Question: Your first internet company failed. What was that
It was a great
experience, actually. I sort of wandered into this business
inadvertently. I was in the book publishing business and I started to
publish books about technology and about the Internet. I suppose earlier
than most, through this product that really had nothing to do with the
Internet or technology, nevertheless being about those subjects,
introduced me to this business. And in New York I became sort of very
early one of the few people who had any claim on knowing anything about
this business; although, I'd like... a footnote that I really knew
nothing at all.
But as this business started to heat up, anybody
who had any claim on it was suddenly at center stage, and it was
opportunity knocking, venture capital came my way, and I began to build a
company, again, having no idea what kind of company I was building or
really idea about the business in which I was building this company.
this was truly learning on the job. And I can only say in my defense
that virtually everybody who was starting Internet businesses at that
point in time was also learning on the job. And I learned... not enough,
but nobody in those days learned enough and everyone, virtually
everyone, went under and I went under as well. I was in the fortunate
position to be able to tell the story and I wrote a book called “Burn
Rate” and that, which I still think serves as one of the great
cautionary tales of the period, but I would do it again in a heartbeat. Question:
Did you fear the same fate with Newser?
I took certain steps when I started Newser to ensure that I had gotten
somewhat older and I didn't think that my system would be able to
tolerate the highs and lows of the first experience in the Internet. So I
went into Newser with a few safety measures; my partner in Newser is
someone who absolutely knows what he's doing, who has started two
successful companies on the Internet. He founded Hoovers.com and took
that public and then sold it to Dunn & Bradstreet and he started
HighBeam which another news database company, which he sold.
feel in remarkably good hands. The editor-in-chief of Newser is also
Caroline Miller who was the editor-in-chief of New York magazine; an
incredibly, professional, and tenacious and accomplished woman. So in
reality, at Newser I do very little.
Recorded on May 19, 2010
Interviewed by Jessica Liebman