I don’t have a category called “Real Interviews” and I’m not sure if I will do anymore because people might be scared of the hard-hitting questions I ask. Anyways, my boy Mike Davidson agreed to do one a long time ago and I never got around to it simply because I forgot about him. Then he reminded me because he doesn’t get enough love from the South so I figured I would give the man a hand.
I have known Mike for a little over two years now and he is one of the cool web geeks to chill with. While everyone else is talking up AJAX in the room we are at the bar doing shots. What ensues are five questions that you won’t find anywhere else. If you want to know about Newsvine just do a search and you will find a million reviews. If you want to know what it’s like to run a VC-funded company while pushing the ladies away then keep on reading…
Let’s be honest, we are both CEOs (big title for little companies no?), but I haven’t seen an increase in my bed population with my change in position. Do you find that your title is getting you more female relations than the code monkey busting his ass making Newsvine run smooth?
That is a good question. I actually don’t mention my title much except on my business card and other business occasions. Sometimes I’ll just say something like “I work for Newsvine” and leave it at that. Part of me thinks you shouldn’t even be allowed to use the title “CEO” unless you have at least 50 people under you or your company is public. As for the ladies though, I seem to be remarkably unlucky or unskilled when it comes to translating professional stature into romantic opulence. When I first started working at ESPN several years ago, I remember thinking “Wow, I can’t wait to say I work for ESPN!” And in five years there, I met exactly two women who were impressed by that. I think most women figured that sort of job meant I would spend 12 hours on the couch every Sunday watching football. Sadly, there were correct. :)
You are not the best promoter of Newsvine as I am sure you will admit to yourself. You seem to let the site and its users speak for itself, but do you think we could all learn a lesson from Jason Calacanis and toot our horns when our company has changed to 2-ply toilet paper in the restrooms?
Yeah, self promotion is a tough thing to get comfortable with. You’re told as a youth to never brag, talk about yourself, or otherwise give the appearance of immodesty, and then when you enter the job world, it all of a sudden becomes acceptable — and even necessary — at times. Ideally, your product will speak for itself and your users will do most of the speaking. We see this with sites like del.icio.us, MySpace, and Digg. But then you have people like Jason who represent the other side of the coin. Derek Powazek recently called Jason “The P.T. Barnum of the weblog world”, and while it’s not a perfect analogy, it does capture a lot of what makes Jason both successful and disliked in parts of our industry. On the one hand, he is a tireless, energetic, take-no-prisoners force for change in both the industry and now at AOL. And on the other hand, he barks incessantly — and with a very promotional slant — about every little thing going on in the world and on the sites he’s responsible for. He calls it transparency, but others have called it soapboxing. Like you said, how many times do you want to be alerted in your newsreader of a new item only to find out it’s “We’ve changed to 2-ply toiletpaper in our bathrooms! My plan is succeeding!” Jason’s a real interesting case. You may not feel the urge to want him on your team, but you definitely don’t want to play against him either.
I view my blog like this: Every time I post a new item, I am basically knocking on the door of every single one of my 10,000 or so subscribers and saying “Hey, I have something to say!” If, as a user, someone knocks on my door more than once a week or two and what they say isn’t interesting, I’m unsubscribing. Given that, when I have something promotional to post, I try to either wait until I have a few more such items and gang them together in one entry, or I just ask myself if it’s really important enough to post at all. It’s probably a bit too conservative of a strategy for people running companies like Newsvine or 9rules, but we’re both obviously weary of turning our personal blogs into pure promotional vehicles.
I have spoken with a number of VCs on the phone the past year and they are really just boring folks. Whenever we hangout at a conference we hit the town and do our thing, but do VCs live such a life? Are your VCs down to do some Jager bombs?
Our VCs are definitely down to do Jager bombs. I’m with you though… VCs simply cannot be grouped into a single class of people who all act the same way. We’ve met smart ones and dim ones. We’ve met people who understand the industry very well and people who frankly should be in another field. I just talked to a senior guy the other day at a very well respected firm who told me that “Digg is just another voting site. There are a ton of voting sites out there.” A voting site? What a weird way to describe a company that is so much more than that. In any profession, you will have your standout thought leaders and your hangers-on. I think rare is the VC who is both super smart and will also do Jager bombs with you but Mike Slade and Nick Hanauer at Second Avenue Partners are just that… and we feel extremely lucky to be partnered up with them. If your experience with VCs so far is that they are boring people, it could be a geographical thing as well. You know how I love to rip on Florida, but maybe that’s just it. Perhaps there are a glut of retirement community startups that need funding in that area and maybe the VCs in that part of the country are just more tuned to that sort of culture. :)
*Note: For your information they have all been West Coast firms.
I have had three additional offers for sex since I started using your code over what I usually get per month. So I endorse Mikes quality product. If you use Mikes design code you will get more sex. Love ya’ll, talk to you later.
Would you be willing to give up your job as CEO of Newsvine to help unfortunate MySpacers get laid through creative layouts?
I wonder how big that market is. 100 million MySpace users. 10 million active ones. 7 million males ones. 6.99 million who would like to have more sex than they are currently having. And 500,000 who can handle the cutting-and-pasting of CSS. 500,000 x $5 apiece. That’s $2.5 million. Write up a quick business plan and I’m in!
Do you have to be nice to Michael Arrington for fear he will say something bad about your company? He doesn’t like us very much and we found that it has lowered our morale greatly around the office to the point where Mike doesn’t even take his dog out for walks anymore, he just lets it shit all over the place. I was just wishing that your company doesn’t fall to the same fate as us because the man has a lot of power and with his wise investment in Dogster his power will only grow exponentially.
You know, I hadn’t even met Mike until he hosted a party in Seattle this summer. He’s given Newsvine some really spectacular reviews since we came out of stealth earlier this year and we’re obviously thankful of that praise, but none of it was based on any relationship he has with us. Since meeting him this summer, we’ve also exchanged pleasantries in San Francisco and I think he’s a really smart guy. That said, Mike’s opinions, as expressed on TechCrunch, should not be taken as “speaking for the industry”. He is his own man, and nobody is going to always agree with him, especially given his strong opinions. Some things that he writes, I agree wholeheartedly with, and others, not so much… just like any blogger. In Mike’s defense, he gets hundreds of “pitches” from people who want to appear on TechCrunch every day so that’s gotta wear on you after awhile. If I were in that position, I would think that my skepticism would increase in step with the quantity of hopeless services pitched to me. I wasn’t aware he had any negative feelings about 9rules… maybe he’s anti-Florida. :) I do think it’s important not to let reviews get you too high or too low, but rather just to pick out the constructive parts and act on them if necessary. TechCrunch is one such source for those reviews, along with many others who may have different opinions.
*Note: It’s not that he dislikes 9rules, I just don’t think he likes Mike’s or my opinion on certain matters :-).
Thanks for answering the questions Michael Cornelius Davidson. You are a great guy and no matter how ugly those Newsvine t-shirts get, I will continue to use the site.
Bam! Glad you like the shirts! We’re quilting you a special tank top version in which you can walk around downtown Tampa and flexxxxxxx. Keep up the great work on 9rules as well. Great content and great design will win out in the end. That’s one of many philosophies our two companies have always shared.