So what the heck do you do here?

Deroy Peraza: We see ourselves as storytellers for change-makers. That's how we've tried to position ourselves. We've been around for 10 years going on 11, and this has been a slowly evolving direction for us. The reason we started a studio was to have some control over the work that we do, and, on a day-to-day basis, do work that we find meaningful, that we believe in, that we can relate to, and that we feel excited about.

Julia Vakser Zeltser: We met during the first day of class in freshman year. We had a friendly rivalry going. After college, we kept in touch. I was working in a corporate environment, freelancing at a small boutique, and hated the work. There was no mentorship. There was no inspiration. There was no love for what was being created by me or from the person who was heading the company. I decided I had to change my life and do something different. At that point, we spoke about how great it would be to work together. Deroy was freelancing, and we decided to join forces.

Peraza: The domain name, Hyperakt.com, was reserved on September 7, 2001. Four days before 9/11.

Wow.

 

Julia and I are both immigrants. I come from Cuba, and she's Ukrainian; both Communist countries. We landed here in the land of opportunity.

 

Peraza: Part of our story is that we've always been very scrappy. Julia and I are both immigrants. I come from Cuba, and she's Ukrainian; both Communist countries. We landed here in the land of opportunity. One of the things that we share is this strong work ethic...

Vakser Zeltser:... But also the American Dream. If you work hard, you will get it and get the benefits.

You mentioned it's been a slowly evolving process. What does that mean?

Peraza: We both studied illustration, not design. 2001 was a bit of a turning point because broadband became readily accessible. There was a lot more design work than illustration work, and the web was really taking off. The overhead to start a business was really small. Neither one of us had any capital to work with. We would do one project and use the earnings to buy a computer. We would do the next project and use the earnings to buy a scanner. We had to have a scanner in those days. One thing lead to another. Our entire history has been that way. We have taken things very slowly. We've gone one step at a time, both in terms of assets and knowledge.

Vakser Zeltser: We've made mistakes along the way and recovered. We've taken leaps and traced back. There is a very organic, comfortable growth to the firm. We also started when we were very young, 22 or 23, and we had no experience running a business. We didn't know what contracts to use. We didn't know what kind of cash to ask for.

Peraza: And we knew very little about the formal training of design. We were going on instinct and trying to teach ourselves.

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