On orientation day at Ryerson University back in 2006, new students Nev Todorovic and Tyler Savery just happened to sit beside each other.
They struck up a conversation, and within days, a friendship. When they collaborated on some assignments in their Radio and Television Arts program, they quickly realized they had creative chemistry.
By 2008, their second year at school, they’d started a company together, inspired by people like Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Napster’s Sean Parker.
“I think we were probably always pretty ambitious kids,” says Todorovic, who isn’t yet 30 years old.
“You see these young people sometimes still in school, sometimes dropped out of school, and they’re making these huge companies or selling them,” explains Savery. “And you think to yourself — why not us?”
Now with offices in Toronto and Los Angeles, the media production company they named The Young Astronauts has indeed been on a rocket ship ride to the stars. Clients include pop idols Ariana Grande and Drake, along with international brands such as Nike and Sandals Resorts. (The company has also done branding work for CBC’s Schitt’s Creek.)
“When you’re a kid you either want to be a firefighter or a doctor or an astronaut,” says Todorovic, sporting an orange baseball cap over her dark hair, and a shiny jacket that looks like it could be NASA issue. “We aligned ourselves with people that fall into the astronaut category, people who want to explore the unknown and do things that are exciting.”
Small staff — big hits
But trying to nail down exactly what exciting things the company does is trickier than you might imagine.
The “services” section of the company’s website includes four categories: strategy, interactive, creative and media. Under those headings are over 30 different types of services, including web applications, e-commerce, logo design, live event streaming, and digital strategy. The team also produces music videos, games, commercials and short films.
“We consider ourselves an interactive media production company,” says Savery, “Basically meaning that we do everything.”
With fewer than 20 employees on staff, the company has already punched far above its weight in pop culture.
The company says its videos on YouTube have a combined one billion views. The “meme generator” they produced for Drake — which allowed fans to add an image of the artist to their own pictures — was a hit. It’s been viewed 30 million times and attracted two million submissions, according to Savery.
But in the beginning The Young Astronauts had a problem with lift-off.
Neither of the partners was accepted to Ryerson when they first applied. Savery spent a year volunteering at Rogers, trying to improve his chance of success with a…