Alumni Spotlight: How a J-1 Internship Inspired a New Business

Show, don’t tell. It’s a mantra of writers and marketers, alike.

And amid today’s world of floundering attention spans, finding ways to cut through the noise and keep our domestic and global audiences engaged is more important than ever.

That’s what led our nonprofit to begin experimenting with Exposure, a sleek and clean-as-a-whistle photography-based storytelling platform.

So you can imagine my delight (and surprise) when this message landed in my inbox.

Email Screen GrabAs it turns out, the idea for Exposure was born while Luke Beard, a U.K. native, interned in the United States at Elepath, a product studio, through the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program.

There, the platform became the first product he worked on from end-to-end and less than five months into his time in the States, it launched to the public. In March of this year, it was spun into its own company.

Today, it is sustainable product and business with more than 80,000 members and more than 2.1 million photos within over 50,000 published stories. We recently caught up with Luke to learn more about the platform and his journey building it.

Where did the idea for Exposure come from?

Exposure was originally conceived after a trip to Estonia where I took a set of photos inside an old prison. After I had sat down and edited the photos I came to the realization that I had nowhere to post them as a narrative. I didn’t want to set up a WordPress or anything like that. There was no simple platform for me to tell the story in an elegant and beautiful way that was also not difficult to use.

After that conclusion, we set about prototyping the project that would become Exposure.

Do you think you could have found the same success without coming to America?

Nope. San Francisco was a great place to meet all the people that ended up being very important to my future in the industry. The photography community is also vibrant and inspiring. Maybe it’s all the sun.

You mentioned it has felt very gratifying to see photographers use and benefit from using Exposure. What’s been the most rewarding part of the journey thus far?

Building a tool that nonprofits really got behind was great to see. We started offering free accounts to nonprofits very early on and we are now a part of that content landscape for that part of the internet. Great causes, great stories.

It was also awesome to see people embrace the storytelling format into their photography mindset. We heard a lot of, “I did not know I even needed this!” very early on and now those same folks are finding work because they started shooting to tell stories.

Exposure Causes | Using Exposure for Causes

What is one piece of advice you’d give to your younger self?

Make your own luck. I waited far too long to take the risks. I did and I feel that was a missed opportunity. Work hard, take risks and the luck will come your way.

In a recent interview, you shared advice for individuals looking to start a new business. What would you say is the top skill one needs to develop to succeed as an entrepreneur?

I’m still learning that to be honest. Having smart people around you is a must (my co-founder being one of them) and being able to get perspective on a situation. Asking the question “Why does what you are doing or what you are about to do matter?” is a good place to start when thinking about getting a grasp on a situation.

Exposure was your first product. We’ve recently come across StatShot (we are loving it by the way). What can we expect next?

Yay! Glad you dig StatShot. Exposure will be expanding into a hub for many different photo-centric tools. Can’t say too much, but it’s what we have been working on for a while now :).

What are some of your personal favorite stories #ToldWithExposure?

Here are few of my favs over the last two years:

I Raised Henry
The Alps
Dear World: Boston Marathon
Racking Mac Pros
Best of Football 2013
Four in Four
Yeezus Noire

Every year, Cultural Vistas brings more than 5,000 individuals from 130 countries to the United States to take part in professional internship and training programs through the J-1 Visa and our Train USA program.