Producing great short-form video content is the key a business needs to go completely viral on social media. Today more than ever, businesses are struggling to keep up with the high demand for videos that can be easily watched from our phones while we’re on the go.

“With platforms like Snapchat and Instagram Stories having disappearing videos after 24 hours, brands need to figure out a way to create these new-generation videos that are short, rapid, and impactful,” Mike Cheng told Creative Destruction Lab.

Mike Cheng is the CEO and co-founder of Lumen5, a startup that helps brands and businesses effortlessly create social videos through the use of their smart video creator. Cheng decided to take Lumen5 to the next level by entering the CDL-West program — and the company emerged with some pretty amazing results. 

“We entered CDL with a product and graduated with a business,” said Cheng. 

Here is the story of Lumen5’s transformative journey through the CDL program. 

The Billion Dollar Idea

The story of Lumen5 started in 2017 with the observation that most existing video creation technologies are built for the film and creative industries. Existing software is intentionally designed to be vastly complex with high learning curves, as it’s built for professionals to produce feature films. 

“What we realized was that a new generation of videos will require a new generation of tools to fulfill,” Cheng explained.

Lumen5 was built from the ground up with marketing teams in mind, rather than creative professionals.

“The user experience we crafted draws inspiration from common business software so that marketing professionals would feel right at home,” Cheng told us. “We use artificial intelligence and machine learning to automate many of the more complicated steps in video production so that our users can focus on storytelling without worrying about the technical details.”

By studying the way professional video editors work, the Lumen5 team discovered a number of tasks that could be automated using AI and machine learning algorithms — such as adjusting the length of each scene, cropping the background to fit the frame, adding transitions, and inserting relevant visuals to tell a story, among many others. 

“Our users can simply enter a link to a blog post, and our system will use Natural Language Processing algorithms to automatically summarize a long written story into a short video narrative,” said Cheng. “Lumen5 also develops an understanding on what story is being told, and then automatically matches each scene with relevant media files by combining contextual knowledge with over 200 million stock videos, photos, and soundtracks in our expansive media library.”

Turning a Product into a Business

The team at Lumen5 knew they had a winning product, but they needed guidance on how to grow their tech startup effectively. That’s exactly why the team applied for the CDL program. 

“We were drawn to the CDL thesis of accelerating the growth of massively scalable, science-based companies,” Cheng said. “For us, CDL was the perfect synergy between business and science.”


During the program, Lumen5 was given a set of objectives every eight weeks, with new mentors for each cycle to help achieve those goals. The process was intense and demanding — but with the help of their mentors along the way, Lumen5 emerged with a world-class highly scalable business. 

“Startup founders have a tendency to think short-term, because so many of our problems are extremely immediate,” Cheng said. “CDL helped us take a step back and look at the business as a whole. They inspired us to dream bigger and challenged us to build something truly massive.”

One of Lumen5’s mentors in particular, Kimbery Kaplan, previously the Vice President of Product Management, Revenue Optimization and Marketing at PlentyOfFish, played an integral role in setting Lumen5 up with valuable networking opportunities with contacts from Google, Facebook, and other big companies.

During the program, Lumen5 grew their business significantly, through filling roles in sales, marketing, and customer success. 

“Not only did our mentors teach us how to grow the business financially, they also challenged us to think hard about our company culture and educated us on the challenges of scaling a high-performing team,” explained Cheng. “We graduated from the program with a much more well-rounded team along with a strong foundation to build an impactful business upon.”

With the help of the CDL program and mentorship, Lumen5 has organically grown to over 300,000 users and 2,000,000 videos created within 24 months without requiring any marketing spend or venture capital support. Their ambition is to become a billion-dollar company within the next 5 years by expanding to become the world’s leading solution for making videos for social posts, ads, and stories.

When asked about what advice Lumen5 may have for founders coming into the CDL program, Cheng responded:

“With CDL, you get as much as you put into it. Spend as much time as possible with your mentors so that they can develop a deep understanding of your business, because only then can you truly work together on asking the right questions and solving the right problems.”

Applications for the Creative Destruction Lab 2019/20 Prime and Specialized streams are now open. The deadline to apply is August 12, 2019. To learn more about the CDL program, attend one of our Live Information Sessions