George Bell has major startup cred — he just sold Jumptap to Millennial Media. Before that, he was CEO of Excite, and took the company public. However, his career started in travel documentaries, chasing down reclusive tribes in Africa and looking for endangered species around the globe.
In the video below, Bell tells his entire, winding story to finance career site, OneWire. It’s an important lesson in starting with what you love.
After graduating with a BA in English from Harvard, Bell entered the world of adventure documentaries, travelling the globe as a writer and producer. After 10 years and four Emmy Awards, Bell wanted to come home and settle down, but to do so he needed to find a new career.
“I was called by a headhunter to apply for the job to be the Editor-in-Chief of Field & Stream Magazine, and I thought I had no business to be an editor of a magazine…and I went to the interview anyway.”
Fortunately, he and the CEO of Times Mirror Magazines hit it off. Bell recalls, “I said I don’t think I’m really appropriate for this, but I do need a job.” Bell offered to write a business plan to take all the company’s magazine brands into multimedia, and he was hired soon after.
“Like a lot of things in life,” Bell says, “the guy gave me a break. And that was the transition I made from running around the world in shorts and hiking shoes to being on Park Avenue…” Bell went on to climb the ranks at Times Mirror and ultimately founded the Outdoor Life Network (now NBC Sports).
After five years at Times Mirror, Bell’s adventurous spirit got the best of him again, and he and his family moved out to Silicon Valley, where he ran the internet company, Excite.
After serving as CEO for 90 days, they decided to take the company public which, as Bell recalls, was a rollercoaster experience. “I was taking a company public as an English major from Harvard with no graduate school training and no technology background…And by my side…was the 25-year old co-founder of Excite, Joe Kraus, and that was the road show.”
While Bell’s different careers may seem disjointed, he believes that they are much more closely connected than meets the eye. He insists, that the documentary business “was a hugely important training ground for me as an entrepreneur…to be sitting there with limited amount of time, a limited amount of cash, having pitched an idea, and then recognising the idea either vanished or changed before your eyes.”
Check out Part I of this awesome interview below, and go to OneWire to watch Part II, in which Bell offers some fascinating and unique advice for aspiring entrepreneurs. You can also subscribe to OneWire’s Open Door interview series to watch them as soon as they are released.