The founder of the blog “Silicon Alley Insider” talks about how technology transformed the investment world and his career as an online writer.
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Henry Blodget: Henry Blodget, Silicon Alley Media.
Question: How did you start Silicon Alley Insider?
Henry Blodget: I had been blogging myself for a couple of years. I’d been a journalist for about five years and actually had done it a long time ago before, when I was on Wall Street, but a friend of mine in New York, Kevin Ryan, who was the CEO of Doubleclick in the old days, basically had an idea to do a site focused on New York and it seemed like a great opportunity to start a company and relatively shortly thereafter we realized it was going to be much broader than that, and we started to focus on the whole industry.
Question: How has mobilizing technology changed the way you work?
Henry Blodget: Five to ten years, it’s incredible. I go back, so go back a little more than ten years. When I first started working on Wall Street companies published their financial information. What did we have to do? We’d go to the library and we might get microfilm or we might get a CD ROM. We’d print out a stack like this for every financial file, then we’d go back to the cube and so forth and companies would have conference calls where they might publish a press release, and if they did they would fax it to the analyst, or they might just call a couple of analysts and say “Here’s what the results are,” and publish those in your models. No information available to investors and so forth.
You fast forward to today where an incredible amount of information is available at every investor’s fingertips, and you have companies doing their calls, sometimes in videos, sometimes online. You have all financial information available instantly online. You have fully featured spreadsheets. The vestment world has changed so much, and then obviously looking at the way professionals work within that where you now have fully featured mobile devices that are basically convenient mini-computers that you can work on and phone on and email on and so forth
Question: Where do you most frequently work?
Henry Blodget: I do what I do often on a couch at home with my computer open and my computer pretty much is my office. And when I go to the office, I’m thankful to say that my office finally almost a paperless office. There’s been this myth of the paperless office forever and every year just more and more trees get killed and more and more paper is created. In my office fortunately, now that I haven’t aggressively given out a physical mail address, I am now finally not getting much physical mail anymore, so there’s not a lot of paper around. It’s very clean. But my office really is my computer. That’s it. It goes everywhere and it’s supplemented by a smaller mobile device, but with that and the connection to the Internet, wireless connection, that’s all I need anyway, and hopefully that will only get more ubiquitous as we go forward.
Question: How is technology changing the concept of office?
Henry Blodget: I think the office ultimately is going to come down to your laptop and your mobile device, and for a lot of people it really is the mobile device. I[m in the writing business and so I have to be around cameras and around a fully-fledged keyboard and so forth. Lots of people don’t and for them it really is a single, hand held unit is pretty much all you need especially if your job is to make decisions and to talk to people and to communicate rather than producing a product.
Question: Are there challenges to a mobilized work force?
Henry Blodget: I think so. I think people are now learning. Certainly a couple of years ago or going back ten years ago face time was incredibly important in that camaraderie and leading the troops while you’re there is very important, and it’s still important to some extent. You have to find some way to capture that, but I think people have gotten a lot more used to the idea of telecommuting and people around the world.
As long as you have a presence, Instant Messaging for example is very profound. You have the presence of feeling as though you’re in the presence of somebody even when you’re 4,000 miles apart. That’s starting to change things. The other thing that’s starting to change things is the gas crisis where you actually have companies saying yeah, we would prefer to have employees here in the office, but not if it’s going to cost them $100 in gas to get here and back and all that time. We’ll buy them an Internet connection as a result.
Question: How do you collaborate with people virtually?
Henry Blodget: We in our company, we definitely have a fully virtual communication system where there’s a ton of email obviously, a ton of Instant Messaging. We use Skype sometimes. We’re all connected to the Internet. We’re all on the sites that we produce constantly so sometimes it’s in comments there. We haven’t quite gotten to the Twitter level to communicate with each other yet, but probably not far away, and again, there’s this sense that even if you’re not actually sitting next to somebody, because of the presence in Instant Messaging and some of other services, you feel as if you are.
You are in a space. It sounds corny. People have been talking about that forever, but you really are in the same space, the same workspace even though you’re not in the same physical proximity, and again. Once the team gets used to that, sure, once in a while you want to be in front of people, you want to shake hands. You get a totally different thing out of that, but once people get used to it, it’s amazing how consistently you can run with everybody distributed.
Question: The joy of working anywhere, anytime.
Henry Blodget: I think it’s great for tons of reasons. One is obviously the ability to spend more time with my family and so forth, just in commuting time. It’s easier to commute when it’s not the crowd and so forth. Obviously that raises its own issues and I’m sure marriages have been broken up with the CrackBerry and people online all the time and so forth. But at least for me, my work is what is incredibly interesting to me.
It’s what I want to do most of the time, and so to be able to do that anywhere and to sneak in a few minutes here and there hopefully without disrupting the home life or what have you is great. The ability to again go to if there’s some trip you have to take, to be able to work relatively effortlessly on the way and when you’re there, suddenly that time is productive. I just think it’s freeing and it certainly frees the company to say to people who aren’t based in New York or aren’t in a particular location, we’d be glad to have you work with us. As long as we can figure out a way to make it work and you feel like we’re on the same team and so forth, you pretty much can be anywhere. Again, for me that’s a joy.
Recorded on: August 7, 2008