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Meet Kara McGehee of ClearSummit


Article originally published in VoyageLA.

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kara McGehee.

Kara, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I worked as a litigator in my home state of Virginia for several years, and on the side wrote and performed music with my family and friends. After experiencing some perspective-altering health issues, I realized I needed to take some time to explore more of the world, and of life in general. My boyfriend (Shane Zilinskas) and I bought one-way tickets to Portugal, and in July 2014 we packed all of our things into storage, quit our jobs, and flew east. During the months we spent traveling in Europe, we started a software freelancing business, ClearSummit. After our 90 days under the Schengen Visa ran out, we came back to the U.S. and made our way to Los Angeles. Since then, our company has grown to 12 people, and we have a physical location inside The Riveter in Marina del Rey. We design and develop mobile and web applications for startups and for enterprise companies. The changeover from lawyer to software agency COO was a dramatic shift, but I have loved being able to create products with my team and our clients.

In 2015, I met Dae Bogan, a serial entrepreneur in the music industry at SXSW V2V in Las Vegas. He had an idea for a software platform that would solve the pain of managing rights registrations. This was a perfect fit for my passions – software, law, and music. I joined the team as Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer. TuneRegistry launched at SXSW in 2017. We continue to serve and support DIY musicians, independent labels, and indie publishers.

Has it been a smooth road?
It has definitely not been smooth! Going from a well-respected position as an attorney to scrappy entrepreneur was very difficult – financially as well as for my ego. Adding the additional stress of creating a company with my significant other – there were days that felt like there was no escape. The flip side, of course, is that Shane and I share all of the successes with our business, and we each truly understand what work-related challenges we both face.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with ClearSummit – tell our readers more, for example, what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
ClearSummit really focuses on an engineering-first approach to building software products. This is due in large part to the fact that our CEO is an engineer. During the last few years, we have been building a lot in React Native and React JS. We have some very strong full-stack developers who do a great job of seeing the big picture for how things need to be build, instead of just focusing on their particular tasks. Everyone on the team has an entrepreneurial mindset, and most of us have had our own startups. I think this makes us particularly adept at finding the best path for creating products with the right balance of solid engineering, budget consciousness, and user-centered interfaces.

One app that we are particularly proud of is Project Foodie, which we developed with The Intellectual Property Corporation – a television content production company. It was a great opportunity to provide the technical backbone of an app that also included very high-quality video and static visual components. We also built some technically complicated features such as shopping lists, ingredient scaling, and custom video player interactions. The app has received a lot of good press (including being featured on the Rachael Ray Show) and Apple’s App Store selected it as an Editors’ Choice. In addition to building the iOS app, we also created a more simplified web version to allow people to access the content on the web from any device.

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
I love the creative energy that exists in every corner of Los Angeles. In order to be able to live here, you have to have a certain amount of hustle and a lot of drive. I find it invigorating, inspiring and am never even a little bit bored. I am also a total wimp when it comes to cold weather, so I appreciate that it never gets very cold here, although in the Marina it never gets very warm either. The ability to enjoy time outdoors 12 months a year is absolutely one of the best parts of this place.

Not to sound cliché, but the traffic really is the worst thing about this place. I have friends who I don’t see nearly enough because it is too hard to get just 10 miles from here. I have to be more selective than I want to be to go check out live music, too. It greatly impedes people from being able to fully immerse themselves in all of the amazing things the city has to offer. There are vast unexplored areas of the east side of Los Angeles that I would love to check out – but it is hard to make it happen if you’re working startup founder hours on the westside.

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Published May 21, 2019

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