How Sian Morson Went From Dreams Of A Career In Film To Creating Killer Apps
As a little kid, tech entrepreneur Sian Morson liked to sneak and stay up late. But instead of watching TV or playing video games, she was using butter knives to take apart electronics so she could figure out how to put them back together again. This curiosity for figuring out how things work followed her into junior high school in the Bronx, where a teacher introduced her to computer programming. Once again, she would stay up into the middle of the night, trying to figure out how to write programs.
“Having a teacher that was African American, and didn’t make it seem like we couldn’t get it, definitely broke down some barriers,” Morson said. One would think it only natural that she would end up blazing a trail in the tech world, however the fact that she was never particularly good at math or science caused her to lose interest and she embraced her creative side instead.
“I always loved storytelling, and had big dreams of becoming the next Spike Lee,” said Morson of her decision to attend NYU and earn a film degree. When she moved to the San Francisco Bay area after graduating and found that film work was as rare as an uncooked steak, she began bartending and writing reviews of websites for a local startup to the tune of 50 per day. Eventually, she got burned out. “I started thinking that maybe I should move to Los Angeles to be closer to film, but at the same time, I liked the Bay area and dot com was exploding.” She turned her attention, again, towards tech.
Morson landed a job as project manager at an ad agency, and it was there that she reconnected with her love for figuring out how things work. “I was managing teams, building websites, learning as I went along. Eventually, I mastered the language of the engineers and creatives, and got to the point where I was coming up with strategy and app ideas, and working with agencies from San Fran, to New York, and London,” she explained. It was while working with some of her international clients that Morson decided to study in London and earned a Master’s degree in Electronic Media.
By the time she returned Stateside, Morson saw how mobile was changing the way people were doing business, and she saw a niche for herself. So in 2010, she founded Kollective Mobile, a mobile development and strategy company geared towards startups, small businesses, and entrepreneurs. Today, Kollective Mobile employs a dozen engineers and is considered one of the Bay area’s premiere mobile development companies. And while Morson gets a huge kick out of creating apps for others, the app she created for herself is the one she’s most proud.
“When I expanded my business to Atlanta I noticed that my beauty products stopped working, so I talked to other women and realized the weather was having a huge impact on my skin and hair. So, I created Cast Beauty, an app that would recommend beauty products based on age, weather, and other variables.” The app became a hit among African American women, and ended up winning the 2015 L’Oreal Next Generation Award. But for Morson, who has since sold the app, it was never about money or accolades, but proving that she could use technology to solve a problem. It’s an opportunity that she’d like other African American women to have.
“We are such an untapped resource, and we use mobile and social media more than anyone else, so we should be at the forefront of mobile app creation,” said Morson, who uses her visibility to speak out about diversity in tech, mentor, and invest money in business startups.
So what’s next for this trailblazing tech expert and entrepreneur?
“I’m looking to flex my creative muscles a little bit, and get back to film, and telling stories that don’t normally get told,” says Sian, enthusiastically. “I want to merge it with what I’ve learned in technology.” Something tells us she’s going to figure that out too, and we’ll be watching!