Howard Lindzon sits down with Jason on today’s episode. The two discuss Howard’s more than 50 investments, his view on the current market and his company StockTwits, “twitter for the stock market”.
1:10 Welcome to this episode of This Week in Startups. Let’s welcome Howard Lindzon of StockTwits
2:00 How many companies have you invested in Howard?
2:45 Go to gotomeeting.com and use the code “start” to get your 30-Day free trial
4:50 What exactly is a hedge fund for people who don’t know?
5:20 So it’s like take this bucket of money and make it grow?
7:00 So why would people give their money to an immense hedge fund?
7:45 Do entrepreneurs who have trouble getting funding have a problem or is it on the people who don’t invest?
9:00 What do you think makes the skill of raising money?
10:00 How does knowing the stock market make you a better entrepreneur?
13:20 Do you think Google will be here 50 years from now crushing it?
14:30 What is the best sense “in person” you get when you are investing in a company?
17:45 What was your most successful angel investment?
22:40 Thanks to NewRelic! Use code TWIST to get a FREE MONTH of NewRelic PRO
25:00 Let’s hear about you and Facebook.
28:25 Do you think Google is untouchable right now?
31:30 Let’s talk about StockTwits
37:00 So instead of the hashtags like at Twitter, StockTwits uses dollar signs?
41:20 Do you think people are ceasing to put their money in stocks?
42:15 Let’s talk about Zynga
42:50 What should Zynga do next? Should they go public?
44:35 Do you track people’s actual performance?
Narrator: Distribution provided by CoudSigma. The cloud that adapts to you. Visit CloudSigma.com/This WeekIn, for a free $200 credit.
New Relic: ThisWeekIn Startups, is brought to you by, NewRelic. Use promo code: TWIST and get a free month of NewRelic Pro. To redeem: visit NewRelic.com/ThisWeekIn, and see why thousands of developers, world wide, don’t deploy, with out it.
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Jason: Hey, everybody. Hey, everybody. Today, on the program, Howard Lindzon, is with us. Angel investor extraordinaire, creator of StockTwits. It’s going to be an amazing episode. People said in would never happen. Calacanis, Lindzon, together. Finally! Stick with us. It’s going to be amazing.
TWiST title sequence.
Jason: Hey, everybody. Hey, everybody. Welcome, to ThisWeekIn Startups. If you’re wondering what the program is about, well, you’re an idiot. It’s ThisWeekIn Startups. What the hell do you think, it’s about? It’s about startup companies. It’s about entrepreneurship. It’s about putting a dent in the universe. With me, today, Howard Lindzon. Who is a serial entrepreneur. A commenter. A… would you say “ball buster”?
Jason: Pretty much? That’s pretty accurate?
Howard: But, I get my balls busted. That’s ten bucks?
Jason: “Ball busting” is not on the seven list. It’s, like, the seven dirty words. Then, you put ten dollars in the jar. Also, StockTwits, I guess, is the biggest company that you’re associated with. But, you, previously, did Wallstrip, in 2006, with… What was her name?
Howard: Lindsay Campbell. I’m going to see her after this. We’re working on some other stuff. She’s in L.A., now.
Jason: O.K. Yeah. I have to hook up, with her. She had reached out to me.
Howard: I will hook you up.
Jason: Was she doing, Business Insider, for a little bit?
Howard: I think she outsources, some stuff.
Jason: Got it. Well, we’re going to have an amazing episode. Howard has invested in a ton of companies. How many companies?
Jason: Fifty companies. That’s double the amount of angel investing, that I’ve done. We’re going to have #realtalk. Like, hashtag (#) + real talk, about angel investing, bubbles, valuations, all kinds of stuff. How he makes his decisions, to invest in companies. He’s had a pretty good track record. I’ll tell you that. We’ll talk about StockTwits, the stock market, and finances. It’s going to be a great episode.
Howard: You love stocks. That’s what I’m here for.
GoTo Meeting Ad: I like stocks, too. I buy stocks, sometimes. This is all possible, because of, my good friends at GoTo Meeting. Thank you, to, my friends at GoTo Meeting, for making, number one: a great product that, I use all the time. I use the product, constantly. People try to set up meetings, with me. They want to use, like, their mobile phones. I need to be able to: get your complete attention, share a screen with you, have you share your screen with me, have perfect fidelity on that VoiceOver IP. The VoIP stuff is amazing. HD Faces is amazing. Go, get your 30-day free trial. Go to GoTo Meeting, click the “Try It Free” button, then use the promo code: START. You will love it. “Meeting is Believing”. These guys are such mensches. They’re giving away an iPad. They, just, love the audience, so much. It’s not a cheap iPad. This is the serious, 32GB. Not the 16GB. How do you get it? There’s a contest. Where in the world would you meet from and why, this holiday season? If you had the GoTo Meeting app, on the iPad. Tweet us with #TWISTIPAD.
Jason: This is a terrible contest idea, but, you’re going to get a free iPad. I get it. It’s, just, poorly written. This, is my staff. Somebody’s gotta write this, in english.
Howard: I can have them replaced. Philippines.
Jason: The Philippines, writes better english, than, here in America. I agree. Where in the world would you meet and why, this holiday season? GoTo Meeting works on your iPad. Which, I know, because, I’ve used it. Where, in the world, would you like to do your meeting, from? I guess, that you be me, saying, “I want to meet in Hawaii.” Where would you say?
Jason: Coronado? Basically, the place, you live. This is the thing, people don’t realize. If you move to California, people are like, where do you go, on vacation? It’s, like, “I live in Southern California. That is the vacation destination, for The United States.”
Howard: Even, downtown L.A., is better that anywhere, else.
Jason: Exactly. Just, put #TWISTIPAD, and you’ll win that. It’s you giri, it’s your humble honor. It’s your duty to say, thank you @GoToMeeting, on your Twitter account, right now. Unless, you’re driving down the 405. In which case, just pull over and do it. So, anyway, Howard Lindzon, you were a hedge fund, guy?
Howard: I, still, run a hedge fund.
Jason: You, still, run a hedge fund.
Howard: It’s the original 1998 fund. 14 years.
Jason: What, exactly, is a hedge fund? For people, who don’t know. It’s not angel investing, it’s not public investing. What does that mean, when people say, “hedge fund”?
Howard: Hedge fund manager, you have friends or people that trust you, immensely.
Howard: It’s a terrible word. So, I apologize. It’s, really, a limited partnership, where your partners are wiring you money, to do, as you please.
Jason: So, it’s like, “Here’s a bucket of money. Make it increase.”
Howard: Yeah. The pressure is, I think, hedge funds have a terrible… When I did it, it was, “Oh. You started a hedge fund.” Every idiot in the world, starts a hedge fund. That was in 1998. This is the same people, that are saying, now, “If you started up a company, you’re an idiot.” O.K. So, I don’t listen to anybody. I listen to myself and smart people.
Jason: You take your own counsel.
Howard: I take counsel of smart people.
Jason: Oh, yeah. Of course.
Howard: Hence, the web. You can follow smart people. So, a hedge fund is, just, a fancy word for a limited partnership, that allows the manager, me, to do, whatever the hell he pleases. Which, is usually, stated in a document. My document says, “Howard may change his mind, a lot. So, you’re giving him your money. His job is to do, well. He gets paid 2% of the assets.” Which, I’ve waived, for the last six or seven years. Just, 20% of the profits.
Jason: So, it’s a standard management fee. If it’s a $100 million, you get $2 million, a year. Whatever, it is. Then, you get 20% of the upside. Just like a venture capitalist.
Howard: We can get into that, later. But, this is why the industry broke. It became about gathering assets. Not… Just like the mutual fund business, which, is dying towards ETF. Which will dive, back towards individual companies. Through AngelList and the stock market. It’s a big circle. The way it started is, “Get me to $4 billion. I can make $800 million, a year. I don’t have to take any risk.” Now, you’ve got $4 billion managers…
Jason: Making 2%. Making $80 million.
Howard: I’m happy to make $0. You, only need, one year of $4 billion under-management. This is the problem, in the world. They need to break up the big funds. But, I’ve already, jumped into that, myself.
Jason: So, there’s huge funds, like, Blackstone, or whatever.
Howard: Stupid. Why would I give my money to Blackstone?
Jason: They say, they got billions of dollars and they could, just, go buy Sea World, or whatever. The bigger the deal they do, the better.
Howard: Why would you buy Sea World? Why don’t you, just, go and buy a U.S. Treasury? Which, is what everybody is doing. Because, it’s the only thing where you can call, the next day, and get your money back. So, everybody’s in the same trade, right now. Which, is U.S. Treasuries. All the smart people are saying, “That’s impossible. Rates need to be higher.” But, if I’m running $4 billion and my customers don’t want to take any risk, the only thing I can do is, put it in treasuries. Because, when you call, to redeem it, in three days, because Apple’s down 2% and you saw it on CNBC, I have to give you your money back.
Jason: Ah. So, this redemption issue is…
Jason: “There’s a ton of money, in the world.” This is what we keep hearing. There’s a ton of money. Freely available. But, then you hear entrepreneurs, saying, “I can’t raise money.” Is this because, those entrepreneurs don’t have good ideas or is it because, the people who have all this money, don’t have an intelligent way to deploy it to those entrepreneurs? What’s going on, there? There, seems to be… Angel investing, very, fluid, the last couple of years. Valuations got high, the number of angels grew, with AngelList. Then, we’re hearing, now, Fred Wilson blogging about it and others blogging about it, this trench between angel and first round.
Howard: Yeah. I don’t know. I think, it’s up to the angel investors to pick great companies and to stick to their knitting. Just, like me, running a hedge fund, since ’98. It used to be, that, in ’08, Russia was the thing. It blew up. Then, we had, long-term capital management. You have to go with the punches. You’ve been through, a few, cycles. Fred’s been through ten. I’ve been through eight up and down cycles. Where, all the world, will never bounce back from them. The world, always, bounces back. Raising money is just as hard as, being a C.E.O.. It’s just as hard as, doing, anything. It’s a job. Raising money is a skill. If you can’t raise money, it doesn’t mean that you’re an idiot or that your company sucks. It’s skill. You gotta get better, at it.
Jason: And, what do you think the skill is? When you have somebody come to raise money, from you, there are some people, where, it’s like, you can’t write the check, fast enough, I suppose. You know, it’s going to work. There are other times, when, it’s like, “My God. There’s, so many, red flags, going off, here.”
Howard: I like it, early. I think, every person, that listens to your show that runs a startup, should learn the fucking stock market. I’m amazed, when I walk into business schools or in front of entrepreneurs and they have never opened up a stock page. They don’t have a Schwab account or an ETrade account. Ten years, ago, taxi drivers had Schwab accounts. Now, the smartest kids, in the world, don’t want to buy a stock. They put their money in a Vanguard index.
Jason: Why is that? They’re afraid that everything got burned.
Howard: It’s a language, that, they need to learn, because, they’re not thinking about making money. O.K.? You have to start, early. You don’t have to go to Tony Robbins, definitely. But, you need to read about this stuff and surround yourself with positive reinforcement. If you’re a hard working person, you’re going to make money. Therefore, one day, take control of your money. Don’t hand it off, to anybody.
Jason: What is the lesson, there, in stocks. In terms of… How does knowing the stock market, make me a better entrepreneur?
Howard: Knowing the stock market, is being an entrepreneur. Whether, your 14 or 15. You get money for your bar mitzvah, your sweet sixteen, or in your case, I don’t know… your brisk.
Jason: No. Not my brisk.
Howard: When did you get you first bit of cash?
Jason: I think, it was my communion.
Howard: At your communion, you got a chip, with $12. I know, it’s up to you, you bought a stock with it. Cause, you’re a strapping New York guy.
Jason: I don’t think, I bought stocks, back, then. But, I did buy stocks, when I was in college, yes.
Howard: You bought it from a broker, who, screwed you over, probably. And, the first, few times, you bought stocks, you lost money, probably.
Jason: $35 a trade.
Howard: That was cheap.
Jason: I was buying, like, $200 worth of stocks. Of my pay, that was 17%.
Howard: I remember buying Akamai and the spread was $20. Of the stock.
Howard: People thought, the market was broken, eleven years, ago. Now, the spreads a nickel, or a penny…
Jason: Or a fraction of a penny.
Howard: … and you can’t make money. So, people get what they ask for. This is a great time to learn the market. What I try and teach people, around finances, is all the markets are connected. So, if your an angel investor, it’s your job to understand the bond market, the stock market, and venture capital market. If you want to raise money. You gotta understand how everything is connected. That’s why AngelList is so interesting. The data on AngelList, is now, connected to Wall Street. If I’m watching OpenTable stock, last year, two years, ago, and the stocks running up, all the smart people, in the world, is saying, “It’s over valued, it’s overvalued.” But, what they didn’t know is that, on AngelList, there’s five hundred startups starting. That were doing yield management Butts in the seats. Therefore, the market, the momentum people, whether they knew it, or not, I knew it, because, I’m watching AngelList, I’m thinking, “If OpenTable does not sit on AngelList and buy up 200 of these companies, they’re going to get disrupted.” That, I knew. I didn’t know, when. You look at Salesforce, the, complete, opposite example of OpenTable. Which, has sat on AngelList or at every startup event, and killed innovation, if you will.
Jason: Benioff will buy anybody who, potentially, poses a threat and absorbs them, into the board. Take them off of the market.
Howard: So, he’s owning the food chain. So, we, actually, set back innovation. Guess what? MicroSoft set back innovation, twenty years.
Jason: So, you buy the people, who might become your competitor?
Howard: No. I’m saying that’s what’s worked. You have to learn how to read the market. Meaning, AngelList was not a tool that was available, two years, ago.
Jason: That was, just, opaque.
Howard: Hedge funds don’t, even, know it exists and they’re supposed to be making me money. I’m sitting, here, Joe Schmoe, in Coronado, and I’m reading the tea leaves, better than anybody, who’s ever read it. Because, I can read Fred Wilson, watch your show, go on AngelList, see the data, talk to Naval, look at the all-time high list, see how everything is connected. So, the faster entrepreneurs, do that. The faster they’ll have an edge. The smarter they’ll sound, at cocktail parties. The smarter they’ll sound, to investors.
Jason: Got it.
Howard: The second thing they do: learn to play a game. Golf, something. Learn some social etiquette. Just cause you’re smart, doesn’t mean you’re going to get money. A lot of smart people are at Google. They’re not going to, ever, go out and start their own thing. That’s Google’s genius. Google is there, building that first home, for, really, smart people. They do everything else for you. Smart people like to be pampered. That’s why Google is a great company: they’re solving a problem, for smart people.
Jason: Smart people need a place to run on a treadmill and get their energy out.
Howard: They do. They want to work hard. Google, just, created an environment for the smartest, hardest working people to hang out.
Jason: You’re, incredibly, long Google. They’re going to be, here, fifty years, from now. Crushing it.
Howard: Has to be. If the stock goes to $100, everything changes. But, I don’t see it going to $100, cause, you know, we, already, survived 2008. The world was supposed to end, in 2008.
Jason: It didn’t.
Howard: That’s what smart people told me. It didn’t. So, for those people thinking the world is going to end, I don’t know what else you can throw at the world, than 2008. I don’t know. That was the moment, if your ATM didn’t work, during that month period, there, if your bank machine stopped working, there would have been fucking chaos. We were ten minutes, away, from that. But, you’re not going to get, much, closer.
Jason: We were, really, that close to having bedlam, in the streets. People, like, shooting the place up, looting, and madness.
Howard: It was close. I, always, feel we’re close, but, that was close.
Jason: Really, close. You see, in Greece, people are like, “I have five, more years, till retirement.”
Howard: This is nothing. The Greeks have been, like this, forever. They don’t want to pay taxes. That’s what happens, when people don’t want to pay any taxes. They, just, wake up everyday, saying, “Someone’s out to screw me.” That doesn’t work, either. Luckily, they’re in a little corner of the world, they have no weapons, and it has good weather. So, they should be fine.
Jason: Small population and, it’s not going to impact the market, here. Let’s talk about angel investing. You said, “Networking is critical and, that, this ability to interact on a human to human basis works.” What is it, when you’re meeting with someone, that makes it work? What are some of the angel investments that you made that are the most successful? What sense did you get, as an angel investor, in the meeting?
Howard: Good question. It’s, so, different. I’m, very, eclectic. Meaning: I hate being called. I like to be the aggressor.
Jason: Got it.
Howard: So, I had to build my own name, for myself. Cause, nobody knew who I was.
Howard: But, I, always, felt there was an edge, I think, when I searched “term sheet”, in 2005, for a golf deal, that I was doing. I found Brad Feld’s blog. I typed “term sheet” and I’m like, “What the fuck?” That guy, just, gave me air. I didn’t know who he was. I’m, like, cutting and pasting his term sheet. I’m doing this investment, which, was, eventually, GolfNow. Which, eventually, got bought by ComCast. I’m the VC, in the deal. I didn’t, even, know what a VC was. I put in a term sheet. It comes out. I see Fred Wilson, a bunch of guys that I become friends with. Rick Segal. All the smartest people. I sure, that’s where I came across your name, early on. I’m reading Fred’s blog, leaving these lunatic, hilarious, off topic comments about the market.
Jason: Right. Are you an absurdist? Your behavior on Twitter and social networks is, I, kind of, feel like you’re a Zippy or an absurdist. Like, a throwback to the 60s, 70s absurdist, like, “I’m just going to poke fun at everything.”
Howard: Including, myself. I think, Jim Cramer, could have been us. Could have been Fred Wilson. He was a superstar. Nobody knows who he is, but, he, really, invented blogging. Fred Wilson invested in him. You would know who he is. He has less hair, than you, but, he’s like you. He’s dynamic. He’s crazy. He was an early adopter, of technology. He was Harvard. He roomed with crazy man, Ballmer. That was his roommate at Harvard. Who, both, go to Goldman-Sachs.
Jason: They’ve got the same accent. That must have been a loud dorm room.
Howard: Can you imagine, they, both, ate beans, at the same time. Steve Ballmer and Jim Cramer. Talking and farting.
Jason: Yelling, screaming, talking, and farting.
Howard: So, that was the guy, in my world, that inspired me. Tech people have Andreessen, or you, or Fred, or Brad. For me, it was Cramer. I’m like, “I don’t read The Wall Street Journal. I can’t afford a Bloomberg.” Then, all of a sudden, I’m like, “Cramer.” He’s a great writer. He was passionate. There was no video. He was, just, banging away at his keyboard. He could have been the guy. But, he chose T.V. T.V. is the evil of all evil. Meaning: if you choose T.V., you’re giving up a lot of stuff. You’re giving up your family. You’re giving up your soul. You”re giving up a lot of things, to do T.V. Including making a lot of money, because, T.V. is time suck. You’re not meeting any interesting people, on T.V.
Jason: You’re stuck, for ten hours a day, at the studio.
Howard: Yeah. Makeup, this and that. It’s a terrible life. He chose it and he gave that opening to other people in the financial web. He should own the financial web. So, in 2004, 2005, and I’m farting around, after the crash, blah, blah, blah. I’m finding the internet. I’m like, “Wait a minute. I can’t believe these guys haven’t invested…”
Jason: Who do you wind up investing in? What was, like, one of the most successful angel investments?
Howard: Buddy Media. Second, is, probably, a company, called Rent.com. Which, was a 1998 investment. Top of the bubble. It was, like, a series Q.
Howard: It was called, Rent. It was Viva.com. In L.A. and Santa Monica. Stupid investment. It was called, Viva.com. You people think it’s a bubble, now. $60 million, pre-money, 1998. Scott Ingram, who’s, in Santa Monica, put some money in that. It should have gone to zero. Great C.E.O. Ended up selling it for $450 million, in 2005, to Ebay. Which, has now since sold it. Out of luck, I discovered it. It should have been a zero. I had a lot of money in it. In terms of dollar amount, that, really, put me back in play.
Howard: Learning from Rent.com, yield management… I’m like, “Yield management? That’s the web.” It’s like, taking inventory, that you couldn’t sell, anywhere else, and putting it on the web. So, I become friend with Scott, the C.E.O. I’m like, “Scott, we’ve got to do this in other industries.” I’ve never, even, been on the web. I’m like, $450 million. Everybody wanted it. It was a great business. You’re helping landlord. He goes, “Yeah.” As luck would have it, a kid walks into my office, in Phoenix, in 2005, with the same concept, around tee times, and I love golf. It’s called, Golf602. He bought up all the area codes. Genius.
Jason: Terrible branding, but genius.
Howard: Yes. He had done some other stupid things. That’s why he couldn’t raise money. He was licensing the code, in other states. I’m like, “You gotta own the whole thing.” I gave him some money. I said, “Buy everybody, back.” This is after I’d read Brad’s term sheet thing. I put in my Rent.com money and I’m going to sell my house. That’s how confident I was. I was in Paradise Valley, in 2005. That turned out to be a good trade. I took all of that money and put it in this company, called Golf602. Which, quickly became GolfNow. We changed the name. We ended up selling to ComCast, a couple of years, later. It’s been home run for ComCast, because, they didn’t pay, too much, and they owned the Golf Channel. It’s become the de facto, Open Table of golf. That was, like, my biggest and I kept parlaying it. Then, how I met Mike Lazaro, who is, probably, the best entrepreneur, I’ve backed, in terms of, at Buddy Media is, I kept cold calling Mike, because, James Altucher, said, “Mike owned Golf.com, which, he sold to NBC.” So, I own GolfNow and blah, blah, blah. I’m cold calling Mike and don’t know who he is. He’s not returning my calls. Nothing happens. Eight months, later, I started Wallstrip, Quincy Smith is buying us, at CBS. I’m in a meeting, with Quincy, and he goes, “You should meet this guy, Mike Lazaro, who’s consulting, for us.” I go, fuck Mike Lazaro, that prick didn’t return my calls.” I storm out of the Black Rock Building. I’m in crocs and sunglasses. I storm out, like, I’m a somebody. I go, “This deal’s off.” They come chasing me. They’re like, “What the fuck is going on with you?” I said, “Listen, CBS should buy my golf company. Screw Wallstrip. I’ve got this great golf company, the market likes. CBS owns Sports Center. You guys should buy this.” I was, just, joking. They calm everybody down. Lazaro and I go for drinks. He goes, “I can’t wait to get out of CBS. I’ve got this great idea to start a currency, on Facebook. We’re going to call it, AceBucks.” I laid down fifty grand. My check hadn’t, even, cleared, from Wallstrip. He’s a great entrepreneur. He had started Golf.com, and I’m in. Next thing you know, I’m pick up the phone. I go, “I got this handled.” I’m going to call Pincus, cause, Pincus had invested in Wallstrip. Called Pincus, on my cellphone, Pincus goes, “I’m in, for 250.”, hangs up on me. I look at Lazaro, he’s like cross-eyed. I go, “Mike, we’ve got 300 grand, already.”
Jason: Let’s go.
Howard: Let’s go. Two minutes, later. Pincus calls me back, and goes, “I’m sitting, here, with Peter Till. He’s in, for $500 thousand.” That was Buddy Media. Right there, in a bar.
Jason: Wow. Unbelievable. And, Buddy Media ended up selling for…?
Howard: Dumbest idea. It was Ace Bucks. Mike and his wife, Cass, who is an amazing entrepreneur, they pivoted, a few times, and they blew it out.
Jason: They wound up building social media tools for managing your social media. If you’re a brand, or something.
Howard: Yeah. And, they timed it, beautifully. Salesforce bought them, 5 or 6 months, ago.
Jason: That was a huge win.
Howard: $800 million.
Howard: Five years.
Jason: Just, another 5-year, overnight success.
Howard: In ’08, handshake deal, valuations were under $2 million. So, I would say Mike is the best entrepreneur, I’ve backed.
Jason: So, it’s like, 300X.
Howard: I’ve sold, a lot, early.
Jason: When we get back, I want to know what you think of Facebook stock. But don’t tell us, now.
Howard: Sorry, to ramble. But, it’s a good story. I figured, you should hear it.
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Howard: You wanted to know about Facebook.
Howard: I sold it, last week. I’ve been in and out of it, a few times. I think, I would say to young investors, “If you like Facebook, you can do better.” It’s at a $70 billion market cap, again.
Jason: They’re back up to $70 billion?
Howard: Yeah. Just over $26. I sold it at $24, again.
Jason: You think, it can dip down into the teens, again.
Howard: Who cares? I mean, I hope it stays between $20 and $30, for ten years. That’s good for all of us. What entrepreneurs need to think about is, stop worrying about what other people are doing. You should be hoping… meaning: you shouldn’t buy stocks and hope. We should all be hoping that Facebook figures it out. I don’t understand why people hope these companies fail. We need Facebook…
Jason: The shortened fruit, or whatever.
Howard: We need people to figure this shit out. When I started Wallstrip, when you were doing video, we wanted people to figure out… I figured, when I started Wallstrip, that goddamned Yahoo!, Google, somebody would have figured out, how I was going to make money, two years out, off my video. Here we are, in 2012, and nobody’s figured it out.
Jason: YouTube’s starting to.
Howard: We’re talking about ’06.
Jason: I know. podcasting started in 2005, 2006: Dave Winer and Adam Curry. And, it takes seven years to figure it out.
Jason: And, you know what? Figuring it out is doing a live ad read, like I just did. It’s back to the future.
Howard: It’s back to the future, cause, content’s still king. But, the thing about content is, and this is what is, so, hard about what you do and what Wallstrip was, with Lindsay… I mean, Jesus H. Christ. You make the show… T.V. people, that’s all they have to do. The actors show up, they make the show. Distribution’s handled, by everybody else. Everything’s handled, by everybody else. But on web content, that’s the beginning.
Jason: You’ve got to do audience development.
Howard: The nightmare is finishing the show. Then, you’ve got the work to do. A lot of my investments came from being an entrepreneur. So, a lot of my great investments came from doing Wallstrip. Because, TubeMogul, a great investment that I made, that was a tool that I was using, in 2006, to aggregate all of my videos.
Jason: You can post once to, like, 50 services.
Howard: Everywhere. It was, like, Feed Burner, for video. I called Dick Costolo. We didn’t meet through investing in Wallstrip, we were friends, through Fred. I go, “Dick, how about Feed Burner, for video?” He goes, “I’m in.” I closed Dick, for TubeMogul. Dick was on the board up until, recently. Dick was an early investor, with me, in TubeMogul.
Jason: Did TubeMogul get sold?
Howard: TubeMogul will do $50, $60 million, in sales, this year.
Jason: That’s unbelievable.
Howard: Yeah. They are the sneakiest web video company, out there, because, they’re the real time… they’re, actually, serving ads, in real time. They’re, like, a Google of real time video. They’ve built a great company and they’ve pivoted, of course. But, that investment came from me using Wallstrip and figuring out how to make Wallstrip work. Because, we weren’t going to make any money. So, we had to run it, as lean as, possible. I was using, like, a spreadsheet, like, O.K., four views, over here, on Dailymotion, we had views on Veoh, we had twelve on YouTube. Adding them all, together, one of the kids, one of the interns was like, “That’s awesome. You just saved me two hours, a day.” So, my bet, in 2006, was, it’s impossible that YouTube could grow, bigger than, 50% or 60% of the market share. Luckily, even though, I was wrong, it turned out well. Who would have thought that YouTube would, still, dominate, like they do. Even, more.
Jason: It’s dominating, even more.
Howard: That was a tough bet. So, I would have been wrong on that bet, but, I was long Google, as my hedge. Google’s unstoppable.
Jason: It’s unstoppable, right now, because, they have done such a great moat strategy, around the ad network.
Howard: Unbelievable. I’m not a tech guy, so, let’s assume that I’m wrong, about that. That have, such, a lock down with Droid, which, I don’t use, but Gmail and Chrome. Gmail keeps getting better, for me. Even though, it’s kind of weak. Works, for me.
Jason: No reason to switch.
Howard: No. Ever. What for?
Jason: Multi-decade, like, relationship.
Howard: Yeah. Multi-decade relationship. They’ll back into a social network, through YouTube, I would imagine, at some point. Which, is a big bet of mine. Being long Google.
Jason: It’s starting to happen. The new designs of YouTube are, very, like, channel and friend and subscribe.
Howard: Just like a company called, Blayze. Ben Smith. He worked at YouTube. He was one of the first guys working at YouTube. He’s a young kid. He knows more about it than anybody. Whether he failed, at YouTube, or not, is not the point. The point is he learned. And Google video. I think L.A.’s got this gene, about it, around video. I’m, pretty, excited. I’m not an L.A. fan, but, I don’t mind coming up, for the day, now, and seeing entrepreneurs, because, it’s a lot of energy.
Jason: It’s a lot of energy, here. Video works, particularly, well, because, people want to buy the ads, on it. The ads work.
Howard: They’re working. People are getting paid. Social media, I’m not sure. Congrats, to the entrepreneurs, who have done well. HooteSuite, TweetDeck, which, I was an investor in.
Jason: Shovels. Picks, axes.
Howard: But nobody’s buying shit.
Jason: Nobody’s buying ads, in social media. It’s a tough haul.
Howard: In the end, Amazon, just raised, $3 billion. They can go buy Bit.ly. They can go buy Twitter… Amazon should buy Twitter.
Jason: Why would Amazon buy Twitter and not Google?
Howard: I think, Google lost interest, finally, in that stuff. I think Google has calmed down, a lot. Google can go to their employees… If, I’m Larry Page, if I’m an employee at Google and I didn’t leave to go to Facebook, I’m, like, kissing the ring. Because, my stocks up 30% or 20%…
Jason: Theirs is down 50%.
Howard: Right. So, they’re underwater. Then, you got an enemy, too. Here’s two things, I’m going to say, if I stayed, at Google. “Oh. I was, so smart. I saw that coming.” Right? And, I’m going to be a better employee, because, Google, really, did win. I think, they have that lockdown, again. Where, the smart people, are saying, “I’m not going to chase the next shiny star.” That’s why Amazon is out raising $3 billion. Which, is genius, and I was just writing about this, yesterday, they just raised $3 billion at a 1% interest rate.
Jason: They got a $3 billion bond. They’re buying real estate. They bought a $1 billion headquarters, in Seattle, or whatever.
Howard: To woo e-commerce kids, that fail, to come work in Seattle. Where, they’ll, probably, put in a fake sun and it won’t rain, in this place.
Jason: Less depression.
Howard: People are emailing, each other, like, what’s it like to work at Amazon? That’s the number one email, today. “What’s it like to work at Amazon?” Cause, they’re there, now, to coddle the scrotums of young entrepreneurs. Do I owe money?
Jason: No. But, I think that’s the first time, anyone has ever, coddled scrotum, on the show.
Howard: That’s what came to my head. That’s why Twitter works, for me. I would have tweeted that.
Jason: Let’s talk about, Stocktwits.
Howard: Thank you.
Jason: This is a great idea. I’ve, always, loved this idea. Actually, in the Launch Ticker…
Howard: You’re using it. I love it.
Jason: I am using your innovation. Which, is to put a dollar sign, in front of a ticker. You came up with this idea. So brilliant. Or, somebody, on your team.
Howard: I think, it was me. Sorin was my co-founder. Chris Corriveau, who’s… The great thing about StockTwits, is, the original team is all there. Four years, later. This is a smart team. I wrote the blog post, saying, “Twitter is stupid.” I’m, definitely, wrong, all the time. Fred and I were good friends. Fred offered me a 25 grand investment. This is the dumbest fucking idea, I’ve ever heard. But, I said, “Twitter for stocks. That’s, really, smart.”
Jason: Twitter, you pass on. It was a $25k. What $500 million valuation?
Howard: No. 3 on 17.
Jason: $3 million on $17 million.
Howard: Yeah. That’s confidential.
Jason: O.K. We’ll make sure we… So, anyway, you, could have, invested at $20 million? It’s, now, worth $8 billion?
Howard: So, the best story is, that Jeff Pulver, was Fred’s next phone call. So, anytime, Jeff sees me, he comes up and hugs me, because, he was the next phone call that Fred called.
Jason: To invest?
Howard: Yeah. Fred, hung up from me and was looking for smart net worth people.
Jason: With more I.Q. point, than, Lindzon.
Howard: Yes. And, he called, Jeff. Jeff said, “Of course.” He made, a lot of, money off of that. Luckily, I backed into, a lot of, shares. I was an investor, in BetaWorks, and Summize, got bought.
Jason: Which, was, search for…
Howard: And, at the same time, I was investing… the first investor in TweetDeck, with, John Borthwick.
Jason: And, TweetDeck, got bought, by Twitter.
Howard: We’re talking, TweetDeck was under a million valuation, in 2008. Not that long ago, you could buy shit. Bit.ly was under $2 million.
Jason: Now, you have uncapped notes. $10, $15 million. It’s, just, ridiculous, right? Cause, if your putting in $25,000 and get 1% of the company, it feels good. But, putting in 25% to get 10 or 20 basis points, feels bad.
Howard: People are not thinking about this. Again, it’s why you have to understand the stock market. Mark Cuban, and I, would argue about this, all the time. It’s not how many shares, you own. It is, you gotta do math. The math has to work. I passed on Twitter, because, I have rules. At $20 million valuation… same as Zynga, which, I passed on. Same rules… I don’t invest in $20 million companies. Cause, in my head, when, they don’t have any customers, and I’ve got to think about a $200 million exit. Do you know, what that means? You know what that means, because, you started a company.
Jason: It’s a long road.
Howard: It’s ridiculous. How many companies, become, $200 million companies?
Jason: 1 out of 200.
Howard: Less, I would say.
Jason: 1 out of 300, whatever, 400.
Howard: 1 out of 1,000.
Jason: I’m talking about angel investing, in this case.
Howard: O.K. First, as a rule: if it’s under $3 million… First question, I ask, is “What are you thinking of on the price?” Cause, why am I talking to you, if you’re at $6 million and I’m at $2 million? Cause, I just, have to say, “No.”
Jason: It’s a bridge, too far.
Howard: I, just, have to say, “No.” That’s what comes from learning about stocks. Pruning, pruning, pruning. The same way a gardener, anybody, good at anything, prunes. You’ve got to curate, curate, curate. Which, is what StockTwits, was. I love Twitter, but, it’s ridiculous, that machines are, just, spamming, all day. So, why would I want to create that experience for users. I tried to create StockTwits for me.
Jason: Which, is a great way to start a company.
Howard: Has to be the, only, way. I started Wallstrip, for me. I wanted to make fun of CNBC and Wall Street. I was inspired my Letterman, by guys, like you, I was inspired by Fred, I was inspired by Cramer, I was inspired, in a weird way, by CNBC, because, I wanted to do the opposite. One ticker, a day. Let’s dive in. Let’s talk about the trend. Let’s blah, blah, blah… A cute woman.
Jason: Not do fifteen seconds. Like, CNBC does.
Howard: I was doing it, for me. It helped me think through ideas. The, very, first stock, we covered, was Apple. I was, like, “This stock.” I was in a retail store. It was a, really, funny show. I was wearing my jewish tallest and I was, at the store. I was putting post-it notes on the store, like, the Wailing Wall. I was, like, “Build more stores.” That was my message to Steve Jobs, in 2006.
Jason: “Build more stores.”
Howard: That was the cut in our first show. Billionaires are watching the show and, just, laughing. It’s, very, difficult, cause, I’m not an actor. I hate the camera. I love doing radio, but, I hate the camera.
Jason: You have a face for radio. That’s what people keep telling me.
Howard: Yeah, and a middle section, for radio. It was, so, scary to be in New York, and you’re a New Yorker, to get… “Yeah. I can do that.” I’ll just walk up to the store in my tallit and my kippah. I’ll, just, barge in and start praying, in front of the glass door. I’ll put a post-it note, there. Then, we’ll pan out. As soon as, I got out of the cab. Lindsay was there, with me. She was, like, “You gotta do this.” They were trying to…
Jason: Egg you on.
Howard: I was, so, nervous. It’s, so, hard, to be an actor, obviously. That’s when, I knew we had to sell. In the first show, I knew, we gotta get the fuck out of this idea. Because, I can’t act. I don’t want to do this.
Jason: Well, you had, Lindsay, she’s great.
Howard: She was incredible. Lindsay, made the show. It was great, for everybody. Lindsay, ended up on the Sopranos, at the time. We, really, revolutionized…
Jason: She played a Bada Bing Girl, right?
Howard: No. She played the kid’s teacher. One class. A history teacher. And, he’s daydreaming, about her, the little kid. So, Lindsay is… She was one of the greats. Still, is.
Jason: So, StockTwits. Let’s go back to the reason, for StockTwits. You guys, tweeting, all day long. Instead of putting a hashtag, you put a dollar sign for the ticker symbol? That little innovation…
Howard: It started as a little innovation, exactly. Not a company. I called Fred. I said, “Fred. Why isn’t Twitter, Twitter.finance.com? Let’s disrupt, CNBC.” I said, first of all, “Twitter should have disrupted, Bloomberg.” You got Google. You got Yahoo! Google doesn’t want to take on Bloomberg. They should. You’ve got crappy UI, in New York. You’ve got Bloomberg and a bunch of meatheads, at Bloomberg. By meatheads, I said, “They’re not Google.” There’s a lot of smart people at Bloomberg, but, the front facing of Bloomberg, is, a lot of pretty women, cocaine sales forces, $2,000 hustles. Great customer support, obviously, because, it’s New York. It’s a customer support software.
Jason: But, a lot of cocaine in sales, a lot of sales meetings to get, fifty terminals.
Howard: Yeah, most of the people are unhirable, on the west coast, by the way.
Jason: They’re, just, too, devious. Too much force, too much blow.
Howard: For sure. Anyone denying that, has not been sold a Bloomberg machine. Or, a Reuter’s terminal, or, something else. So, the west coast, which, is avoiding Wall Street and doing terrible mockups. The financial web is , but, that’s a whole other story. But, you got Andreessen poking around. Chris Dickson is a, really, smart hire, by them. Because, Chris understands hedge funds, hates Wall Street, and will, probably, do a better job of figuring out the financial web, but Wealthfront, Andreessen, Sequoia, I think, they’re doing terrible financial deals. They started caching, then, they pivoted into Wealthfront. I don’t think, Silicon Valley kids should invest, for themselves. I think, you, still, should have a personal slave, that makes your investment decisions, for you. Or a Schwab, which, is plenty, good, enough. You can’t disrupt a commodity.
Jason: Get an ETA.
Howard: You can’t disrupt a commodity. So, I think, Silicon Valley is attacking Wall Street, from the very wrong angle. Now, Naval, is attacking it from the very right angle. But, he’s not a VC, he’s an entrepreneur.
Jason: With the crowd-funding stuff, that he’s doing. Now, he’s starting to circulate deals, and, with second market, you can put, as little as, a thousand dollars in a deal.
Howard: Yeah. I don’t know if second market is working, though.
Jason: Yeah. I don’t know, either. But, it did work, for a long time, like, trading Twitter.
Howard: It’s a brokerage. Define “work”. It’s not, so, innovative in the sense… I mean, I like the guys there, and they’ve raised, a lot of money.
Jason: Trading shares, in companies, that weren’t, previously, available.
Howard: That’s a dumb idea.
Jason: That’s what you do. It’s a dumb idea to let dentists do it?
Howard: I invest. Trading, I think, is a terribly dumb idea. I think, people need to have experts. I think, you need to, again…
Jason: If, I’m a dentist and I’m on Facebook and my kid is on Facebook, all day, can’t I just say, “O.K. If, they’re on it, all day, I should, just, buy it.”
Howard: No. Terrible idea.
Jason: Really? Who is that? Whose school of investing is that?
Howard: Peter Lynch.
Jason: Peter Lynch’s? That’s it.
Howard: He made, a lot of, money. Be he, also, could move markets, because, he managed billions of dollars. He could self… what do you call it? Self-perpetuating ideas.
Jason: Self perpetuating the top ten list.
Howard: He was running Fidelity. Not that he wasn’t great. I’m, just saying, styles come and go. The idea of investing in what you like, I do. Meaning, I look at all-time highs, which, is the, exact, opposite of what other people do. Everybody wants to buy cheap. I say, “Cheap” and “Expensive” are the two, most dangerous, words, in investing. Especially, in the stock market. In the private market, “Cheap” and “Expensive”, are the two, most important, words. You need to invest cheap, because, you’ve got nothing. Your entrepreneur is going to get punched, in the face. How many times have you been punched, in the face?
Jason: This week or…?
Howard: Exactly. So, nobody knows what your entrepreneur is going to like. So, either, you say, “If you want to invest, stand still. I’m going to punch you, like, eight times.” Then, see if you, still, want to invest. Which, is not going to happen. What’s going to happen is, you’re going to wire them the money, they’re going to get punched, in the face, they’re going to say, “I don’t, really, love the video space.” Right? That’s what people, don’t understand. So, “Cheap” and “Expensive”, matter, a lot, in the entrepreneur world. In the public markets, it’s liquidity. You have liquidity. Therefore, you can change your mind, every minute. Who cares about, “cheap” or “expensive”? Have a thesis. Have some risk management. Have an idea. You can go buy Facebook. The good news is that, you can go sell it tomorrow, too.
Jason: Pair your losses. If you’re wrong, you, might only, lose 20%, 30%.
Howard: But, you can change your mind. Or, you can, also, change your mind, on the way up, too, remember. Right? You can use money management. I’m a big believer, in the stock market. I think, it’s one of the greatest things that capitalism has.
Jason: People are not putting their money in the stock market, anymore.
Howard: Crazy. Such, great opportunities. That’s what people, aren’t learning. That’s what StockTwits is about. We’re a mentoring education tool. If I’m going to learn from smart people, I want to learn from people who sit and talk about stocks, all day. I want to learn the chatter. I want to learn the language. If I want to learn spanish, I’m going to Spain, I’m going to Chile, or wherever, they speak spanish.
Jason: You want to be with the native people.
Howard: That’s what StockTwits is. Tune in. Listen. You don’t have to say a goddamned thing.
Jason: Just, sit there and absorb.
Howard: Sit there, curate, and absorb. Learn the language.
Jason: Like, right now, looking at RIM. RIM has had this incredible run, when people realized, “Oh my God, it’s not going to zero. Maybe it’s going to get bought. Something’s going to happen.” So, it went from six to twelve, whatever, eleven.
Howard: Well, I would argue, that’s just noise.
Jason: Dead cat bounce, kind of thing?
Howard: Yeah. Who’s… There’s nobody left, to sell. Everybody assumes, it is at zero. Everybody forgot, it wasn’t at zero. That doesn’t mean, it’s a good company, anymore. That’s, just, noise of the deceased.
Jason: What about Zynga? Let’s talk about Zynga. Because, Zynga has… and we’re, both, friends, with Mark. We’ve, both, done business, with Mark, who is a tremendous entrepreneur. A $1 billion dollars, in revenue. $1 billion and a half in cash.
Howard: A great eye. People don’t realize, he has a great investing eye.
Howard: Oh. Yeah. Forget about entrepreneur. We could argue, all day, who’s a good entrepreneur. But, some people have the eye.
Jason: He get’s it. And, he’s been through the mill, punch in the face, relentlessly, for the last couple of months. At $2 or $3, is it trading at, almost, their cash value, now?
Howard: Yeah. But I don’t want to buy… I’d rather invest in a startup. Friction. So, friction matters. He’s got $1.6 billion, in the bank. But, Wall Street hates him. He’s got, all these, ghosts, in the closet.
Jason: What should he do?
Howard: I can’t give someone advice… It’s already, broken. Stay. In for a penny, in for a pound. You’ve got the money, in the bank. Take two months off, figure it out. Wall Street is, already, vaulting it at zero, by the way. But, that doesn’t mean that, I want to buy the stock. If, I’m Mark, yeah, I’m, all in. But, unless, you, really, understand what Mark’s going to do, next, with this company, then, I don’t know. But, there are better opportunities. I’m a friction believer. You want to find the least amount of friction, possible.
Jason: Apple has no friction?
Howard: No friction.
Jason: Zero friction?
Howard: Except, idiots. That, just, don’t understand the story. You’re never going to get over that. There’s, always, going to be doubters.
Jason: Why are people doubting it. Because, it’s…
Howard: Because, it’s sounds cool to say that Apple is…. It’s like, cocktail parties. You know. They say, “Samsung’s killing it.” I say, “Have you been to a store?” “Do you understand the lockdown, that, they have?” Do you understand, that, maybe they have a pact, with Google. Maybe, just those guys, all met, before Steve died and said, “Listen, we hate everybody else. We hate you, a little, less. We’re going to have a pact, so the government, doesn’t come after us. We’ll just own mobile, together. You go run it, free…” You don’t know what’s happened. But, I just know that those, two companies, are so, well, positioned, for the next five or six years, that it seems, very, unlikely to, even, think about them. Other than, the extremes. Last week, you were given an extreme: Apple was down, eight weeks, in a row. I was on the stream, going, “Come on guys. Stop talking about the end of the world, here. This is an opportunity.” So, sentiment plays into StockTwits, as well. I like to read the stream and get a feel for how lunatic, people are.
Jason: Do you track, or, have you thought about tracking, people’s, actual, performance and calls.
Howard: I don’t think it works. Here’s why it won’t work. I’ve invested in a covestor. I’m not saying it won’t work, but, why it doesn’t work, so far. It’s Ebay, on finding people. 99% of the people, can’t beat the averages. Cause, the averages, make sense. What makes sense for 99% of investors is, put $500 or $100, a month, into a diversified… I don’t think, a highly diversified… but a well diversified pool of securities. And, do it, every month. At dollar cost average.
Jason: So, that’s not… you don’t have to over-think it.
Howard: I don’t know why people don’t do that. Completely, under-think it. But be consistent. Because, there’s positive expectancy around entrepreneurs in the system. It’s, just, proven. So, put your money to work, consistently, every month. If you truly are going to invest and use StockTwits and these tools, that I’m helping to create and mentoring, etc. Then, invest, with idea that I’m going to trounce the fucking market. Why would I want to make eight percent, if I’m working, so hard. I want to make eighty percent. It’s not easy. I’m not saying, you’re going to do it. But, that’s the attitude, you need to have, if you’re going to invest, in the stock market.
Jason: Yeah. But, you’re doing it, full-time.
Howard: You could be doing it part-time.
Jason: I have Alliance Bernstein managing, this group of money. Designed to, like, preserve capital. Balance portfolio nonsense. Then, I gave this chunk of money, actually, a cousin, who runs a energy hedge fund, type thing. That is, very, like, 25%, this year, down 25%, this year. Up 50%, this year… Very, big swings.
Howard: I’m not a believer, in big swings. I believe that the average investor. If they learn the language of this stuff, can, really, do this. I’m not saying, that they need to invest, in stocks. But, by learning the language of the stock market, you’re going to learn the language of all the markets. Which, is sentiment, mood, timing, networking. All those things, that any language brings.
Jason: Is it rigged, though? Mark Cuban, says, that it’s rigged. Individuals, shouldn’t get involved.
Howard: I think, if you, really, sat down, with Mark, he’s saying that, for the masses. Because, the masses, don’t want to take the time, to learn how to invest. But, if you, really, sat down, with Mark, I think, he would give me money. I’m not smarter, than the average person. I think, Mark would say, “Howard, I trust you.” Isn’t he saying, that he believes, I can beat the market? So, I think, he’s talking out of, both, sides of his mouth, there. I think, he’s trying… that’s T.V. Mark, saying that for the masses. This, is the problem, I have, with T.V.. Deep down, Mark believes, in the market. He would have moved his money, with the other guy, into Singapore. Has he? No. So, Mark’s a huge believer, in the market. I think, that’s just part of “T.V. celebrity Mark”.
Jason: What is the future, of StockTwits? You’ve been doing it for a couple of years, now.
Howard: Four years.
Jason: Four years. It’s, obviously, got tons of great advertisers and marketers, I see, on the site, all of the time. You must must be making, serious, bank, off of those. On a CPM, basis.
Howard: The display business, is dead. So, no. You want me to be honest, with you? I will say, that, the ETrades, the Schwabs, of the world, they’ve cannibalized, themselves. The industry’s broken. So, if you look at the way, that, they advertise, that market is, actually, dried up. I can, openly, say that, with everybody, cause, it helps me understand, how to invest, my money.
Jason: So, they’re not paying for CPM?
Howard: Go, look at Schwab’s trade stock. ET, is ETrade. Which, is like, an extra-terrestrial bad company. That’s what ETrade is. It’s a commodity business. It hasn’t moved, in like, six years. It was a $1,000 stock, it’s $2.
Howard: So, what does that say. That says, two things. It says, that kind of business, is a crappy business. But, the idea of personal investing, has never been easier. Because, I can do it, for nothing. It’s a commodity business. It looks, like, Ameritrade, which, looks like, Schwab, which, looks like, ETrade. Right? So, StockTwits, has got to figure it out. Again, like, with Twitter. We’re betting that Twitter will figure out, different ways of advertising. We’ll fast follow, them. I will argue that they, probably, haven’t. Twitter’s gotten, a little bit of, a buy, recently. People got tired of talking about, how they’re going to succeed, so, Twitter’s been in a nice spot. Just trying to execute, these last 4 or 5 months. So, I’m interested, to see how they’re doing. But, I don’t know… I like the in-stream ads. I think, there’s something, there.
Jason: They seem to work.
Howard: I think, they work.
Jason: They’re getting, more and more, targeted. It feels, like, I’m not seeing things that, I shouldn’t see.
Howard: It’s not annoying to me. A display ads is annoying. I’ve learned to block those out. So, a display ad, doesn’t work. We’ve been very creative around StockTwits, using HooteSuite-type model of selling, using Twitter-type model of selling. We’re trying, a lot of, stuff. Where our true value lies is, we have interesting data, interesting sentiment. We’re building a brand, that, I think, people trust. I think, trust is an important thing. Just like, people trust you and ThisWeekIn Startups. They trust StockTwits, to get a picture, of what’s going on, in the market.
Howard: What do you think, should happen, to StockTwits? What do you think? If you were sitting back, in your chair, and I’m interviewing you, what would you have done, if you were competing, against us, or you were in the financial web business?
Jason: You have this elite group of people, thinking, it through. These are the people, who, do it, all day. They would pay for these premium services, clearly. Taking out their wallet and paying $10 or $100 , a month, is no big deal.
Howard: We have thousands of customers, that do that.
Jason: Some premium offerings? Then, there’s this other mass of people, this larger group, the people, that, Cuban is saying, “It’s a rigged game.” I wonder, if there’s a product or service, for them, that would, just, let them…
Jason: Yeah. Dabble. You, know, just get them on the road to, not being schmucks. Let them, when, the 2008 moments, happen, not piss the bed, as badly, as they, probably, do, already.
Howard: That’s the best, we could hope for. Exactly, what you’re saying.
Jason: Cause, what they do is when things get bad. What are they saying, now? It’s a financial cliff? They have to work it out. Or, else, they’re going to get run out of town, with pitchforks.
Howard: The market’s forward looking, anyway. So, the market’s, already, factored in what’s working, or not. That’s not the news. What we have to teach people on StockTwits, through, what you’re talking about: a snapshot of what, really, is happening, under the hood. That’s what you’re talking about. Which, I agree with. We need to give the 99%ers, a snapshot, that they trust.
Jason: And, not worry. People are, so, panicked. Watching CNBC. It’s like, they’re, so, desperate to get ratings, that they’re sitting there. Trying to play, this hype machine. To keep you involve for, five more minutes, ten more minutes, to get a couple more ad views, that, their currency is panic.
Howard: Here’s how broken T.V. is. Let’s not, just talk about CNBC, but, Fox and CNN. That’s exactly it. You’re nailing it. That’s why I started, with Wallstrip and that’s why I continue. I made ten investments, in the last year. In the financial web. From, Covestors to YCharts, which, is killing it.
Jason: Yeah. YCharts are good.
Howard: Out of Chicago.
Jason: They were a TechCrunch 50 company.
Howard: Were they?
Jason: Yeah. They launched, on stage.
Howard: I was early, early, in that. And, a couple, I can’t disclose. I feel like the individual should have these tools. You shouldn’t have to pay $2,000 month, to get a snapshot. Cause, all Bloomberg is nice packaging, good customer support, wrapped around a communications product. The reason Bloomberg works, is, it’s the original Facebook. Well, the original Facebook, was Marlboro cigarettes. You sat around. If you smoked, we’re two, we had something in common. We, both, smoke, we’re pariahs. We got kicked out of restaurants, together. We were like a social network. Along comes Bloomberg. Bloomberg is the best social network, that ever was created.
Jason: Just that chatter. The chatting.
Howard: No. It was like, “I’m a hedge fund. I don’t want to talk to Howard, who can’t afford two grand a month. I’m going to talk to this hedge fund, over here, who’s been curated.” Do you know why, he’s curated? Because, he’s paying $2,000 a month. He can’t be a put.
Jason: It’s in the country club.
Howard: It’s a country club. So, he’s got lockdown, of all the smart people. Meaning: even if they wanted to leaven, they don’t leave, because, everybody who’s smart, is on the network. That’s why Bloomberg is winning. That’s why, he’s mayor. That’s why, he’s the real mayor. Not a badge mayor.
Jason: Is he a great mayor?
Howard: Don’t know. I mean, New York… I couldn’t live in New York. I’m not a big Bloomberg fan. Like, if everybody loves him, I think, there’s, probably, something wrong with him.
Jason: What do you think? Is the media collapsing on, itself. Is it going to be replaced by this authentic, sort of, web stuff. It seems, that, the web stuff, to me, like when you look at business Insider and you look at Huffington Post, like the reblogging… Is it starting to collapse, on itself? Where, they’re not doing original reporting.
Howard: Good question. I think, news is a dumb business. What is news? Is my mom, watching about a child who’s missing, in Fort Lauderdale, everyday, news? That stuff’s happening, whether, they’re reporting it, or not. Yes, it’s important, that we catch that person. But, me hearing about it, in San Diego, is not news. Because, in my little world, I’m worried about the Navy Seals, that haven’t come home. So, I don’t think, news is a business. I think, a local newspaper, once a week, is a good business. It’ll, always, be around, because, I only need my news, once a week.
Jason: But, we’re obsessed, with the media.
Howard: Who’s we? I’m not.
Jason: The public seems to be. Or, is it, that we’re traveling in the L.A., New York, San Francisco, media bubble?
Howard: I just don’t watch T.V. and the news. I’m, just, not obsessed with news. I’m obsessed with, smart people. I’m obsessed with, the crack of, opening up my stream and it being smart.
Jason: Paul Bandrowski, or, someone saying…
Howard: Well, Paul’s not smart. He thinks, he’s smart.
Jason: He’s not smart? Who’s smart? Bill Gurley.
Howard: Super smart.
Jason: He writes a post, like, every six months. You’re, like, “Wow. Why didn’t I think about that?”
Howard: You’re never going to see him, when you tune in to Twitter.
Jason: No. He did CNBC. I don’t know if you saw him, on CNBC.
Howard: Did they let him talk?
Jason: They let him talk and he, just, like, crushed them, with his intelligence. They were, just, sitting there, because, they didn’t know how to respond. Cause, they’d never heard, such, intelligence, on their program.
Howard: The thing about CNBC is, it could be, so, good. If they let you, or, I, run it. It would be, so, good. Cause, we would do these, for an hour and a half. Cause, in the end, if you’ve got a great quote screen, CNBC could put on monkeys, playing board games. It would kill. They’d have to sell bananas, or to Dole. They’d have to get different sponsors, but people are only there, to see the quotes. So, what I told Fred, with StockTwits and the human ticker is, “Let’s give that ticker, some context.” Meaning, if I see QQQ and SPY, and it’s all, just, machines trading, I’d rather be able to click into, Joe bought, AAPO. Who the fuck is Joe? Then, I can click in and I can, actually, talk to Joe. Hello! That’s StockTwits. That, in the essence, when I saw Twitter, I go “Whoa.” Twitter, for verticals, is a home run.
Jason: It hasn’t happened.
Howard: Because, they have no soul to attack that.
Jason: I bought, a bunch of, domains, around that. That’s going to work.
Howard: So, did I. James Altucher and I bought. We had a hack company, called, 140Labs. This was back, in 2007. Marissa, used to work, for me. We were launching, 140 this and 140 that, but, as you and I learned, it’s easy to come up with a name and a domain but, building a business, is hard.
Howard: You know, it’s like the Mesopotamian line: If you think, it’s a great idea, get drunk and wake up, tomorrow, and see if it’s a good idea.
Jason: That’s a, pretty, good test.
Howard: Yeah. It’s a good test. “Yeah. High fives. Great idea.” Go, get hammered, wake up, throw up, take three Advils, and go, “Was that idea, still, worth doing?” So, you, really, gotta want this step. CNBC, could be great. CNBC, would have to cut, everybody. Do this type of interview. Get Bill Gurley on, and say, ‘Bill, I don’t want to hear your take on City Bank, I want to hear what’s going on, in Silicon Valley. You have the mic, for an hour. Go.”
Jason: Let’s talk about The United States, in regard to… Is it a declining empire? Are we turning into Europe? Is that a bad thing? We, sort of, have this big debate, that occurred, in this election, about jobs. There’s nothing, either, president can do about billions of people, in China and India, are taking jobs out of America. It’s systematic multi-decade trend, that we, just, can’t fight. Is this country screwed, or not?
Howard: People need to travel, here. I used to make fun of the States. Obviously, as a Canadian, I’m born and raised, in Toronto. I go, “Oh. Americans are so dumb. They only travel, within America.” Now, I think, that’s all they should do. Because, you can go to Vegas and see the rest of the world. I was in Vegas last week and it was, like, “Holy shit.” I was in Chile. i was in India. I was in… You go and stay at an Encore or the Wynn, which, is a wealthy person’s hotel. Just, go hang out and see where the other wealthy people hang out. Used to be, just wealthy people Texas people. Guess what? I didn’t see a person from Texas at the Encore or the Wynn. Chile. You know where it’s coming from? Latin America. Finally. Argentina, Chile, Brazil.
Jason: These places are good.
Howard: I’m super bullish on America. Because, in the end working hard wins. Working hard is what wins. People, from all over the world, if they work hard, for ten years. And, continue to polish and refine, just like, working coal into diamonds, if you continue to polish one thing, well, your special purpose, as Steve Martin says, you will be great. So, America’s going to be the best place, barring something that we can’t see or speculate on. Is Obama crazy and going to turn us into socialist freaks? All bets are off. I don’t know. I don’t like paying 50% taxes, in California. I love living in California. Hence, I pay the man. At some point, it’ll make sense to live in New York. Which is, the same taxes, crappy weather, half the city is under water. Why would I want to live in New York? I think the people that are doomsaying America, are, just, lazy. It’s easy to be skeptical. It’s easy to be a doomsayer. It’s hard to dig in. It’s hard to understand how smart people do it. It’s hard to get on a plane, just to do research, and go to Vegas, and to look around. And go, “What is happening?” and look around. There wasn’t a goddamned chinese restaurant, in Vegas, ten years, ago.
Jason: Now, The Wynn has two.
Jason: They got the dim sum place and they got the sit down one.
Howard: I was at all of them and there was not a china man in it. It was Indians. It was Latin-Americans. There were a couple of jews, because, it was Thanksgiving. But it wasn’t a goddamned person, from the States, there.
Jason: That’s true, because, jews eat chinese, on Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Howard: Thanksgiving, Christmas, and sundays. I think, America is, just, getting started. I think, for us, in the startup world, this is what is so great about startups: no friction, no government, no nothing. It’s like, stop reading the news, because, your startup is not affected by the news. Your startup is affected by friction, that is created by the world, which, you can’t fucking deal with. You can’t do anything about. And, your friction. The price that you give. How many founders? What’s your cap table looking like? Is your lawyer good? Are you paying, too much, on lawyers? Figure out how to do shit fast, fast, fast, fast,fast. Startups are about going fast. I don’t like the word, “fail”. “Failing’, that’s dumb. Fucking work to succeed, but, do it fast. I’m not saying, reckless fast. Use the tools, that are around you. Fred Wilson, he’s writing, everyday. You’ve got this show. I’m writing about how to do the stock market. You got an arsenal of tools.
Jason: The tool are out there, but, yet, there’s, still, like you say, people that, just, complain about how hard… it’s so easy.
Howard: Thank God, there’s people to complain. Rodney Dangerfield said it, in the movie Caddy Shack. He said, “The world needs ditch diggers, too.” The ditch diggers in my world are the complainers.
Jason: The rice pickers.
Howard: The little people who say, “StockTwits, that’s stupid. Why do I want to hear from a bunch of dummies?” I say, “Good. the world needs people to quickly dismiss ideas.” Because, that’s what hard working people do. They see an idea, just, like, I saw the dollar sign and the hash tag, and Twitter, for stocks. I wasn’t smart, enough, to do Twitter. Just, start polishing. Use your domain expertise. You know, when, I think about startups, and mobile and web video, the two biggest ones. Know body has domain expertise.
Jason: That’s the interesting thought.
Howard: It’s a wide open game. What’s there to complain about? Nobody knows anything about mobile. It’s two years old. It’s an hour old. There is no domain expertise.
Jason: Everybody’s figuring it out.
Howard: Exactly. So, your chances are just as good as mine. But, be mindful of valuation. If you’re an entrepreneur, stop with the $8 million pre. You gotta take some money, go fast, and give your investor a deal. What’s wrong with giving your investor a deal?
Jason: Then, they keep investing.
Jason: Then, they”re addicted to investing in your startups.
Howard: I was surprised. When, I did StockTwits, at a $600k valuation, I didn’t have to do that. I walked into Borthwick, he goes, “I’m in.” I go, “Of course, your in. It’s six hundred, I don’t need you.” But, I’m saying, like, sometimes, you give people a deal, and it grows.
Jason: It blossoms.
Howard: It blossoms. Giving people deals, not being greedy, is, very important.
Jason: Question. A question, from one of the viewers: High frequency trading machines, bad or good?
Howard: The machines are, just, there. The machines are dumb. The machines are coming, as Brad Feld, says, you can’t beat the machines. Let them come. Look, at what, Warren Buffet did. This is what Wall Street looks like: it’s a pipe connected to a wall. With, one white dude, talking, with breaking news. Everybody’s paying to get this close to the pipe. Guess what? Why pay? Stand over here. The higher the machines trade, the further away, you think. You think the machines got Apple right? Apples gone up a thousand percent, in the last three years. Why do I need a high frequency trade? Ignore it. It’s great, for the market. I think high frequency trade is great for the market. Cause, guess what? I don’t high frequency trade. You know what high frequency trading, brought me? Two cent commissions. So, now I can buy 5,000 share of Apple. Who cares, if it’s 500 or 550. It costs me two cents. I know, it’s, semi-undervalued, at that price. And, I’m not worried about trading it out, tomorrow. So, high frequency traders, the machines, are never going to tire themselves out, they’re only going to get faster. You can only get this close, to the cable. We’re talking, already… Warren Buffet, just stands, way back here.
Jason: Yeah. He says, let me, just, pick who’s going to win, over three decades.
Howard: It’s like football. You got the line of scrimmage and you’ve got these big, seven-hundred pound guys. Guess what? They’re not going to get smaller, they’re just going to get bigger. But guess what happens, when you break through the line of scrimmage, now? The shit explodes. The guy’s at eighty yards, in three seconds. That’s the stock market. The high frequency traders are going, like this. There’s going to be more Apples, there’s going to be more this.
Jason: What do they do with $120 billion, in cash? They’re the largest hedge fund, in the world, now. Can’t they, just give it all, back, as a dividend?
Howard: I think, like you. Just, surprise us. I want to wake up one day, and go $90 billion, cash dividend. Fuck, Steve Jobs. Cranky old man. We’re giving back $90 billion. We know, you’re going to piss it away. But, you know what? Why are we sitting on $90 billion? Where, four guys, from Stanford, trading cattle futures, to worry, about this stuff. I think, they’re making a mistake. I think, they should give back, a whack, of it. They should be the leaders, of this country. I think, you lead by this country, not by thinking about, what Obama did, but, by giving people back their money. I’d like to wake up one day and be surprised that Apple, just, gave me $75, a share, in cash. The stock wouldn’t go down, by the way. The stock would, actually, go up.
Jason: People would say, “Oh. That’s going to happen, again.”
Howard: Maybe. It’s, like, good move. Why should I hoard, all the money. You don’t need, all the money.
Jason: They haven’t bought Twitter, when, they easily could. It that because, Twitter is not for sale, or the price?
Howard: I hope, they don’t.
Jason: That, seems to me, like, the natural home for it. If they bought it, works, perfectly, on your iPhone. It can be integrated into the authentication system: your Apple ID and your Twitter ID, merge.
Howard: It’s possible. I sold my Twitter stock. I think, I have, a few, thousand shares, left. I sold it, it was, like, $10 billion. I’m, like, “Hang on.” I invested, with other people’s money, at a, very low, valuation. My job is not to manage their money when it becomes a $10 billion company. I remember, writing my limited partners a letter, I definitely sold some, too early, when it was at four or five billion. I would have sold it at $1 billion, if they’d let me. I used to argue, with Borthwick and …, “Let’s sell this thing.” “What?” People throw around these numbers, like, it’s nothing. I wrote my investors a letter, saying, “Let me give you back the money.” That’s not my job. I think, Twitter is, finally, in a place where they can be a 30 year company. Cause, they don’t talk about being a 30 year company. I think, it’s just an interesting product. You use it, right?
Jason: Yeah. I’m @jason, on Twitter. It’s going to be my handle, for life.
Howard: Me, too. @howardlindzon is going to be my handle, for life. I think, people are making mistakes. I don’t think people understand, how important it is to own your own domain. Master your own domain. I think people need to start doing this shit. It’s a tool, in the toolbox. If you get bored, with it, you can go find the next shiny thing. But, you should, still, own your own domain.
Jason: You mean your ‘.com’.
Howard: Anything. You should own all this stuff and get it pointing back to the right person. Unless, you’re hiding something.
Jason: What do you think, about, Hollywood? What happens with Hollywood, now? On-line video. YouTube is 30%, 40% of what consumption is, only, 1% of the advertising revenue. Is T.V. screwed. I don’t know, it seems, T.V. is getting better and better, every year. The content’s getting better.
Howard: I think, T.V. is as strong as ever. I think T.V. is, like, day one. Henry and all these guys, smart guys, “Death of this, death of that.” Have you looked at Disney stock. All time high. CBS? CBS was a $3 stock, in 2008. It was supposed to be dead. Guess what? $30 stock, cooking along. Bad acquisitions and everything. You know what I mean? Who care? They have attention. The wall, is a T.V.. Yeah. It’s going to get better. I’ve never watched better T.V., than I’ve watched, in the last three years. Between, high definition sports and great content.
Jason: It’s unbelievable.
Jason: “There are, too many, good show to choose between.
Howard: There’s, too much, talent, out there. That industry is set up with good curation tools.
Jason: As opposed to, our industry.
Howard: Terrible curation tools. Which, is why I was, always mad at Twitter, for the first five years. I started investing in comedy sites, here. I invested, in Laughter. Which, is like a curation around humor. And WitStream, which is, sort of, like, a Twitter, for comedians. I think, you have to curate the stuff down and create channels. The guy who invented T.V., what’s his name? Do you know him?
Howard: O.K. So, why does Twitter have to have an ego around who’s the boss and who invented this? The channels are what’s going to matter. The attention goes to the channels. CBS, ABC, HBO, NBC. I think, Twitter will spawn, a lot of, channels. I don’t think, they can control, all of that.
Jason: Yeah, and they seem to be tightening up, now. On the developers.
Howard: The pressure, man. You raise, a lot of, money, there’s a lot of pressure.
Jason: You gotta get the revenue up. You gotta get the stock price up.
Howard: It’s all about momentum. People think that… It’s a game. Avoiding revenue, early, adds stress, later. Like, ThisWeekIn Startups, a profitable, simple business. You could have done it the hard way: Raised, a lot of, money, hired, a lot, more people, to do this. Like, Wallstrip did. Then, the pressure is, you gotta sell. Cause, you got three months of runway left.
Jason: This has become a sustainable business.
Howard: I am, very, pro sustainable business, for the past year. I’ve been thinking way smaller. I’ve moved to an island, for Christ’s sake. I have to drive over a bridge, to hit humanity. I think it helped me think thorough how this next wave of investing is. It’s like, who cares, where I live. Why does that matter? Why isn’t everybody living on Coronado, by the way.
Jason: Beautiful places, to live in Los Angeles.
Howard: Five minutes from the airport. People are dumb. Thank God, people are dumb.
Jason: There you have it. Hey, everybody. Thanks to our sponsors: GoTo Meeting. Thanks to New Relic. Great products, that we use. You never have to worry about that. White listed advertising. We’re sold out for 5 or 6 months. Madness. Everybody follow, Howard Lindzon. We’re not going to do our boxing match.
Howard: I would love to do that but, you are a black belt. And, you would have kicked my ass.
Jason: That was some of the best performance art, we ever did. People were, like, “Is that serious?”, and I told them. “It is dead serious.”
Howard: Yeah. But, you would have kicked my ass. I was like, “I’ll fight you, if, you are not a black belt.” And, you were a goddamned black belt.
Jason: We never got to the counter. Which is, I would have done it with one hand.
Howard: You, still, would have kicked my ass.
Jason: Dude, can you imagine?
Howard: I do it, right now. If we can raise, enough money. I don’t think people would pay to see me in a speedo.
Jason: No. The funniest thing, would be… Because Henry Blodget, wrote it up. Everybody wrote it up. They thought, we were serious. They said, “Are you, really, fighting, with Howard?” I said, “Howard, and I, don’t, really, know each other. If you look at his Twitter stream, it’s, like, one big ball busting, chop busting… That’s what I do, all day, too, by the way.” If two guys, who just bust chops…
Howard: You were, just, bullying and I was bullying, back.
Jason: Yeah. If, two guys, who, just, bust chops and bust balls, all day, just, start busting, each others balls, “Do you, really, think, we’re going to get, in a boxing ring?” Probably, not going to happen. If, it does, it’s, probably, the most genius this, ever.
Howard: I’ll go into the ring, with you, if I think, “I have a chance.”
Jason: Ping-pong, soccer?
Howard: We can fight. If, it’s going to raise money, and, I have a fighting chance. But, you’re a black belt. I have no shot.
Jason: Yeah. I know. You’re screwed. You’re screwed, in that regard.
Howard: Yeah. I’m not dumb. I’m happy to, like, help charity.
Jason: No. I don’t, really, want to beat you up, Howard. That, would not be fun, for me.
Howard: You’re doing, great work. In the end, I bust your balls and I bust a lot of peoples’ balls. But, guess what? I’m trading, against the smartest people, in the world, all day.
Howard: All I’m doing is letting off steam. What do you think, Jon Stewart, is doing? Letting off steam. Guess what? He’s inspired, so many, people. Any dream, would be, create the John Stewart, of a startup, wouldn’t you?
Howard: Wouldn’t you like to be that famous and do what you do? Put on your suit and your tie, everyday. Have someone write you brilliant stuff. You’re a great deliverer of content.
Jason: That’s a, pretty good, idea.
Howard: That’s the best idea. He appreciates his job.
Jason: Charlie Rose. Think about that.
Howard: But, he’s no Jon Stewart. I’d rather interview the people that Jon Stewart is interviewing, instead of, the people that Charlie Rose, is interviewing.
Jason: That’s true. A good point. Think about Charlie Rose’s gig, for the last 30, 40 years.
Howard: I think he phones it in, though. I’m a Jon Stewart fan. I think, Jon is, truly, happy to see those guys. I think, Jon Stewart is, like, “Dude. guess who I’m talking to?”
Jason: Yeah. He’s pretty stoked. What a gig. Show up, talk to interesting people.
Howard: You’ve got that possibility, you can do that.
Jason: I’m getting there. I’m supposed to sign a reality T.V. deal.
Don’t. Stay away, from T.V.
Jason: You think so? See. That’s what I’m trying to figure out. These reality people are sweating me. Like, “Hey. Do this reality T.V. show and blah, blah, blah.”
Howard: Interviews or show?
Jason: The idea that we have, right now, is, sort of, like, Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares. Which is, I go in, this business is, completely, screwed up, I yell at everybody, then, they cry. Then, tell them, “Listen, mate. I’m on your side. Listen, big boy. You can do this.”
Howard: You know, it’s fake. Cause, that’s not how it, really, goes.
Jason: I do yell at people, sometimes, about
Howard: I know you like to yell and I like to yell. I understand. But, that’s not scalable. Meaning: you’re entitled to be Jason Calacanis, because, you started a company and you raised the money. But, that doesn’t scale. Jason Calacanis, does not scale. Howard Lindzon, does not scale. We are unique, in that, we are insane, that we like doing, what we like to do. But, you and I, are not C.E.O.s, in the long term sense of being C.E.O.s, we’re insane. We hold people up to a standard that nobody can attain. That’s not the people’s fault or our employees’ fault or our partner’s fault. It’s because, we’re insane. So, I don’t think that’s a T.V. show. Then, your Cramer. Then, you’re going to end up divorced. You’re going to end up, with your kids fat and not liking you.
Howard: That’s what I’m going to tell you, as your new friend. Don’t do T.V.
Jason: Don’t do T.V. Alright. We got one vote in the “No T.V.” column. You can all vote, on Twitter. Howard, great guest. Great discussion. Everybody, check out StockTwits, of course.
Jason: A brilliant startup. I check it, all the time. When, I’m looking at web companies.
Jason: Tickers. Yeah. I think, it’s a, really, cool thing. Instead of saying Google, which is @google, which is, kinda lame, do $google. But, they won’t make that clickable.
Howard: No. Now, they’ve made it clickable.
Jason: It is clickable?
Howard: To themselves. It was a cheap move, by Twitter.
Jason: Wait. Now, when you click it, what happens?
Howard: It takes you to their spam-filled stream.
Jason: No curation.
Howard: They lock it down. No curation. In the end, they, only, helped us, by the way. Bad move. you don’t do that kind of stuff, to build great businesses. You do that kind of stuff when you have VCs.
Jason: They should pay you to put the StockTwits logo on the tweets. Or, curate the first five should be StockTwits.
Howard: The stream should say, “Curated by StockTwits.”
Howard: You trust that brand. For tickers, go there. Hello!
Jason: Right. Makes, total, sense. We’ll see everybody, next time on ThisWeekIn Startups.