I met Cali Lewis yesterday. Don't know her? I didn't either, but her story tells you a lot about why I am jumping into Podcasting and Videoblogging and Second Life with both feet.
She started her videoblog in December (she does the Geekbrief videoblog). A mere six months ago. Today she is getting millions of downloads a month. Yesterday she and her husband and partner told me:
"We just quit our day jobs to do this full time."
Now what I really noticed was the joy on her face.
Oh, by the way, I'm talking about competitors again. She's working for Adam Curry, who runs the Podshow network. They already are doing some of the most interesting stuff right now and, if Cali's story is typical, are seeing rapid growth.
I forget who said it, but I learned long ago that an industry will only be strong if it has great competitors in it. Imagine a mall that only had one shoe store. How boring. The most vibrant mall has dozens of shoe stores. How can they all survive? Easy, their competition draws more people into the mall.
But what Cali is showing us all is that you can get a low-cost video camera, make an interesting show in your nights and weekends, and within six months get such a large audience that you are quitting your day job.
Yesterday I was talking with Amanda Congdon, one of the co-founders of Rocketboom. Her videoblog is now seeing about 300,000 viewers a day. That's, what, a year or so old? Did you know that advertisers are now paying her $85,000 per week? That's almost as much money as I made in an entire year of working at Microsoft.
Now, I have no delusions that I'm either Amanda or Cali. I'm not half as cute as either of them, for one. Nor am I as smart. Or as visionary. I'll just have to work harder (which is going to be very tough, since Amanda tells me she and her team are working nearly around the clock right now to put together their three-minute videoblog).
But I had the same smile on my face when I told Cali I just quit my day job too to work in this new media industry.
On Thursday I was sitting on the lawn in the front row at my son's graduation from Elementary School. One part of the graduation that effected my decision was when the teachers read off what each kid would like to do when they "grow up." I loved some of their ideas. Veterinarian. Policeman. Actress. Videogame designer (whoa, Bill, hire them now!)
Anyway, my son was so cute. He said he wanted to be a famous blogger like me and work at a big company like Apple or Microsoft. That made my heart warm.
But it also made this decision clearer. I only have a couple more years left before Patrick wants nothing to do with me (that's how almost every teenager behaves, it's just natural). Maryam and I were definitely tired of the every-other-week flights and drives to see Patrick. Being closer to him just was a major part of this decision. Microsoft, by the way, offered to move us down to Silicon Valley, which was very flattering (thanks Jeff and Vic) but I just knew that if I stayed at Microsoft all the action would be up in Redmond and that would be tough to manage.
This morning I saw Vinnie Mirchandani's post about his hanging out with his 12-year-old son and it reminded me of Friday's lunch with Jonathan Schwartz where we talked at length about our kids and the kind of world we were leaving behind for them.
One of the strongest arguments that Sanjay, Vic, and Jeff gave me for staying at Microsoft was the family that had built around me. All of us have kids and we had lots of great discussions about what's important in life. In a few minutes I'll be leaving to go pick up Patrick, who is staying with us for the summer. I can't wait to see him and that certainly played a huge part in this.
The BMW. One thing about the BMW. It has a jack to plug in a cell phone or an iPod. Now, it's a rich-man's toy, right? But what that tells me is that there's a huge growth in the distribution channel for podcasts coming. Why? Cause what the rich man can buy today you'll be able to buy tomorrow.
Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, taught me that. I remember in 1990 when he had bought one of the valley's first dye-sublimation printers. It was a color printer that cost $40,000. I thought to myself then "I really want one of those." Today, about 16 years later, a $70 printer does a better job than his did. So, if you're not rich and you want something that a rich guy has, just stick around!
But, back to the car. It made me realize that there's a new media-distribution network being built. We're still in the very early days of that. I feel like we have lived through the first few years of Television. Or radio. And I can see nothing but incredible growth ahead.
This morning on some of the blogs I see people saying that Microsoft is clueless for letting me go and that they don't care about this new stuff (or that they won't "get it").
I have a totally different viewpoint. Did you not see on Engadget that Microsoft is working on a portable media player? I can't break wind about it, but when Microsoft comes into that market it'll create new opportunities. New media distribution channels. Translation, that product will create new "Amanda's" and new "Cali's." And it's not the only one coming. I've seen and heard about some really awesome stuff coming soon from other companies as well. That all spells OPPORTUNITY for all of us.
Oh, and then there's the little thing about Google vs. Microsoft. When two big companies are struggling to build audiences to stick advertising next to it creates new opportunities. Startups can zig and zag where big companies just can't take advantage of new opportunities the way someone like Cali can. Remember, she didn't exist six months ago. SIX MONTHS AGO!!! And who the hell is Amanda? She didn't exist 1.5 years ago. Now she's been on CSI and big huge media companies are vying to get near her brand. What a world!
Will I lose my audience? That's a question I've seen on the blogs.
Huh? You will unsubscribe if I don't give you a payoff. For many of you Microsoft was that payoff. Yes, Microsoft is still an interesting company for many many people in the world. When I was at my mom's funeral, what did we end up talking about at lunch afterward? Microsoft. Everyone had an opinion about Microsoft. Everyone knew who it was. What it did.
PodTech.net? Huh? Who are they? What are they? Why do I care?
Over the next few months if I don't give you a payoff you'll leave. That'd be OK with me, I didn't do this for the audience. When I started blogging there were only a few hundred blogs that I could find. I never thought it'd get to the point where I'd help build a media property that had 3.5-million unique visitors last month (http://channel9.msdn.com).
But, when life hands you a metaphorical equivilent of a gold coin you better do something with it. Invest it in something else. If you don't I believe that's unethical. My ethical system says that you should reinvest your talents and your luck to make the world a better place.
The team. One of my interviews was with Karen Edwards, who is on the management team at PodTech.net. She was, if I remember right, the 17th employee at Yahoo. She got her job by writing to the kids who started Yahoo and saying something like "you need me to build you a global brand." They took a chance on her and she did just that.
She isn't the only superstar at PodTech. You'll hear about others after I get there (I start July 5th).
Just about a year ago John Furrier interviewed me at the Supernova conference. I thought he was the nicest guy who I had ever met. That was important to me. Why? Cause nice guys attract great teams. I've seen that with Sanjay, Vic, and Jeff and many other experiences in my life. It was very important to me that I join someone who was nice.
Speaking of which, I've gotten to know John's family. I thought John was nice, but his kids and his wife are even nicer. And they play an important role in the company too. You'll hear more about that next month too.
On Friday I started up my videocamera and filmed as I went into one of my last conversations with John and his team before making my decision. I passed under the sign that said "Sand Hill Road."
It is the dream of many entrepreneurs around the world to come to Sand Hill Road and talk a venture capitalist out of a few million dollars to start a company.
I've never worked for a venture capitalist before. When I mentioned the companies that were backing John Furrier to my friend Buzz Bruggeman, his voice dropped and he said "wow." (They were USVP and VenRock). Now, if you know Buzz, you know he knows everyone in the tech industry. So, I knew then that John had gotten the best.
John later told me how he did it: he interviewed a bunch of venture capitalists. He said that process taught him a lot about how clued in each firm was, and how much they'd help PodTech along after the money came.
I'm sure we'll talk a lot more about what it's like working for a venture-backed firm.
My wife. Maryam. She was involved in the discussions too. And, even, was my negotiator. She told me during one of the negotiations "shut up, will you?" Heheh. It's always good to have someone on your side. John said at one point during the negotiations "you're a shark." She answered back "I'm a guppy."
I love my guppy. Maryam and I are a team. More on that team later in the week.
Christopher Coulter. Oh, Christopher, my arch-nemisis. Last week he wrote a rant about the podcasting and videoblogging industry and how lame it was. He had no idea I was considering taking a job in that industry.
I thought to myself "oh, it'll make him mad? Even better!"
So, blame this all on Christopher. Heheh.
More later, journalists are calling left and right. Thanks so much for everyone's support!