Kevin Rose On The Life of a Tech Celebrity
Kevin Rose, 31, is the founder of Revision3, Pownce, and most notably the social-bookmarking website Digg.com. He is formerly the co-host working on TechTV’s popular show The Screen Savers and currently stars in Diggnation. Digg.com launched in 2004 and soon received $2.8 million in venture capital from eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen.
Kevin Rose: I don’t think web celebrities are really celebrities. I think they’re just people that are kind of, you know, have done something cool on the net and people like what they’ve done. And so when we go to tech events and things like that people come up and say oh I really appreciate this and-- I don’t know. I mean it’s a weird thing to have so many people, when we do these meetups and things like that, come out and want to have a beer and talk to you about ideas and stories and stuff like that. But it’s cool. It’s great. I think that it’s been a lot of fun more than anything else.
Question: How do you handle criticism?
Kevin Rose: I think that I’ve kind of built up a thick skin over the years. I think that when, you know, one of the things that you have to realize as a company is that these people-- the reason that, you know, sometimes some of the comments, when they come in, you just have to take them and say like, you know, the reason these people are leaving their feedback is ‘cause they care about your product and they care about what you’re building and they want to see it, you know, improved and make it better. And so, you know, we get all different types of praise. It’s important to realize that you can’t always please all the people all the time and you just have to do your best and take in the feedback that matters most and turn that and spin it into a better product. And so more than anything I think that one of the things that I’ve earned in releasing products on Digg, and I would say this is huge for any new start up without a doubt, is that when you’re releasing a product-- before when we first started launching Digg three and a half years ago it was very much okay, I’m sitting down, I’m scribbling on a piece of paper, you know, make some flow charts, sit down with the designers, we build a product, you know, we probably would do a focus group testing, bring in some hard core Digg users, let them play around with it, and then ship it. And that worked out well, but oftentimes it hit the users-- like it caught them off guard sometimes and they’d say like, you know, we really weren’t looking for that, why aren’t you fixing this feature instead. And so what we did, how we changed things, is we really opened up the communication and let users know what was coming down the pike.
Question: Do you worry about spreading false rumors?
Kevin Rose: You go out there, you hear a rumor, you just spread it on. This is just the tech world. We’re having a good time. People take things way too seriously. Like if I hear a rumor and I think it’s from a halfway credible source and it’s something fun that I know that, you know, thousands of people will get excited about, like I’m going to send in a, you know, Pounce out about it, I’ll Twitter about it, and I’ll post a video online about it, because that’s what makes the internet fun.
Question: Should you be influencing these companies’ stock price?
Kevin Rose: Well I mean I-- in fact in my last video I made a little disclaimer about that. I’m like hey listen, I’m plugging-- these are cool features, these are rumors I heard. I do have Apple stock, so just like heads up. Like I mean I think that is a big deal. When you get to a certain point and you do say something and all of a sudden it’s all over the place and you’re actually influencing the stock market, that’s crazy. That’s crazy, you know, but, you know, that’s part of the fun.
Question: Are you geek chic?
Kevin Rose: I think when I was in high school and got made fun of for using computers and was the nerd, it was definitely-- it wasn’t the same as it is today. And I’m glad that finally it’s cool to be a geek and it’s cool that technology is a fun, like, you know, it’s something that-- it’s fun in that it’s an everyday kind of use type of thing. I mean people walking around-- my mom wants an iPhone. I mean that’s nuts. That’s crazy. Like she wouldn’t even know how to work it but she sees it, she thinks it’s cool, you know. Fifteen years ago that wouldn’t have been the case. It would’ve been like oh those complicated computers, I want to stay away from that. But now like technology’s sexy and it’s pretty awesome.
Question: You’ve been courted by Al Gore, Barry Diller and Rupert Murdoch?
Kevin Rose: Yeah, I mean I think that Rupert Murdoch is not quite as connected to the web. I don’t think that-- it was a lot more kind of when I sat down with him to explain what Digg was, and it was very much a kind of hand holding process through like okay this is what’s happening right now, people are submitting content, this is what’s going on, really, you know, but he doesn’t have to be. I mean he has a whole team of people and Fox Interactive and everything else that handled that side of the business for him. It was just kind of-- it-- I was curious to see really how involved he is, you know, and-- but when I sat down with Barry Diller it was a very different scenario. I mean it was-- he is so well connected. I mean he basically walked into the room with this amazing bad ass suit on and just sat down and was like oh Digg, yeah, love it. Like blah, blah, blah, just telling me about my business, right, you know, and just like what are you doing here, what are your integrations like, tell me about how’s this differ from what Facebook is doing here, and just like the guy is so well connected it just-- it blew my mind. I had no idea what to expect in a meeting with him and so, you know, he was asking me questions about Pounce and things like that. I’m like how the hell-- like how does he know all this stuff, like-- I mean obviously he was probably briefed before coming into the meeting or something but I mean just-- he can comprehend it. And not only that, but kind of-- it’s clear that it’s not just something that he absorbed through reading, but he actually understands the landscape, which was refreshing and pretty cool that he’s that into it. And then Al Gore is just, you know, awesome and in itself just-- I mean that was just a kind of wow moment for me, personally, just ‘cause I’m a big fan of, you know, the stuff that he’s done. And yeah-- so I really can’t go into a whole lot of details about those meetings, but that was cool.
Web celebrities are not "real celebrities," says Rose. They’re just people who have done something cool on the ‘net.
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