The folks at technology site Pando were kind enough to ask me to be their guest at this month’s PandoMonthly evening event.
The format of these events is unusual: Food, booze, and a two-hour grilling of a single interview subject. It’s a privilege to have people listen to anything you have to say, let alone two hours worth of what you have to say, so I’m grateful to the Pando team and to everyone who attended.
Pando CEO Sarah Lacy asked me about pretty much everything, including:
- Why we don’t hear more about you as a successful CEO/Founder instead of as a journalist/analyst/raconteur/provocateur. (Because Business Insider’s success is the result of 125+ amazingly talented people doing a great job — all I do is steer.)
- Why didn’t you downgrade the Internet stocks at the top of the dotcom bubble? (Because I made one of the classic investment mistakes. It was a searing lesson, one I will never forget.)
- What it felt like to be a global pinata after the collapse. (It sucked.)
- Are people better off now that the conflict of interest that got you in trouble on Wall Street has been changed? (The job of “sell-side” research analysts is more clearly defined, which is good, but we have unfortunately hurt the ability of tech companies to go public at an early stage. That has hurt our capital markets, and it’s actually a bummer for aggressive investors who understand risk and who have lost the ability to invest in these companies.)
- Eliot Spitzer, the former Attorney General and Governor who destroyed my Wall Street career. (Life is long and strange. In the dozen years since our paths first crossed, Eliot and I have basically become friends. I’ve told him that he was right about the conflict of interest but wrong about me. I don’t think I’ve persuaded him yet, but maybe someday…)
- Why I didn’t just go do something quiet and non-public for the rest of my life. (Because I was ashamed of what happened, because I knew I was not the person my friends, family, colleagues, and the rest of the world were reading about, and because, whatever happened, I wanted to do whatever I could to earn back the trust I had lost).
- Bitcoin. (It’s the perfect asset for a bubble, and it could go to $US1 million.)
- Slideshows. (They’re a form of native digital storytelling, just a 30-minute shows are a form of native television storytelling and 600-word articles are a form of native print storytelling. Great pictures really are worth a thousand words. And readers who prefer to scroll rather than click through photo-driven stories can always use “view as one page.”)
- Why Business Insider is successful. (Because we’re enthusiastically embracing and exploring the new kinds of journalism that readers want in the digital medium, not trying to stuff square print-and-broadcast pegs in round digital holes.)
- What I’ve learned from [our investor] Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. (Put readers first. Think long term. Be willing to be misunderstood.)
- What is Business Insider’s goal. (To get better every day.)
- What’s one thing I think that everyone else thinks is wrong. (Far from being threatened, journalism is entering a new golden age. The world has never been better informed. Native digital journalism organisations will get much bigger, better, and more successful than people realise. Eventually they will begin acquiring and integrating traditional media companies.)
- If I could have any “super-power,” what would it be. (I would be able to hop around in time. By knowing when bad things were going to happen, you could help people avoid a lot of pain.)
- What’s the best business advice you have ever been given. (“Make it happen.” Those three words encapsulate pretty much everything — the inspiration to turn ideas and dreams into reality, the freedom to make decisions, the ability to create something out of nothing, the encouragement to overcome inevitable challenges and setbacks. It’s actually also great life advice.)
One Twitter viewer described the interview as “ferociously frank.” The folks at Pando saw a resemblance to Louis CK (which may be the highest compliment I’ve ever received.)
If you’ve got two hours, you can watch the whole thing below. Or you can head over to Pando, where they’ve broken out lots of clips.
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