Welcome to Creators on the Rise, where—in partnership with global creator company Jellysmack—we find and profile breakout creators who are in the midst of extraordinary growth.
Marina Mogilko was lonely.
And for good reason: After co-founding study abroad company LinguaTrip in 2015, Mogilko and her husband Dmitry Pistolyako left their home country, Russia, and moved all the way to Silicon Valley in hopes of securing funding and a place in one of the Valley’s bevy of startup incubators.
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While the LinguaTrip team tested the waters with investors and incubators, Mogilko figured she might as well use her time in the U.S. to get her MBA in education. It was during this process–when she was studying for and taking standardized entrance exams like the GMAT and TOEFL–that Mogilko found herself homesick, and craving more connection than she was getting in her new community.
So she joined YouTube.
Her first channel was a Russian-language vlog used to document her everyday life. As she secured a foothold in Silicon Valley (thanks in part to LinguaTrip being accepted to incubator 500 Startups) and became more passionate about making videos, though, she realized English speakers might also be interested in her content. She branched off into a second channel, linguamarina, which today has more than 6 million subscribers.
But it’s her third channel, Silicon Valley Girl, that caught our eye here at Creators on the Rise.
Mogilko started Silicon Valley Girl because she didn’t think her Stateside friends would be interesting in language-learning content or videos about the immigration process, but might dig videos about things like the financial realities of living in Silicon Valley, business ideas and advice, investments, and crypto, she says.
It turns out a lot of other people were interested too. Especially when Mogilko started posting to YouTube Shorts.
Mogilko started uploading Shorts content in March. These days, her Silicon Valley channel generates more than 30 million views a month, and her subscriber base has grown by nearly 300,000 people in the past three months alone.
We’ll let her tell you all about it below.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Tubefilter: Tell us a little about you! Where are you from? How did you end up on YouTube?
Marina Mogilko: My name is Marina, I’m 32 years old. I was born and raised in Russia, but we moved to Silicon Valley back in 2015 because we started a company together, my husband and I, to help people learn languages. We wanted to build an international company, and we thought Silicon Valley would be the best place. So we decided to try and apply for different accelerators here and got accepted to 500 Startups.
This is how we moved! And at the same time. I was applying to different universities in the U.S. because I thought, you know, if nobody ends up investing in the company, I could do my MBA, my masters here, and I’d heard there were full-ride scholarships. Then if we did get accepted, we could start building a company from there.
So when I was taking all my tests like GMAT and the TOEFL, all the tests you have to take, I realized I felt really lonely in that process.
And this is how I started my YouTube channel. My YouTube channel is in Russian, it’s like a vlog channel. I just started documenting our journey, buying the first car, getting an apartment. And back then I was already surprised how expensive Silicon Valley is, so I mostly talked about that on my Russian-speaking channel.
But then I was like, okay, the experience that I’m talking about, maybe it will be relevant to people who speak English as well. And I started my second channel, linguamarina, which has taken off like crazy in the past couple years. Then I also realized that all of my American friends don’t watch linguamarina because I mostly talk about learning English language. So I need to start a third channel! I started Silicon Valley Girl to talk about my life here in Silicon Valley, with business tips and some basic investing.
Tubefilter: So how did you get into doing Shorts?
MM: I didn’t take Shorts seriously. When TikTok came around…I like to build teams? So I have a team to help me with all of my social media endeavors. And so I told my team, “Let’s take my long videos and repurpose them and create short videos and just post them on TikTok.” Because I just didn’t feel that I had to create platform-specific content. So we did that, and we posted them to Shorts, to TikTok, and to Instagram Reels.
This year I started doing my research and I realized that TikTok pays attention to your SIM card—the SIM card that’s in your phone. And my system is in Ukraine. So the, the geo was reading like Ukraine or like European countries.
So I was like, “What if I try and post a video using my own SIM card, the American SIM card?” We decided to create a platform-specific video, just documenting how I had a baby here and it ended up being like, I don’t remember, it was like $230,000, like $3,000 after the insurance paid, for this regular delivery.
I posted it and checked back in like six hours and it had already got a couple million views. And I was like, “Oh my god.”
The audience was completely different from what we saw before. So it was like, wow, this is really working. First of all, platform-specific content is actually really important! And second, SIM card really matters. So we changed the strategy completely. We decided that from now on, it will be me who will be posting all the TikToks.
And of course we use the same content to put it on my YouTube channels and on my Instagram. And we realized how these videos that are quickly taking off are just showing regular life here in California. Like I go to the grocery store, how much do I spend? This is how much the dentist cost. Washing a Tesla—that was one of the recent videos that I think got 7 million on TikTok.
And that was just such a surprise. I mean, you know when it’s a good video and you expect maybe a couple hundred thousand views, but then you wake up in the morning and it’s 2 million views, and you’re like, oh my god, what just happened?
It’s been a crazy ride.
Tubefilter: When was that, when you changed your Shorts strategy?
MM: It started at the beginning of March and now like every second or third video that we post gets millions of views, which is a little bit crazy. And the craziest thing is that there are a lot more people who recognize me in the streets. They’ll be like, “Oh, are you that YouTube girl? I saw your video yesterday!” Like, oh, wow, this is crazy.
I’ve been a YouTuber since the end of 2014, but I never got that much into it. Like I had viral videos before, but I just feel that with short videos, there’s so much attention there right now. And I’ve been featured in the big media outlets and, you know, just getting recognized by three people when you go to Target, it’s just crazy. Never happened to me before.
Tubefilter: One of the things I found interesting about your channel and your videos is that you talk very frankly about money—not just the money you’re spending to live in Silicon Valley, but the money you make on YouTube, breaking it down between how much you’re making from long-form, how much you’re making from short-form….It’s interesting to see somebody be that open about their income.
MM: Yeah, thank you. I think we need more transparency because when I started on YouTube, I was surprised how people don’t talk about it. But then I started talking to other YouTubers, and I found out so many things—things about taxes, things about how you can optimize, all that. And I just, you know, I wish that information was accessible to me when I just started.
Tubefilter: So clearly short-form is helping you grow, and it’s helping a lot of other creators grow, but there’s this other piece where you’re not making a lot of money from short-form content. Do you have any thoughts about the level of exposure and audience growth short-form can generate versus the level of income?
MM: I don’t think that bothers me that much right now, because I know attention is the currency these days. And I think where the attention is, money’s gonna follow. Obviously my concern is that I don’t deliver as much value as I’m used to with long videos. Like when I create a long video, I can create, you know, “top 10 jobs that you can learn from home.” And I can talk about every job and I can talk about what kind of education you need, I can go deeper.
With short-form, it’s like this flashy entertainment. And as I’m an educator, I like to educate people and explain difficult topics. And it feels that with short content, they just watch for a minute and then they forget, and they don’t see the value. Maybe I think this is my concern right now.
And in terms of monetizing them and the YouTube Shorts fund, that pays…like, it’s less than the general AdSense revenue, but it’s still there. And we also learned how to sell products for Shorts, so we’ve done some Shorts where we just mentioned the product in the end, or we just show the product in a short video and it’s able to generate money. But I think right now, my concern is more like what the value that I’m trying to provide to the audience. I’m just learning how to communicate in 60 seconds.
Tubefilter: What’s the mix of content you’re producing now? How much time do you spend on short-form versus long-form?
MM: Short-form, for me, is easy to create just because I still create Stories on Instagram. So anywhere I go, I will just create short videos documenting what’s happening.
For example, I go to Costco and I do my weekly groceries, and I will record whatever I’m putting in my basket, and then I will come back home and I will write the voiceover and record it. And then my team would edit that for me. It doesn’t really take a lot of time.
Long videos…One video can take up to a day. Like yesterday, I was doing a Tesla review, and it took a day to record the whole thing. Sometimes they take can hour, if it’s just a talking head video. When I sit down in the studio, my team helps move with research. I sit down, talk about it, maybe change the angles, and that’s it. It really depends on the video, but short videos are a lot easier to create.
Tubefilter: Has YouTube helped grow LinguaTrip?
MM: Oh yeah, absolutely. We have our own YouTube channel where we work with creators. We just did a big collab with English with Lucy and we launched a course together. Lucy, I think she’s one of the top three language-learning, YouTube channels. She has 7 million followers.
I also like the approach with business, having a face or several faces, because when it comes to learning, it’s not only about the content, it’s also about the person who teaches you. They have to be motivating and they have to be relatable.
Tubefilter: So this is probably a tricky question, but what does the average day look like for you?
MM: Oh yes, it’s a very tricky question. So the morning is when I communicate with my team. I take my daughter to daycare and then come back home. And then two hours, probably, communicating with the team, answering emails. Then a quick lunch break. And I have a second child, a 10-month-old, so she’s at home. So I play with her, have lunch, and then I shoot in the afternoon, and that takes three to four hours.
And then at the end of the day, I might have some press that I’m doing or investments that I’m doing, some financial. So it’s like office work. And then my daughter comes back from daycare, which means the day is over for me. I just spend time with the kids.
Tubefilter: How big is the team that you have working on your social media, your YouTube stuff?
MM: So I have a YouTube manager, this is the title for her, who is basically, she’s like my creative assistant and she helps with posting everything. She helps me with analytics, scripting, research. She also works directly with our three editors. Two editors help me with long videos, one with short videos. She works with, a thumbnail designer that we have, and also an assistant who just does day-to-day stuff. I have a sales manager who works with brands, so she does outreach and she also works with inbound. Oh, and I have a YouTube school, like a creator school, and we have 20 people there, like customer support, tutors, marketing. Then LinguaTrip is a completely separate company. They have over 50 people.
Tubefilter: Tell us about the YouTube school. Why did you start it? When did it launch?
MM: It started in 2019. I saw a lot of courses about Instagram, and I think YouTube was perceived as this platform that is really hard to start because you need to know how to edit and you need to have a production team or whatever. So I decided to start a YouTube school for people who are mostly like me, who want to document their life without having a production team helping them with everything.
We started with a basic course for creators. And then after that, we added the YouTube management course, just because I was hiring people all the time and I was teaching them myself, like, how do you post a video? How do you come up with a script? What’s the best title, what’s the thumbnail?
And I realized that when people changed jobs they were being recruited by bigger companies to write or run their YouTube channels for them. So I’m like, okay, we need to create a course so I can have a constant flow of people who know how to work with YouTube. So we started that course.
Then we recently did a course on short videos—how you repurpose content, how you come up with short videos, how you post them on three platforms at the same time. These are the three courses that we have right now, and some of them, like the management course, we created together with Teachable. The two other courses, we just created them by ourselves.
Tubefilter: You also got your MBA in education, you mentioned. What makes you so passionate about teaching?
MM: First of all, I think I just seeing people’s results. When I’m inspired by something, it comes naturally to me that I try to convince everyone to try what I’m passionate about. This is how we started LinguaTrip, because I went on this language trip from Russia to the U.K. to learn English. And I came back home and I was like, “Stop traveling without learning a language!” It’s such a different experience when you come to a country and you interact with locals instead of just doing like regular tours with a tour guide, and I was so passionate about it and I thought, you know, everyone should experience that. This is how we started a company. And I think it’s just this natural urge to share what worked for me, and to inspire others to try different things.
Tubefilter: When I saw you do courses, I was a bit leery, because there are a lot of fake gurus on YouTube and everywhere else selling courses that aren’t actually helpful or are overpriced, aiming to cash-strip people instead of actually helping them.
MM: Yeah, with the courses, I’m getting skeptical people all the time thinking like, “Oh, you’re just trying to make money out of me.” But I think a lot of people don’t realize that building a course is not something you do easily. It costs tens of thousands of dollars to produce the whole thing. And also then you need to pay tutors who give feedback on your home assignments, etcetera.
I think it started this way when people were like, “Oh, I’m gonna record seven videos and sell them for 200 bucks,” and it will be like information that’s available everywhere. I think now the market has grown up and reputation is a lot more valuable. So you try to give back as much as you can—you do live, you hire tutors, you recruit speakers.
I think more and more YouTubers are making it like a really great thing. Like I’m taking a course right now that has like 400 classes. I’m also, I’m trying to learn from the best, so even Stanford just launched a course on short videos, and I’m taking it I think in June. It’s just so exciting how everyone is moving into, first of all, the creator economy, but also creating online education that is accessible to everyone.
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