From RocketSpace, Jason talks with Om Malik of GigaOm.
0:55 Thanks to SnapTerms for sponsoring the program. Visit snapterms.com and use the code TWiST
4:00 Welcome to the show Om Malik
8:10 What was is about writing and magazines that drew you in?
11:50 Do you think there is a shift back towards people wanting to write longer pieces?
13:05 When did you come to the US?
13:15 Had you been to the US before you moved here?
14:05 What did your parents say when you said you were leaving?
15:10 When you came here, what was it like to get off the plane?
16:35 How did New York look when you when you first arrived compared to what you had imagined?
17:25 What was your first salary in New York?
18:10 What did your parents do in India?
18:40 When did you get the big break to get into journalism?
23:00 Thanks to GoToMeeting. Meeting is Believing
29:15 How do you think technology has changed society in our lifetime?
31:05 Do you think this generation takes connectivity for granted?
40:00 At what point did you work for Forbes.com?
42:40 When the internet collapsed, did you think that it was a fraud?
44:40 So at some point you decided to launch your own blog?
49:20 Who was the original managing editor at Businessweek?
50:45 So 2003 was the 1st time in your journalism career that was truly hard?
54:40 What was it about blogging that let it take off the way it did?
55:15 When did GigaOm become a company?
61:00 How many people work for you now?
64:40 Do you think respect for readers is the driving source in media right now?
68:30 Do you think Nick Denton will ever sell?
69:45 Do you think your work ethic almost pushed you over the edge?
70:55 How close do you think you were to dying?
71:50 How did your heart attack inform how you look at the world?
74:50 How do your parents look at your success?
75:50 Does the amount of love you have for what you do make it hard for you to find someone?
77:10 What is more enjoyable, the flow of writing, or the moment people respond back to you?
78:50 Do people ever tell you that your writing inspired them to do something?
81:00 What aer your plans for inside.com?
82:25 How do you balance fatherhood with entrepreneurship?
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Today’s episode of ThisWeekIn Startups, is brought to you by GoTo Meeting. Sign up for GoTo Meeting, using, promo code: TWIST, to begin your free trial.
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TWiST title sequence.
Jason: Hey, everybody. It’s Jason Calacanis. This is ThisWeekIn Startups. If you’re a first time listener or viewer the show is about startup companies and entrepreneurship. If you’ve been here before, you know what we do. We have a news roundtable every friday. Every tuesday I interview somebody who’s done something interesting in the world. A journalist, a CEO. In this case we have both. Om Malik is an old friend of mine. We both came up in the industry together in the 90s. Writing about this new fangled thing: The World Wide Web, The Internet. He and I, both, went on to start our own publications. I’m really happy to have him on the program. Welcome, Om.
Om: Great to be here. I should also tell people that we are related.
Jason: We’re related. Because? Your best friend…
Om: My best friend, almost my sister…
Jason: Yeah. Pretty much your sister is my sister-in-law.
Om: She bosses me around like a sister.
Om: Joyce. Which I used to do a show called the GigaOm Show.
Jason: Which I was on. With Kevin Rose.
Om: With Kevin Rose. Yeah. Way back when.
Jason: On Revision 3.
Om: She and I are friends. I’m the adopted kin now.
Jason: Yeah. We’ve spent many a Thanksgiving or a holiday together.
Om: Joyce is the sister of Jade, who is married to Jason.
Jason: Yeah. My wife.
Om: The mother of London.
Jason: London. My daughter.
Om: Who I adore.
Jason: Yeah. She’s pretty amazing. Three years old. It gets good.
Om: I think it was God’s revenge, in a way, to give you a daughter.
Jason: Just been so rambunctious.
Om: I think I remember you from the 90s.
Jason: Let’s not… Om’s been a great guest. I’d like to thank Om for being here. You do know where the bodies are buried. But, more about you.
Om: No. More about you.
Jason: When did we meet? Can you remember the first time we met?
Om: I do remember the first time I met you. It was at a party you were hosting somewhere… I think it was some bar near 9th street. It was on the second floor. The bar was downstairs. There was a private room upstairs. This was before even you started Silicon Alley Reporter, the magazine. There was an an email that you used to send out and a newsletter you used to put out. Not like a magazine.
Jason: It was a printed state.
Om: Very early.
Jason: Very early we met in the 90s.
Om: It was maybe 95?
Jason: Maybe 95 or 96.
Jason: The magazine started in 96.
Om: You were thin at that time.
Jason: I was 24 or something.
Om: I was never thin, but you were thin at that time.
Jason: I was thin. That was true. This is going to be a great interview. Right now the audience is just laughing. They’re like, “Wow. Jason’s finally getting it.” It only took 300 episodes. How did you start in journalism?
Om: Oh boy.
Jason: Cause, I don’t know. You grew up in New Delhi.
Om: I did grow up in New Delhi. I fell in love with words, I think, sometime when I was 13 or 14 years old. I started reading magazines, the american magazines, buying used magazines or… There used to be libraries near my house. I would go there. They would have like 2 or 3 year old american magazines. I would read those. I was just completely amazed by the words which were on paper. Wow. That is something that is so magical. I eventually got intrigued by all that. I practiced to write. I was not very good. I secretly practiced and practiced. When I was in… late in school, like 12th grade, which is like our…
Jason: Senior year of high school.
Om: Senior year. Right. That’s when I knew I did want to be a writer. It was hard to explain that to my parents, who wanted me to be an engineer or a doctor. You know, worse case scenario be an architect. You know. Get a real job. But, I just knew that writing was in my blood. I had been doing some casual writing for a teenage magazine.
Om: Covering school events and stuff like that. Mostly practicing the art of reporting. Then, that was it. i was hooked pretty early on.
Jason: You knew from the beginning?
Om: Yeah. I didn’t really need to know that I… It was the only thing that mattered to me. I didn’t know whether I wanted to be a news reporter. I just knew the words were what made me tick.
Jason: Interesting. What was it about words? What was it about writing? You mentioned it was the magazines that pulled you in and not books. Which I find interesting. Was it because of the timeliness of magazines, the way is sort of pulled in the zeitgeist? For somebody who’s living in New Delhi, a kid of like 12 or 13, looking at an american magazine… LIke Vanity Fair, The New Yorker or New York magazine… I don’t know which one it was.
Om: Esquire, Rolling Stone, GQ.
Om: Scientific American, Popular Science. All kinds of magazines. I think it was mostly magazines because they were cheaper to rent or borrow.
Om: The books were more expensive. So, I didn’t get to the books till I grew. I didn’t have enough pocket money to rent a book from the paid libraries. Books were very few and difficult to access at that time. So magazines became the preferred form for getting educated on the world. I think what really got to me was the fact that you could tell a story. With that story you can take hundreds of thousands or millions of people somewhere else. Here I was living in Delhi reading magazines about the space program in america. What do I know about that? But, I was in Florida. Right? It was like somebody took me there. If I remember it was a story by Tom Wolf which took me there. Then I said OK I want to read books after that. Because, I think what happened was magazines turned out to be the gateway drug for words for me. I just was gone. The magazines were my time machine. Words are the time machine. People don’t quite get that. That with words you can compress time. You can go back into history and you could go into the future. If you were reading ’1984′ back in the day, you would be living in the future. Then if you’re living it today you’re living in the past.
Om: So, people have forgotten the importance of words as something which is… They shift time for you.
Jason: True time shifting. Yeah.
Om: That’s exactly what happened.
Jason: And, transportation.
Jason: You can be anywhere on the planet and just experience something. Those writers were so good at that time, writing those 5,000 word… great, long form. But, things have changed in writing…
Om: Yes and no. I think the words are still very powerful. There is new forms of writing which is emerged, right. Shorter forms of writing is emerged . Great long form writing still exists. Two weeks ago, I read this great piece about a pick pocket and his life, in the New Yorker. I read about a great piece in Grant Land about some guy, an asian guy, who is trying to make it big in basketball. I mean, that just is amazing writing in different places. It just is that we have a lot more options now.
Jason: Yeah. It seems… I don’t know if you sensed this as well… that people have burnt out on short form. It’s almost like too much sugary food. They want the steak again. You have Longreads as a phenomenon. You have Grant Land as a phenomenon. A lot more long form is getting launched. It seems that everyone who gave up on long form to pursue the blogging tsunami over the last decade now seems to be going back and saying, “You know what? I want to write something a little bit longer.”
Om: Yes and no. I think it’s the same thing you… The analogy is food, you know? So, the fast food industry really hasn’t gone away. They’re still growing. They’re still growing like mad. People are still eating that junk. Right? So, in a sense, if you use that analogy, the really short form is still growing. It will keep growing. There is no way… Look at Huffington Post, it still keeps to grow. Buzzfeed continues to grow. You can’t dismiss those things. There is like hundreds of millions of people are wanting to read that stuff. We shouldn’t laugh at that. That’s what hundreds of millions of people are choosing to do. It’s people’s choice. They want that content. Just like they want fast food. Maybe they have their own reasons. Then, there is also the slow food movement.
Jason: Organics slow. Yeah.
Om: It’s the slow words. It’s coming back a little bit. The great thing about the internet is, any kind of news can thrive. Any kind of news can become big enough to become a big marketplace. I love that we are seeing many different ways of content come.
Jason: What was your first journalism job? When did you come to the states?
Om: Almost 20 years.
Jason: So, it was the 90s?
Om: Yeah. 92.
Jason: In 92 you came to the states?
Jason: Had you been to the states before you moved to the states?
Jason: So, you just got on a plane, one-way ticket?
Om: I would not say that I got on a one-way ticket. I had a return ticket. I just has a gamble I needed to take. Which was, it became pretty clear to me that living in India, I would not realize my true full potential. I needed a bigger challenge. I needed to push myself to the very extreme. Most people go climb mountains or do… you know, they go skydive.
Om: I just needed to come to a whole new country and see if I could find my way and live. Find my future in a business where I have no business being in.
Jason: When you go to your parents and you say, “I’m getting on a plane.”
Om: I didn’t go and tell them I’m getting on a plane. I just said, “I’m gone.”
Om: That’s it.
Jason: Did you have a job here, lined up?
Jason: You were 23 years old?
Jason: Twenty-five years old and you left.
Om: I just had a skill, man.
Jason: You had been writing?
Om: This is what people don’t understand about the US, is that if you have a skill and you have the will, you will find your way.
Jason: So, you don’t buy into this, the opportunity is over in America?
Jason: Not even close?
Om: No. Everyday… just is harder. Right? It’s not like the wild west, the way it used to be. It’s definitely harder. It’s still the only place, the only promised land. Believe it or not. Take it from me as an immigrant, if I had to do it all over again, I would not go anywhere else, except to the United States. There is not a single place. Not China, not India, not Brazil. The United States.
Jason: When you came here, what was it like to get off the plane? Like, when you first get into… You came in through New York? What city did you come into?
Om: I wish I came like Eddy Murphy in ‘Coming to America.’ That wasn’t really the case. But, it was, I had just read enough about New York and I knew where I was going. This is one thing great about books is, if you read enough great books you can see where you’re going.
Jason: You had a vision of where you were going?
Om: Oh, I knew every restaurant, every place, every street. I didn’t need the map. Every place, I had visually…
Jason: So, this kid from New Dheli just read New York magazine, The New Yorker, The New York Times.
Om: Books. Tons of books.
Jason: You just headed out, bright lights big city. “I’m going to New York.”
Jason: You read ‘Bright Lights, Big City’, I bet?
Om: Yes. But, the books which made me navigate New York better were not that famous books like that. They were crime part boilers by a guy called, Lawrence Sanders. He just wrote some amazing books about New York. So, I read those. A lot of magazines. Lots of books. I visually create my world through words.
Jason: How did it match up? How did New York in your mind’s eye match up with when you get out in Times Square or you see Wall Street or the Twin Towers for the first time?
Om: I didn’t see Wall Street or Twin Towers for like the first one year. It was essentially Bronx, Queens…
Om: Manhattan was just a passageway for me. That’s how I kind of… I found my way to a couple of indian newspapers. Like, one was on 38th street, 37th street in the garment district.
Jason: Oh. Like 9th or 10th avenue?
Om: It was like between 5th and 6th.
Om: You know Broadway just goes at an angle.
Jason: Yeah. It goes at an angle.
Om: I was in a newspaper there. I was at another newspaper which is on 26th street.
Jason: Indian newspaper?
Om: Indian newspaper. Indian-American.
Jason: You were reporting…
Om: I was just trying to find my way. I did a lot of part time jobs, here and there.
Jason: What was your first salary when you worked in New York?
Om: Let’s not talk about that.
Jason: No. I’m just curious about how low it was. I’m guessing it was pathetic. Did you make 20 grand?
Om: I made about $400 a month.
Jason: $400 a month?
Jason: Wow. Just scrappy living in a $200 a month bedroom somewhere?
Om: I was sharing an apartment with six other people.
Jason: Six other people. From an apartment with six other people in an apartment now to where you are now, it’s quite a journey.
Om: Yeah. Well, you know, most people… I think that was not very difficult for me. Because, I grew up and I lived with my parents and grand parents. So, there were like seven people in their house too. So, it didn’t really bother me that much.
Jason: What did your parents do?
Om: My mom’s a teacher. My dad worked for the government. He’s retired. Both of them are retired now.
Jason: Would you consider it like a middle-class upbringing?
Om: Yeah. Not Upper middle class.
Jason: So, it wasn’t terrible.
Om: Like, the only two people who knew a modicum of english were my grandfather and my mother. Because, they.. They are the ones who taught me. So, it’s like, it is what it is.
Jason: So, when did you get your big break in journalism, do you think? You were scrappy with the indian-american newspapers. But, when did you get the break into the internet business and covering that?
Om: You know, the funny thing is, the thing which always got me about the US… When I read for the first time about tech and the internet and online, the world which was emerging, I don’t know what it was. I still don’t have an answer. Intuitively, I knew this was going to be the biggest story of my life and I have to be there. Most people would have thought, this will be the biggest opportunity of their life. For me, this was going to be the biggest story of my life and if I don’t do it, I will live to regret it. People think in terms of wars or revolutions.
Jason: Or money.
Om: For me, this was it.
Jason: It was the scoop.
Om: It was not the scoop. It was just like, “This is going to be a great story.” I don’t know what it was and how it was going to be. But, something inside me said, “You can’t just sit there and watch this unfold.”
Jason: You have to be involved somehow.
Jason: I had the same experience.
Om: I still… I’m not an engineer. I know… I went to do… I have a Bachelor’s of Science and an undergrad in chemistry. Which is not quite engineering. But, I did know intuitively that this was going to be important. So, m y first big break came, I guess, after working for the indian papers, I got a break working for Nikkei, Quick Nikkei News. Which is part of…
Jason: The japans Nikkei?
Om: … the japanese Nikkei. I became a technology reporter for them.
Om: I did pretty much whatever they told me to do. Initially, my job was to cover semi-conductors, micro controllers. A lot of people don’t know what micro controllers are. They are the chips which make washing machines run and all that kind of stuff. But also, at the same time, I started to convince them that this internet thing is going to be pretty big, so we should cover it. So we covered UUNET, PSI net and NetScape. This is like…
Jason: The Well.
Om: Yeah. The Well.
Om: The problem was all these companies were private. So, you couldn’t really write about private companies on Nikkei, which was about stocks. It was pretty fun.
Jason: Nikkei is the Wall Street Journal of…
Om: No. It’s like the Bloomberg.
Jason: Like the Bloomberg, OK. Cause it had data services? The Nikkei Exchange.
Om: Right. Then they have a newspaper which is sort of like the Financial Times.
Om: So, we were part of the online… It was like a box and only maybe like 50k people read the stories, but it was very influential. But, it was good training ground, great editors and good colleagues. It was good growing. I still consider it as my big break because it kind of helped me understand where I was going in life, what I was doing. It gave me a lot of my bearings. Like, I’m on the track now, I just need… this is mile zero.
Jason: Yeah. It’s a big break, why? Because they just had so many journalists there, it was an established player?
Om: No. it was a big break because I was working with really great people. They were writers, they were editors who were genuinely nice people, who wanted to teach me. They had no… They didn’t feel threatened. At that time tech was not that sexy.
Om: What was sexy was…
Om: Barns and airlines and stuff like that.
Jason: Derivatives, hotel chains.
Om: So, it was not exactly the most exciting beat at that time.
Jason: It wasn’t the leading beat, no. People had… If you had… you might get stuck with that beat.
Jason: You could be stuck with it.
Om: For me, that is all that I wanted.
Jason: Hey, everybody. Hey, everybody. It’s Jason again. I want to take a moment to tell you about GoTo Meeting, one of our great partners, here at ThisWeekIn Startups. Meeting is Believing. It’s the solution that I use all day, all week long. I get in there, I’ve got like a dozen meetings set up every week. I just love using GoTo Meeting. I have, gosh, for better part of a decade because, I want meetings to start on time. I want to have the ability to go from my camera to turning on my screen to letting people control my screen to letting them take over the presentation. It just works. It’s rock solid, whether the person is using a Mac or a PC or an iPad. There’s a great new feature where you can present with your iPad. So, that’s very cool. If you wanted to present apps and stuff like that. You’re talking to your clients or partners about different apps and you want to show them what’s going on. Go ahead and use the new feature and present with your iPad. Very cool. You can get a free 30 day trial. Go to GotoMeeitng.com, click on the ‘Try It Free’ button. When you click on the try it free button, use the promo code TWIST. You will get a great free trial. The folks over at Citrix do a great job. I’ve been using the product for a long time. As you know, I have my choice of advertisers on this program, because we have a limited amount of inventory. We only read two ads per show. That’s all we need to read. Let me just be honest. I’m not going to read an ad for a product that I don’t, myself, use and that I don’t stand behind. We get a lot of people who try to use the program to promote their products. I’m very loyal to GoTo Meeting and Citrix, because Meeting is Believing. I use the product everyday. I literally just go off two meetings with it this morning. I’ve got a meeting after this. The reason I use it, again, it just works. It’s rock solid. I can’t have my meetings start late. I can’t have the technical issues. It’s just so great to have a company like GoTo Meeting and a product like this. There’s a team working to make it flawless. So, thanks again @gotomeeting for making my life easy. Thanks, really, for supporting independent media like ThisWeekIn Startups. I’m very proud to have you guys as a partner over the years. It’s been a multi-year relationship, which is great. Visit GoToMeeting.com. Click the ‘Try It Free’ button and use the promo code TWIST. Especially when you’re doing a startup and you’re meeting with a bunch of investors and stuff like that. Or, you’ve got a company that has clients all around the country. It’s really great to just get in there on a GoTo Meeting and be able to switch back and forth, Dueling Banjos. You show me something on your browser, I’ll show you something on my browser. Back and forth. “Oh. Do you know about this site?” It’s a very interactive meeting, where you’re passing the baton around, if you will. I’m really getting addicted to that, where I say, “Hey.” I’m not nervous at all. I’m like, “You take the meeting now. You show e some stuff. OK, I’m going to take the meeting back. Now, I’ll show you some stuff.” It goes back and forth, back and forth. It really becomes like a really interesting meeting. I do that with a lot of angel investing meetings. Like, “Hey. Have you seen this and this? Let me show you. You want to show me something, here let me give you the presentation controls.” It just works. A lot of times, other software, you go and try to do all that kind of stuff and it explodes, it imposed,. You gotta get the people back on the horn and it’s just wasted time. So, don’t waste any time. Use GoTo Meeting. Meeting is Believing. Thank you GoTo Meeting. Let’s get back to the program.
Jason: So, it has to be amazing when the beat that you wanted so much goes from being a niche of a couple million people using online services, to hundreds of millions, billions. What was it like in web 1.0? When you watched that, sort of, ride up?
Om: You know, I think my biggest… I’ve always had this ability to be a cynical optimist. I don’t know why.
Jason: Cynical optimist.
Om: I was always cynical about the bubble in the web 1.0.
Jason: Yeah. You were very critical.
Om: But, I was very enthusiastic about the changes that were happening. So, I loved Amazon. I hated the idea of Amazon stock. It equated the internet in people’s mind to Pets.com. There were so many of those non-sensical companies.
Jason: The Globe, whatever.
Om: Right. So, my internet was Cianas and Cisco and Oracle and Sun. I used to, genuinely, get excited about the changes in infrastructure and the network. Because, I always believed that it’s the connectivity that matters. Right? It’s not… Like you can still tell. I still talk about connectivity. I don’t get to hopped up about individual services as much, but I do believe the more we connect, the more change we bring into society. Whether we work, how we live, what we eat, what we consume. I mean, Uber is just one other example. It doesn’t work if there isn’t connections everywhere. I think that is being the most gratifying. It is the best story of my life. It’s the biggest story of my life. Guess what? I haven’t even entered the fifth paragraph. I’m still writing it. I do think that people look at the internet as a singular thing. They look at the internet as a technology. Sometimes, they look at it as an investment wave. I look at it as, the internet as, a new way of thinking and new way of living. Connections are what make the world go round. I think the internet is enabling many more connections. So, that’s how I think about everything.
Jason: It really was pre-internet… I’m trying to think of other connecting devices. Broadcast was broadcast, not two-way. The phone, certainly, was two-way. So were telegraphs and the mail service. Those things did change the world, dramatically.
Om: Changed society.
Jason: Also, airplanes. I guess, would be…
Om: Or railways or the ships. That connectivity is really what gets me. I think, that’s the story of my life.
Jason: How do you think it’s changed society… I mean, you grew up in a society, the largest democracy in the world, I guess.
Jason: I guess, we can debate that. Or, what’s becoming the largest democracy in the world. How do you think it’s changed things now? It’s pretty amazing that we lived in a time when it didn’t exist. The first half of your lives. Now, you and I are in the second half of our lives and it does exist. When you look back on those two periods, what do you think the key difference is?
Om: I think the biggest difference is, because we come from the old world. I guess, the pre-connected lifetime. I call it the old world.
Jason: It is the old world.
Om: Is that… I don’t know about you but I still get amazed by things. I just get completely blown away. Like, “Oh, my God. I can’t believe I’m seeing this. It’s happening. I remember when it cost $5 to make a frigging phone call to my mom. Now, it’s like almost half a penny.
Jason: And, you’re watching HD video.
Om: HD video. I watch Sherlock Holmes wherever I want, on my iPad, wherever I’m sitting. I’m like, “How is that possible?” Because, when I was growing up, there was like one television channel in India. It played for like four hours a day. It was just crap. From that standpoint, I just look at this like damn, this is the best life ever. Right? So, from that standpoint, I do believe this connection and connectivity is just amazing.
Jason: It’s almost, you appreciate the abundance.
Jason: Do you think this generation having grown up with the abundance or do they take it for granted, in a way?
Om: I can’t speak for this generation. I’m guessing, they have a different view of the world. Right? Like, they do… I would love even for like 15 minutes to be 20. To just understand what it is to grow in a world where there is Facebook and always on connections and iPhone. I would just love to know…
Jason: It would have been different in college, wouldn’t it?
Om: Yeah. It’s like, how would things be? Just to understand that. You can talk to people, but they live differently. That’s great. They will make the connections go further. Right? Things we can’t imagine, they are already imagining. Like, two farts like you and I would never imagine SnapChat. I’m sorry.
Jason: No. Absolutely not.
Om: Right? But, the next generation, Evan has already figured it out. Right? So, he’s already moved on. It’s the great thing about being an old timer. I think it’s a great perspective you bring to the table. To kind of see where we were and where we are going. It’s easy to kind of measure that.
Jason: You remember when libraries didn’t have computers in them. You spent time in them.
Om: I only remember libraries without computers.
Jason: Can you imaging going to college… We went to college and you had to…
Jason: You had to go on a microfiche. A little tiny film that had to be blown up in order to read what was on it. That was the only way to compress the data to fit into a reasonable size building, was to microfiche a bunch of old magazines. Take pictures of them and scan them down.
Om: Yeah. I think the interesting part of the world today, is that there is so much friction which is being removed. I just find that just fantastic. I think there is… more friction you remove, more interesting opportunities you create. So, let’s see how it goes. This is definitely, in my opinion, probably one of the most exciting times in the history of human kind.
Jason: The connectivity is at the core of it?
Jason: What do you think the outcome is for dictators and closed societies, given this massive connectivity? North Koreas of the world, Cubas, Venezuelas and etc… Even China going through their transition.
Om: Even our transition which is happening in India, for example. For the first time, tens of millions of people are protesting against what happened in India, where a young woman was raped and thrown out of a bus and she died. I think, in the past, such an event would be hush hushed. Right? Today the connectivity has given voice to people who didn’t have voice before. So, I actually did this presentation. I don’t know why I never put it online, but I should. My view was, for the longest time people always think of media companies as people with… LIke, New York Times biggest asset was it’s printing press or its journalists. I always felt, no. They’re biggest asset is… They have a distribution network. They have those trucks which get the paper to the people. Without those trucks, there is no business. Right?
Jason: Back to the network.
Om: Similarly, without the cable system, there is no CNN. Right? So, anyone who controls the pipe, controls the message. Not, who owns the press.
Om: You can print out as much press as you want. Which is why today, when we have a somewhat open distribution, right? The pipe is actually pretty open.
Jason: Nobody owns it.
Om: At least not yet. I think that’s the biggest thing I worry about. I lay awake at night thinking about how our government and large corporations are going to screw over the individuals. That’s going to happen. In like the next ten years, that will be the big…
Jason: They’re going to try to take over the internet to be able to block it.
Om: They’ll take over the pipe so that they can control it. They already do to a large extent. But…
Jason: How do they control it to a large extent? Through DMCA take downs?
Om: Like, there was a SOPA attempt last year. Now, there is like… What they are trying to do is… Like Verizon and AT&T are trying to make you move from unlimited DSL to use their limited LTE.
Om: So, they can charge you by the byte. So that you don’t use the services as much. I think that shift is going to happen over the next ten years. The other day the ITU tried to pass… There was a movement to try to pass a regulation that would take the internet control away from the US and open economies to going to Russia. I do not trust the idea of Russia controlling the internet.
Om: Or the chinese or even the indians or the brazilians. I just want more people to control the policy making around that. That’s a story for another day. But, my point is that this is the network or the pipe is fairly open. That open pipe at least allows us to vent our anger at things or express ourselves. Never before in the history of mankind, we’ve had tens of millions, hundreds of millions of people expressing themselves at the same time.
Om: Interconnected and amplifying each other’s rage, happiness, disgust.
Jason: That surfacing ability is unique.
Jason: You could stand on the corner and scream but, you’d be a maniac.
Om: So, the human emotion is getting amplified at network scale. Think in those terms. That is the big change. That is something the old governments… When I say old governments… Governments that are…
Jason: Communists, dictatorships.
Om: No. Run by older guys…
Jason: Oh, I see.
Om: … and by older gals. They don’t understand this is the new way and this is the new normal. Is the amplification of the human emotion. Is the new normal. Unfortunately, there is going to be some interesting changes. We’ve already seen them.
Jason: The Arab Spring obviously comes to mind. Obviously, in India with the rapes and the sort of protests around that.
Om: Right. I don’t think the Arab Spring was a cause. People thought that the social web bright about the Arab Spring. It was not that. It was just that the social web helped express people more vocally.
Jason: It was started by a vendor who had been smacked and his food cart taken away and he lit himself on fire. Killed himself or lit himself on fire. I can’t remember. Or both.
Om: Which is different. Right? But, I do feel…
Jason: His ability to…
Jason: Yeah. It was almost like, he felt he couldn’t go on as an entrepreneur in a way. He couldn’t sustain his family. He couldn’t make a living. He was so outraged. The people were so outraged that he killed himself. That other people were so outraged by him killing himself that is sparked the whole thing and it was amplified.
Om: I think, that is what is going to happen. We’re going to see more and more of this. Whether it’s the government or media and everybody. You don’t know how to deal with it. We just haven’t been… Everything is new. The presence of connectivity in our life is constant. It is very new. It is going to change everything. We don’t know how. It’ll be a while. I think that’s why it’s a great story. It still continues to be a great story.
Jason: Nobody can guess which direction it’s going to go in. In fact, in the early days of the internet, people didn’t think the internet was going to work. Because it didn’t have a central authority.
Om: Yeah. I remember I remember getting an email address was like, “Why do you need that?”
Om: Like, today It’s normal. It’s like, “Why don’t you have one?” Or, rather we give up our email. That’s not that common now. Things will change, definitely.
Jason: So, at some point you went to work. Was it Red Herring and then Business 2.0? Red Herring go sold…
Om: I went from Quick Nikkei News to work for Forbes.com.
Jason: Oh, right.
Om: Which was pretty awesome. Because, at that time you were building your first company. I was helping grow Forbes.com. It was like way early. My boss there was David Chervok, who is probably the best editor a person can have.
Jason: Were you the guys who busted Steven Glass?
Om: That was Adam Penenberg, who writes for PandoDaily now. I was in the newsroom.
Jason: Right. Were you there at that same time?
Om: Yeah. We were all at the same time.
Jason: Wow. What a great film. If you haven’t seen it, ‘Shattered Glass’. An amazing film.
Om: They had Rosario Dawson play me for some reason.
Om: Like, they couldn’t find an indian guy at that time. These guys are like the guy on The Big Bang Theory, whatever his name is. He would have been OK in that role.
Om: Anyway. If some woman had to play me, it was Rosario Dawson, and I’m OK with that.
Jason: Is that really true?
Om: I don’t know. It was a composite character for all the people in the newsroom. So, I’m joking about that. I was there. Adam did the story. It turned out to be a really good break for him and for the publication. Most importantly, for the internet journalism at that time.
Jason: Random acts of journalism could happen on a website.
Om: Yeah. I think this was… That was a pretty exciting time. I was there when Double Click was being formed. There was another advertising company, 24/7.
Jason: 24/7 Media sure.
Om: Mining company which became About.com.
Jason: Sure. Scott Kurnit.
Om: I remember Pseudo.com.
Jason: Josh Harris.
Om: The dude who was staying in your…
Jason: He lived in my house for a year.
Om: There was all the other companies. The Prodigy office. The MCI office where Barnes and Noble’s used to be.
Jason: Yeah. That was 6th avenue.
Om: Great parties at … It was great. It was a great time to be living in New York.
Jason: Yeah. It was…
Om: I just think New York needs to party a little bit more. They don’t party as much.
Jason: No. They’re so busy working.
Om: They just work too much.
Jason: Silicon Alley 2.0, they’re so focused on growth and scale.
Om: They’re so San Francisco.
Jason: Yeah. They’re so San Francisco. Everyone wants to focus on growth and scale. Nobody wants to have a good party anymore. It was really interesting. It was like…
Om: I know. Fred Wilson needs to throw a party. That’s it.
Jason: Yeah. He hasn’t invested in 18 months. Maybe that would be a good alternative.
Om: It would be a good idea to throw a party.
Jason: Yeah. Just throw some parties Fred. But, then the internet collapses. When the internet collapsed, did you think the internet was a fraud, like everybody was saying? Did you wonder like, “Is this over?” or did you realize, “This is just a financial mess.” It’s not a… The consumers still love it.
Om: I’ve always had the inevitability of internet as my thesis. Like, you just can’t go away from it. I wrote a book about the telecom scandals which happened. You know, I was very bummed out about what was going on from a financial standpoint. How many people were hurt.
Om: Criminals. People I thought were actually…
Om: … and they turned out to be pretty lame. Like the biggest ne being Joe Nacchio, of Quest. Who I actually really admired for him having come from a blue collar background and becoming such a… I really didn’t think he was doing something exceptional at Quest. Then, to find out that he was just…
Jason: Cooking the books?
Om: Pretty much. It was pretty lame. But, the internet, I have never been out of love with it. I still love logging on, as they say. Now, we don’t log on.
Jason: That experience has gone away. The experience of let’s initiate an internet connection. (imitating sounds of modem)
Om: That was… I’m glad it’s gone. Really.
Jason: Yeah. But, there was a rush to that sound. Wasn’t there?
Om: There was. I think that the idea… I just feel like a lot of people would not experience the idea of logging on. Maybe, we should create a software which does that.
Jason: Yeah. You’re not online, but you have to initiate. You don’t automatically… You’re Wi-fi doesn’t automatically go online. You have to say, “I want the internet now,” and it plays some sort of…
Om: Like the modem sound.
Jason: Yeah. Like a Pavlovian tone. It would actually give some people the appreciation of it. So, at some point, you decide to launch your own blog.
Om: No. So, I left Forbes and went to work for H&Q Asian Pacific, which is like an investment firm, here in the valley for about seven months. It’s a disaster. Like, I was…
Jason: What were you a banker or analyst or…
Om: I have no idea what I was. I just knew…
Jason: You got a big paycheck?
Om: I did and I realized that I kind of sucked being that job. We were in the same job where Facebook had it’s big office. Actually, thanks to that job, I got to meet Elon Musk.
Om: X.com baby. A lot of people don’t know X.com. I got to meet with him because H&Q Asian Pacific wanted to do X.com Japan.
Om: Dude, this was a time when doing a special japanese subsidiary was a big deal.
Jason: Yahoo Japan still exists. Yahoo just unwound it 15 years later.
Om: And made a lot of money doing that.
Om: Anyway, I left after a few months. I went to call my friend Jason Pontin at Red Herring.
Jason: Of course.
Om: “Jason, I am miserable. Can you help me?” He said, “Why don’t we start you at Red Herring, tomorrow.”
Om: That was it. Literally. No interview. Nothing.
Jason: He’s running MIT’s…
Om: MIT Tech Review. I left H&Q on one Thursday. Took the weekend off.
Jason: Long weekend, huh?
Om: Friday, Saturday, Sunday.
Jason: That’s that New Delhi work ethic there.
Jason: You took a full three days off between jobs.
Om: Yeah. That was it. Monday I was at Red Herring. Loved their magazine. Loved being there, probably… You know, I’ve been very fortunate with my editors.
Om: First, I had Steve Dante at Quick Nikkei News. Then, I had David Chervok at Forbes. Jason Pontin and Blaze. at Red Herring. Which was great. It was just a great job.
Jason: Red Herring, at that time. The way I would describe it would be cynical optimist, in a way. I mean, obviously, red herring being something that threw you off the scent of something, like the fake thing. They were out there investigating what was real and what wasn’t in this boom times.
Om: Right. I think, in many ways Red Herring became… Red Herring and Forbes were my school. Like, how I thought about the business aspect of technology. They grounded me in a very different kind of reality. So, if Forbes made me very careful about everything, like don’t believe everything you hear. Red Herring gave me the confidence of being an optimist at the same time. It was like really good editors, who encourage many different things. I think that when Red Herring shut down in February 2003, literally turned the lights off in the New York office. That was not fun, cause I loved that magazine. I think we were on to something big there. It was just really bad business decisions. Which were made… Which ended the magazine.
Jason: They scaled greatly, raised money, had a lot of people, had a lot of events. When the internet era came to a halt, all the advertising shut off at once. All the conference shut off at once.
Om: I don’t think it was events and people which were the problem. The problem was really bad business decisions. I think there was a really expense real estate lease.
Jason: Oh, that’s right.
Om: Right? Which caused a lot of problems. Then, there was a decision made to buy a company. A stock ticker company for cash. Which was like… I don’t quite understand why. When they could have easily licensed it. Those were some of the bad decisions. The magazine and it’s core value proposition never went away. In my head, that core value proposition still exists. Right?
Jason: Oh, yeah.
Om: I think it’s interesting to see a lot of that… with time now that seems to have changed. Anyway, I left that. I didn’t leave. I didn’t have a choice. Josh Kutner who is another great editor… Talk about being lucky with editors… basically gave me a job at Business 2.0.
Jason: He was the original tech journalist at Business Week or NewsWeek?
Om: No. Time magazine.
Jason: Time magazine.
Om: Before that, he used to write for News Day, in New York and he wrote for Wired.
Jason: He was the old school internet tech guy.
Om: He wrote for Wired. He wrote the first… He’s the guy who basically domain squatted on McDonald’s domain.
Jason: Wait. Wasn’t that… I thought that was Adam Curry.
Om: He wrote a story on that, on why on that for why. It was pretty awesome. So he was trying to reinvent Business 2.0 which had gone through it’s own set of trials and tribulations. It was Time Warner. I never thought I would end up at a Time Warner publication. Because, I had tried to get a job at… Which was their online service?
Jason: Time Warner had an online service?
Om: Dude, they had like a publication.
Jason: Oh, oh, oh.
Om: Way back when. It was like a pretty big one.
Jason: I can’t remember. It wasn’t Business 2.0.
Om: No, no, no, no. It was just an online…
Jason: Fast Company was it? Online magazine… what was it? Anyway, they combined it or something.
Om: No. It was an online destination site.
Om: It started in 95.
Jason: Oh, Pathfinder.
Jason: I thought you were talking about a print magazine.
Om: I was trying to get a job at PathFinder too.
Om: That didn’t work out. I tried to get a job at Bloomberg. That didn’t work out.
Om: There’s a lot of people…
Jason: This was the first time in your journalism career, for a while, that it actually got hard. The 2003 time frame, I guess.
Om: No, no, no. This was like way before. I got really lucky 2003 when…
Jason: Really tough year.
Om: Yeah. But, Red Herring shuts down. Fifteen days later, I’m starting work at Business 2.0.
Om: Kutner is trying to revive Business 2.0 in a big way. I joined there with a couple of my other colleagues from Red Herring.
Jason: Peter Rojas being one of them, I think.
Jason: No? He was at Red Herring though, right?
Om: Michael Copeland. Yeah. So, Peter used to work at Red Herring with me.
Jason: Then, he did Gizmodo and obviously…
Om: I introduced him and Nick.
Om: Then, they went off to do their Gizmodo thing. Then, he did Engadget with you, GDGT. So, yeah, that was it. Joined Business 2.0 and in Kutner I found the quintessential optimist. He just helped me overcome any lingering negativity which had been there. We did some amazing stuff at that magazine. In 2003, I wrote this post. Well…
Om: … cover story…
Om: … called, The Rise of the Insta Company. How the cloud and open source and all these frameworks will help people create new frameworks, new products.
Jason: Basically, you predicted Y Combinator and the boom we’re seeing now.
Om: Sort of like that. Then, I did another story similar to that. Which was build it, we’ll beat it. You know, that New Road to Riches. That was the name of the story. It was about how you can build small product features, which were tuck ins for big companies who couldn’t build them fast enough. So, for a few years, that actually worked.
Om: Now, it has just become a business management practice. Those are the few things we did. There were some great… I just look at my work at Business 2.0 and I’m pretty proud of the time.
Jason: At some point you decide you want to start your own publication, your own blog, GigaOm.
Om: No. I started the blog eleven years ago. I started it as a way to write about what I was doing… I used to work for Red Herring, right? Which was a monthly magazine. I was an online guy.
Jason: So, it was just a side project?
Om: I was struggling to keep my mind working everyday. I still have not been able to figure out how people write for a monthly magazine. It’s like, “Really.”
Om: I loved…
Jason: Not enough feedback loop?
Om: No. I just love writing everyday. The world of technology is so dynamic, it changes everyday.
Om: I think, from that standpoint I just started my blog. I started putting stuff… I would learn on a daily basis. Which, I had no room in the magazine. I was like, “Nobody really cared.”
Jason: They certainly didn’t see it as threatening at that point.
Om: Nobody did.
Jason: I didn’t feel that way about Paid Content when Rafa started it at Silicon Alley Reporter. He asked me for permission. I was like, “Blogs will never be important. Sure. Go ahead.” Another Jason Calacanis… another idiotic…
Om: I didn’t want to bring that up. But, if you insist.
Jason: Such an idiot. I should have told him, “You can do it. I’ll just keep half.” Dumbass.
Om: I was very heavily influenced by guys like David Winer, Doc Searls. I just looked at what they were doing and I just started doing exactly that.
Jason: Doc Searls and Dave Winer, of course, the godfathers of blogging.
Om: Right. I would read them before I read any other newspaper. I was like, “You know, there must be something to it.”
Jason: You find yourself going to that before the mainstream publications.
Om: Yeah. I think, that was my…
Jason: What was it about blogging that made it, in your mind, so special?
Om: It was very intimate.
Om: It’s like, there is this level of intimacy which is required in blogging. Like, it is OK to be a little vulnerable. It’s OK to be a little crazy. It’s OK to be human in blogging. Which was not OK in media at that time.
Jason: Oh, God. If you ever tried to introduce yourself in the story you’d be killed.
Om: So, we did that and that was it. Eleven years later, still doing it.
Jason: When did it become a company?
Jason: What made it a company? You went and got papers?
Om: No. I think what happened was I was hanging out with Toni Schneider, whom I met when I wrote the story, New Road to Riches. He was the CEO of a company called, OddPost. Which was acquired by…
Om: … Yahoo.
Jason: It was the first… What do they call it? The first DHTML, like, Ajaxy email client.
Om: Right. What…
Jason: What Gmail became.
Om: What essentially, Yahoo has just introduced.
Jason: That’s so cruel. You’re so cruel.
Om: Oh, whatever man.
Jason: It is true though. They basically had Gmail before Gmail was even conceived, right?
Om: They had an equivalent of outlook in the browser, before there was one.
Om: So, Toni and I used to talk a lot. I love Toni. He had introduced me to a whole bunch of people. Including all my investors. Future investors and friends. I was talking to him. I said, “Look man. I don’t know where my career is going. I’m like 3 and a half years into Business 2.0.” The magazine isn’t getting the kind of support that it should be getting from New York. They wanted to still prop up Fortune. Which was the flagship, obviously. I said, “I don’t know what my future is.” He asked me this one simple question, in nay the way Toni does. Which, by the way, you should get him on camera.
Om: He says, “What gives you more happiness? Do you want to write for a magazine or do you want to write for your own blog?” I said, ‘Good question. I didn’t really think about it that way.” He says, “As far as I’m concerned, I read you because of the blog. Not the other way around.”
Jason: The blog became more important than your cover stories.
Om: No. In my head, it wasn’t. Right? Also…
Jason: In your readers heads, it was.
Om: Yeah. It became their gateway to my work. Right? So, that was a pretty eye-opening comment. I said, “Damn.”
Jason: Which circles back to why you came into writing. You were traveling with other people’s words. Now, you became the gateway for people into your world.
Jason: Mission accomplished, in a way.
Om: Well, not quite. I still haven’t… I don’t feel mission accomplished. I don’t think I can hang that banner anytime soon. Because, the journey is… Like I said, Dude, I’m writing the story of my life and it’s only four paragraphs in. I mean, we still got a ways to go. It’s important for me to remember that always. It’s not over yet. Right? I have to make sure I’m reminded of that.
Jason: You might have particular insight into that.
Om: Well, I do and I don’t.
Jason: You’ve come close.
Om: Yeah. We’ll talk about that. But, I was going to finish up. Then, one day Toni said, “You know, you…” Ton made me talk to Tony Conrad.
Jason: Tony Conrad of True Ventures.
Om: About.me, Sphere and True Ventures. Then, these two guys said, “You should come meet some of our other friends.” So, I go into the True office and there is a big room. There is Jon Callaghan, first of all, which is a pretty amazing story, because, Jon used to be one of the founders of a company called KemDex. He came to see me…
Jason: KemDex, the original vertical like… Yeah.
Om: He came to the Forbes office. He was going to pitch me on the company. I ranged him. Basically, put him through shit.
Jason: I did that to Cuban.
Om: Oh, great. Here my words come back and bite me.
Jason: You’re like, “Your KemDex is a ponzi scheme. A marketplace for chemicals will never work.”
Om: You know, it was just one of those unfortunate times in life. I actually knew what I was talking about. Because, i had a chemistry background. So, I knew what I kind of chemicals they were selling. What kind of demand there is for those. For some odd reason I knew all that nonsense. It was like a really funny conversation. I really, basically, put him through shit. Here I was sitting right across from him.
Jason: That’s $20. Keep going.
Om: This is funny. Shit is like…
Jason: It hits the fan.
Om: … waste.
Jason: Yes. Still one of the seven words. Keep going.
Om: Human waste.
Jason: Human waste. You can say that next time. Say sugar next time. That’s a lot of Blue Bottle coffee or…
Om: I did go in there. They gave me a check without knowing. Thy handed me the little envelope. On top they said, “Go make your dream come true.”
Om: That was it.
Om: That was it. No pitch. Nothing.
Jason: I guess they attribute that to the fact that they probably read what you wrote and respected your… I mean, that is one of the great things about being a writer, isn’t it? It’s that when you come into a meeting with someone who has read your work. They have so much knowledge of you and what you think.
Om: Also, the fact that we had been friends for such a long time. I’m friends with Toni and Tony and Phil. I didn’t know Jon, like on a social basis. He became my board member which is… I think, just like you had a daughter.
Om: It was God’s revenge. Like, you got Jon now.
Jason: Now, he’s got the upper hand.
Om: Make sure you don’t ring people in the future. I think it was a good reminder, you have to be nice to people. You nerve know…
Jason: Be nice on the way up.
Om: …how it comes around. Probably the best board member a guy could have.
Jason: Yeah. That’s great. So, now you start building it. It grows very quickly. How many people are there, now?
Om: Katy signed up and Liz signed up. We were sitting in StarBucks. That was our office for about a year or so.
Jason: You’d just go to StartBucks and do posts?
Om: That’s it. I would sit outside and smoke and do meetings.
Jason: Smoke and do meetings. You don’t do anymore.
Om: I worked, worked, worked for… Chris joined. Chris used to… He got interviewed at StarBucks. That was quite funny. i don’t think he was well-prepared for that job.
Jason: The irony is of course, back then, there was so much available office space in San Francisco at prices that are probably a quarter of what they are now.
Om: Exactly. Prices now are just insane. So, that’s how we started and off we went.
Jason: Yeah. Now, where is GigaOm, now? You winded up buying paidContent, Rafat’s company, out of the Guardian. Which is always a sign of strength. From what I understand, tens of millions of dollars in this business. You’ve got how many people working there?
Om: We… I don’t know. I’m seriously not sure.
Jason: It’s over 50.
Om: Over 50. So, we have three businesses. We have the online publication.
Om: The blog. Then, we have the events business.
Om: Then, we have the research business. So, our game plan as a company is to eventually decrease our reliance on advertising.
Om: One of the biggest lessons I learned from Red Herring and Business 2.0. Is that if your business is just advertising, there is a finite scale you could grow up to. The kind of things we write about are the kinds of things we are interested in. The way I look at the world, I don’t think we can be like a 500M page view company.
Jason: You don’t want to do a slideshow of the 17 things you will not believe about the iPhone.
Om: The heart of the hardest technology, lady CEOs is not my way of…
Jason: Yeah. So, no dig to Henry Blodget, you’re not going to…
Om: No dig to anyone.
Jason: But he has added the salacious slideshow.
Om: He’s still a good writer.
Jason: So, you still respect him, even with the salacious slideshow.
Om: Of course. Like, I respect guys at Buzzfeed and Huffington Post.
Jason: It’s just not for you.
Om: It’s just not for me.
Jason: Not for your topic area either.
Om: Oh, no. I just won’t… It’s not…
Jason: You wouldn’t do it?
Jason: You just couldn’t. Why is that? You just don’t feel…
Om: I’m just too old school, man.
Jason: So, in a way, you just can’t go there.
Om: I mean, my view is that there are many different ways. You asked about content, right? Short form and long form. There’s the internet, man. Every niche can exist and thrive. I don’t have to copy them. I can do my own thing. I’d rather do my own thing than do it. Our companies ethos are that. It’s built on that. Every person who’s part of the team member thinks like that. That we have to make our customers happy. We have to make sure we add value. We respect their attention.
Jason: The cultural value.
Om: Yeah. That’s it. You know, whether we are right or wrong, time will tell. That’s what I built this company on. That’s the core founding principal. That our readers matter most to us. We will do whatever it takes to respect their time, give them value, give them the respect they…
Jason: In media, right now, in respect to the value of the readers time is not the driving force. It’s, perhaps, how many impressions or how many… some other metric, is how people’s view of success.
Om: Right. That’s because we have a world that is completely driven by advertising. Page views and advertising have a very symbiotic relationship. The reason is, it’s not that the publishers want to go down that route.
Jason: They have to.
Om: It’s like Madison Avenue resists change. Right? It does. You know rightfully so. They have a very nice business. Why would they want to disrupt that? I think that whole…
Jason: It does end in a perverse product offering, if you let it. Or it can.
Om: Eventually, people have to realize who they are serving. Right? This is what I pulled out of the Post, the other day. Facebook and Twitter were started out with customers, as you and I, as their customers. Now, advertisers are their customers.
Jason: And, we’re the product.
Om: Google is doing the exact same thing. Though, they have been much more careful in finding a balance, there. Right?
Om: I give them props for that. But, does mean that they really do give a shit about you and I? Probably not. Between $10B in revenue and keeping 10M people happy, sometimes capitalism is a brutal thing. I think that’s a perverse relationship. It’s a very symbiotic relationship. Some people are going to do certain things and some people are going to do different things. We do things differently.
Jason: You’re starting to see some different things emerge. KickStarter for documentary film projects. Certainly, the films and the books are on their R Media. You do also see their Andrew Sullivan take his blog subscription… and other people saying, “I’m just going to skip the advertising round completely.”
Jason: People have put up KickStarter projects to tattle all the ads off sites and have gotten an overwhelming response. Customers are looking for a more pure editorial, do you think?
Om: I think there is a lot more experimentation which is required. I look at… I really like what Sarah is doing at PandoDaily with her PandoMonthly conversations and using that to grow her audience and revenue. I just think it’s a clever way of thinking about the world. We just have to think differently now. I think the world… my point is, it’s a very connected society we live in. Why are we looking at the mechanisms of the past and not experimenting with the new? I think, I would love to see more experimentation. I think the guys from Gawker do a lot of experimentation.
Jason: They do. Yeah.
Om: In my view, if there was any true inheritor of Rupert Murdock, it would be Nick Denton. I know you and he has had issues in the past.
Jason: No. I don’t disagree with that.
Om: He is the quintessential innovator of media. I have a lot of respect for him.
Jason: I actually have a lot of respect for him too. We’ve had our personal squabbles, but I do think he’s… He’s built lasting brands. He understands brands aren’t built in months, they’re built in years and not built in years, they’re built in decades sometimes.
Om: And the fact that his inter office memos are pretty funny.
Jason: He used to blog. He was a good blogger.
Om: Yeah. I met him when he was a journalist back in the day. He started that Tuesday event. So, I’ve known him as long as I’ve known you.
Om: He was a great writer.
Jason: Great writer.
Om: He’s a good example of a great entrepreneur. Like no funding. None of those things.
Jason: No. And, will not sell. Keeps growing. Do you think he’s ever going to sell?
Om: No. Why should he? There’s so much power.
Jason: Yeah. That seems to be what he likes about it.
Om: I don’t know. I’m not going to get into his head.
Jason: No. I think it’s a big part of it. At a certain point you have enough money and all that influence… I mean, he walks into a room, he’s Nick Denton.
Om: No. I think he’s a great media entrepreneur. Probably just one of a kind.
Jason: Yeah. Absolutely.
Om: That’s my take on him. So, here we are.
Jason: Here we are.
Om: 2013. The world is changing. Trying to figure out… You know, my from a company perspective I do want… I’ve always wanted a culture where I did the same thing for my team that my editors did for me. I found a way to encourage them and help them grow. And, be a positive influence. Not be negative. I wanted to build a place where people could be comfortable and happy. But, at the same time, have the same same work ethic as I do. Which is a pretty nonstop work ethic. So…
Jason: It’s pretty crazy. It almost pushed you over the edge.
Om: So what. You have one life, man. You have to live it to the fullest.
Jason: Well, you almost lost that one life.
Om: Well, OK. I got two.
Jason: You did get a second chance.
Jason: How close were you… I don’t know if you’re comfortable talking about it or not.
Om: I’m perfectly fine with it.
Jason: You had a massive heart attack.
Om: Five years ago. It made me realize that there were certain things I was doing wrong. Certain things I had to stop and I just did. I stopped smoking. I’ve never touched any hard liquor since then. Though, occasionally I will toast you, with a glass of wine.
Om: I did on Thanksgiving.
Jason: Yeah. No more scotches. No more Macallans or ciggies.
Om: No more cigarettes. No more red meat. I’m an 80% vegetarian. So, 20% of the time I will have animal.
Jason: Working out a little bit more?
Om: I work out, pretty much, 4 days a week. I walk at least 3 miles a day. I try not to eat desert. I’m not allowed to have sugar.
Jason: How close were you to dying?
Om: I might have been out for a few seconds, here and there.
Jason: You went out?
Om: I went out. I don’t know… I didn’t see the bright light, though. If you were going to ask me that.
Jason: What happens? You just lose a day of time? What happened?
Om: I don’t remember what happened. I do remember that something happened. The next day I woke up and Obama was giving a speech in Iowa. It’s like, “How long have I been dead? Dammit.” We have a… you know… black guy as the president. What happened here?
Jason: You just time shifted 50 years forward. Yes.
Om: Imagine. Because you just look at the television. I couldn’t hear anything. Right?
Jason: Right. It happened over the holidays.
Om: It was over the holidays. That was it. 20 days later I was back to work.
Jason: How does your… As a young man, still young… at the time when this happens, how does it inform how you look at the world? I mean, is there something you know now that the rest of us who haven’t had that experience don’t know?
Om: I think what matters now is the purity of life. I think the thing which… I love Dr. House, the show ‘House M.D.’ In one of the episodes Dr. House says… there’s one of his juniors there, you know… “Almost dying changes everything.” He says, “No. Only dying changes everything.” Now I understand that. Dying basically means like… I don’t quite… I’m not wishy washy about decisions anymore. I look at the world in a more black and white fashion. Either I’m going to do something or I’m not going to do something. I have become more picky about certain things. I feel it’s part of the growth process. I think it just is realizing you have a finite amount of time, is a pretty good realization. It also made me realize that we look at life in a very wrong metric. Which is success is defined by how much money we have and how much fame we have. In the end it’s how much positive influence you have. It was pretty interesting to see all these emails which came to me when I was in the hospital. There was like literally tens of thousands of emails from absolute, random strangers to some of the biggest names in the valley. Just knowing that, it’s like, you know what? That’s my success metric. I don’t know why, who I’m trying to impress, what I’m trying to do is not that important. I’m just going to try and be a decent human being everyday. That was the biggest take away. There are days when that doesn’t work out like that.
Jason: Yeah. Some days your ego comes back.
Om: No. I yell at people at Uber and stuff like that.
Jason: You give somebody 2 stars on Uber.
Jason: Then you’re like, “Oh. What did I do? That person is just human.”
Om: Then, the guilt comes to me so badly.
Jason: Wow. You’ve become a softee.
Om: I’m not a softee. I’m just more black and white. I’m more appreciative of people. That’s the big change.
Jason: More appreciative of people.
Om: Life man. That’s how it works.
Jason: Well, this has been a great hour and a half. I think we have talked forever. There’s so many things we can talk about. But, I think we’ve said a lot. What a great, amazing journey you’ve had as an entrepreneur. From New Delhi to $400 a month. All these great jobs with these great editors. Now, running this incredible business that’s phenomenal. What do your parents think when they see what you did in 20 years in the States? How did they look at your success?
Om: For them, I’m still 5 years old. I still get yelled at on Sunday. My mom still bugs me, when am I going to get married? Those things will never go away. I am just their boy.
Om: I will alway be that. I’m actually glad that for 15 minutes in an entire week, I tend to be not a grown up. It’s the best feeling. I think that’s one thing I love about… They’re so disaffected by what I do. They have no idea.
Jason: They just can’t…
Om: They just don’t care either.
Jason: Yeah. They’re like, “Yeah, whatever.”
Om: Yeah. Exactly. That’s the…
Jason: “When are you making babies? Get married.”
Om: Hopefully. One day.
Jason: One day.
Jason: Does your incredible love of what you do and the amount of effort that you put into it make it hard to find somebody? Is it not been a priority for you?
Om: You know, there is this great episode in House, again.
Jason: OK. This is the philosophy of House.
Om: It is philosophy of House, right?
Om: There’s this episode in a which a jazz musician, a trumpeter falls sick. He goes to the hospital. There is a lot of drama. There is this dialog in which he tells House, “You have the same diseases I do. You have this one things and this one thing dominates everything you do. We sometimes don’t have time for normal things that other people do. We have our one thing.” So, sometimes I wonder if that is my curse.
Om: I don’t know. Or, it’s my blessing. I don’t know.
Om: I’m OK though. I love what I do. It’s like… If I want… I literally can say this… the best way to go is when I’m writing a piece and lights out.
Jason: It’s a great feeling. That’s it. You love hitting the publish key? What’s better, the moment when you’re… it’s interesting, as a writer I’m interested in your answer… Which do you enjoy more? The moment of flow when you’re writing it’s really… You know you’re writing a good piece. Like that in the moment writing. You know what you’re thinking is coming out in words properly. Or at least that’s how I feel. Or, the moment when people read it and they respond back and they tell you they’ve read it and here’s what they think? Which do you prefer?
Om: I think it’s a continuous process. For me… There have been days man, where… I write like an old fashioned writer. I wake up in the middle of the night with the blog post just completely composed in my head. I wake up, write it with my hand, go back to sleep. I wake up the next morning, 90% of the time I can read my own hand writing. But, there is 10% of the time I don’t know what I wrote. But, I do internalize everything a lot. So, my creation process is all consuming. On the feedback side, I think when so embody actually reads and writes back a thoughtful response, that gives me a little bit of encouragement. Like the other day I wrote something and somebody sent me a really sweet email after that. I was just like, “Wow. I didn’t even realize that I said that.” That moment is like a moment of, “OK. I did probably do something good.”
Om: But, for me, writing is essentially a very selfish act. I do it for myself.
Jason: Yeah. The enjoyment of it.
Jason: Do you ever get… You must certainly get it. “I read your piece 3 or 4 years ago and it inspired me to do X, Y or Z.” Or, “I remember the piece you wrote in 2003, on this.”
Om: See, that is a lot of pressure. When somebody tells me that, that freaks me out. Because at that point I say, “Holy shit. I hope I’m not giving people bad advice.”
Jason: It’s like when somebody writes a great song and they’re like, “Oh, yeah. Your song made me marry this person.” “I hope it didn’t end in divorce.”
Om: It’s just that’s hard. That’s why you need to spend a little time before you hit the publish button. I really, really do think… The other thing I’ve applied to my writing is, whatever I write, I assume my mother is reading it. So…
Jason: Don’t be a schmuck.
Jason: Don’t be a… The mom filter. Like that one. I do actually think that too. Like, if my mom… But, I always think, if my mom found this out… Like if I’m doing the show and I curse on the show, I’m like, “If my mom sees that…”
Om: But, I don get a call from my mother, like when I do something crazy.
Jason: Make sure you bleep this show. Oh really? She’s like, “You wrote this shit.”
Jason: Alright. Om Malik, journalist, thinker, pundent, friend of mine for a long time. Just, all around, one of the good people in the valley, somebody you need to know. Follow @om, of course, on Twitter. He got on there early and got a two letter Twitter handle.
Om: Patient Zero baby.
Om: Patient zero on Twitter.
Jason: Wow. I didn’t know you were patient…
Om: That’s how it works man.
Jason: What is your Twitter handle?
Jason: I know, but do you know what number you are?
Om: I don’t know. I was like very early on. I was one of the first 4 or 5 people outside of…
Jason: When it was just an SMS service?
Om: They didn’t launch. I launched them. Without even knowing they were talking to me, they told me about Twitter. I just went and wrote a post about Twitter.
Jason: Oh, really?
Jason: Oh, wow.
Om: I don’t think Ev has ever forgiven me about that.
Jason: Oh. You just wrote about it without any consulting.
Om: I have one question for you. Can I? May I?
Jason: Of course. Yeah.
Om: So, Inside.com, is it coming back?
Jason: That’s a good question. No. I don’t envision what we’ll do with Inside.com will be what was done with Inside.com. Cause, what they wanted to do was make a variety… you know, across all media. The variety of everything. Some amalgamation of that. I think it will be topic based. I think it will be news based. So, it will have elements of that. But, I don’t think it’s going to be a full on journal. I’d say it will be a little curation based. I’m working on it right now, actually. I got it in the laboratory. That’s… You didn’t work at Inside though?
Jason: A lot of other people did, who we know. I’ve always been enamored with that name. I’ve actually always loved their logo with the brackets on it. I’ve been thinking about having the logo have the brackets as a little hat tip. I’m just a little bit worried that somebody is going to sue me. Does somebody own those brackets? No. The company went out of business a long time ago. Nobody owns brackets, right?
Jason: But, I’m figuring it out actually. I’ve been… This is one of the great things, I just love launching new brands and I think it’s… You know, you were talking earlier, you have less tolerance for certain things, just kind of black and white… I think I know what I want to do. I’ve got the product in my head. I know what it needs to be.
Om: Great. How do you feel that… you’re doing all these things… and your fatherhood. How do you reconcile that?
Jason: My father?
Om: No. Your fatherhood.
Jason: Oh, as a dad.
Om: How do you spend time with London, when you’re doing Mahalo, Inside, this show and Launch.
Jason: Yeah, yeah. I’ve been consolidating things down. Like, ThisWeekIn was a network. It was going to try to be a lot of shows. Now I’m like, “I’m just going to do this show. This show is now, sort of, part of Launch. A small side project. A lot of good people working on it. The answer to that question is, I’ve been trusting people to do more. Training them up to do more and having more resources. Defining what the expectation of the project is I think is… I don’t expect Launch to be TechCrunch and GigaOm. It doesn’t need to be that size business for me. It just needs to be a great event that I do once a year that helps startups, in a large way. This show just has to be me talking to interesting people. If I enjoy it that’s great. I took a 10 day vacation. Which, you know, I’m sort of old school like you, like, I don’t take 10 day vacations. I’ve been really taking time to spend one on one time with her alone. You know, just going and doing things. Like, taking her to the beach or watching a movie with her. You get older you can optimize your time too. My time is so much more effective now. I don’t really waste a lot of time on stuff. I can make decisions quicker, be more definitive about stuff, you know. I think, you become so much more efficient as you get older. Fred Wilson had told me that. I asked him a similar question about how do you have kids and all this stuff. You get really efficient with your time. You don’t waste time. You know, when you’re young and you’re in your 20s, you stand around the office talking, shooting the shit, drinking coffee.
Om: I wonder why people don’t respect time. I just feel like that’s one big lesson of me almost dying was I have a new found respect for time.
Jason: You wouldn’t waste people’s time. You don’t want to have your time wasted.
Om: Or mine either.
Jason: You’re not just going to go to random lunches for 3 hours with people.
Om: The human race itself just does not respect time.
Om: People don’t value time. Startups don’t value time. Founders don’t value time. They just value all the wrong things except time. I think time is just such a precious commodity. Like, you just can not have enough of it.
Om: And, you just don’t have enough of it. Anyway.
Jason: Yeah. You can only realize that, I think, while you’re looking at the hourglass and the amount of sand in the bottom starts to equal the amount at the top or more. You know, when you start looking at it, you’re like, “Hmm. Not too many grains left.”
Om: Yeah. That’s pretty much how it works.
Jason: There was a great moment… You know Warren Zevon, the artist, who sings ‘Lawyers, Guns and Money’ or ‘Werewolves of London’ or ‘The Headless Gunner’. A great artist who I’ve always loved. He had terminal lung cancer. He was on David Letterman. He had sat in for Paul Shaffer, in the band, 20 times or something and had been a guest another 10 times. Paul loved him. But, really Dave loved his music. He didn’t go to a doctor for ten years. Had a cough. Went in to see the doctor. “You have terminal lung cancer. The cancer has spread. You’re going to die.” And, he did. But, David Letterman dedicated a show to him. On the show, he said, “What have we learned?” He said, “Well. I enjoy every sandwich. You learn to enjoy every sandwich.”
Jason: I just thought, “Wow.” Enjoy every sandwich. Is there anything more poetic than that? Life is short. Enjoy it.
Om: That’s right man. I think that’s one thing everybody should do.
Jason: The startups, the founders, everybody. Just pause.
Om: The process is just amazing.
Jason: Yeah. Enjoy every sandwich everybody. It doesn’t mean not work hard. Your story is one of working hard and rising above seemingly insurmountable odds. To get out of New Dheli…
Om: Luck baby. It’s all luck.
Jason: Yeah. It’s a lot of luck with risks and living in tiny apartments with 6 people in the Boogie Down Bronx.
Om: Queens baby. Not the Bronx.
Jason: Queens. Thank you Om Malik for being on the program. Everybody follow @om. Everybody go check out GigaOm. Thank you to my sponsors. Thanks to the crew. Kirin Kalia, executive editor. Editor, whatever she is. She’s editor, producer. Brandice, producer, gear runner, light setter upper. Demant, bringing in the money. I feel like it’s a band. Of course, Krute on the bass guitar. We’ll see everybody next week on ThisWeekIn Startups.