid-high school I lost interest and it just kind of sits. But, 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 to film, I 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 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. I was like, wow, this is kind of a crappy video, 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, and this is one of those videos that just never died out. Now it's one of my top videos. So knowing about that a few weeks later, I'm trying to think what do I want to get into. And there was this abandoned town that also had a lot of success of us exploring. 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 safes. 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 buy it and then it's really big, it's really heavy, and so it takes 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 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 this was another quick one. I think we were leaving for a trip. So I packed my bags, Uber is 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 sunk it in the bottom of the pond for a week. We got into all crazy stuff. Very exciting series 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 it?
Carter: Yeah. And so then we finally get into it at some point I realized that there's been enough videos, people, it's been like a month or two at this point.
Carter: You know, it's time to open this thing. And so we build this whole huge finale and 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.
Jon: Because who doesn't have a million dollars laying around?
Carter: Yeah, so it was prop money and we get a custom ordered to be aged and the right bill era from the 1980s and everything. So it looks very old in 1980 money. We stick it in there. So after we tried to open this thing, 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, because they think we might be part of it and we'd been tampering with the evidence, it was trespassing and we stole the safe. And then, 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.
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, like we quit my job, we started to make a little bit of money, and the first thing we do, empty our bank account for a Lamborghini. As you can imagine, a great investment.
Carter: And it's funny, 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, 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, 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, the depreciation is still dropping, but it starts to level out. And after a certain point for these exotic cars, they always hold value. Even old Lambos. Old Lamborghinis now are actually worth more than they were brand new, so they start to gain in value and Lamborghini, given the brand name, they do such a great job of holding value and so if you look at 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 it is lime green, so 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, hanging out in the backyard, driving dirt bikes and saying if I ever got a Lamborghini, I'm going to put a lift kit on my tires and take it off road, and so then, sure enough, I got a Lamborghini, I was like 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.
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. But 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 it’ll be different and I'm excited to see, how it'll work.
Jon: What are your goals for 2019? 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. Keep things growing, 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, 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: Just staying on top of it, and that's important with connecting with fans through comments. Having that feedback, you can't just be putting videos out there blind. You have to be seeing how 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 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 a morning meeting with the team, you know, figure out what we have planned for the day. Usually I'll have 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 it's pretty action packed. And then I have if any downtime, then I'm on my computer, I'm studying the analytics, I'm looking at YouTube, I’m 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 just depends. I would say right now I have a decent idea for the next couple 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 and there's pros and cons to that I kind of prefer maybe having one backlog.
Jon: How long does it take you to film your average video?
Carter: Recently it's been getting a little bit shorter. I think I'm a lot more efficient with it now. I like to make my videos over 10 minutes, around 12 minutes as a sweet spot, it'll probably take 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. 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. It kind of changes from time to time. But the RC car on water ones are always a lot of fun because it's a combination of not a lot of people have done it, it's really hard to find, I'm kind of the first, not exactly the first, but probably close to it. And then also, you have this $500 RC car, 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 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 in to 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 orange and it was a gasoline engine, which 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 so that one was a lot of fun. That was like a three day project to make that video work and 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 we quickly had to pull 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 in 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 a 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 they’re 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.
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 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 going back to that April 1st, 2017—
Jon: When you quit your job?
Carter: I mean more so I would call it a YouTuber, that's how I thought of it. I remember laying in bed thinking this is it, I quit my job, 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, 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. Sometimes you can just tell 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 known 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 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 they're cool videos to have to keep personally but they're not vlogs. It wouldn't match.
Jon: You said you spent a lot of time on YouTube every day just doing research basically.
Jon: What's the next big thing?
Carter: The next big thing within YouTube? I don't know. YouTube is going through a lot of changes and since I've started, it's actually amazing looking back at how different it was just two years ago and YouTube’s really evolving to be clean like good family friendly 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.
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.