Casey Neistat and Matt Hackett on Live Video’s Struggle for Interestingness
You might already know Casey from his YouTube channel which now has over 8M subscribers.
Craig Cannon [00:00:00] – Hey this is Craig Cannon and you’re listening to Y Combinator’s Podcast. Today’s guests are Casey Neistat and Matt Hackett. Matt and Casey are the co founders of Beme which is a live video app that CNN acquired last year. And you may already know Casey from his YouTube channel which has something like eight million subscribers. And Matt, prior to Beme was working at Betaworks as a hacker-in-residence. And before that he was the VP of Engineering at Tumblr. Just a quick note before we get going, if you haven’t yet subscribed or viewed the show it would be awesome if you did. Alright, here we go.
Casey Neistat [00:00:34] – Didn’t Google just announce last week some clip-on camera that captures what’s in front of you?
Matt Hackett [00:00:39] – In typical Google form they pitched it though as like this is the center of our AI learning platform about the world, which is the same marketing mistake they made with every one wants a face computer. No, every one does not want a face computer, everyone does not want an AR learning camera clipped to their chest. But they probably do actually want a camera.
Casey Neistat [00:00:57] – I think from purely a creative perspective, I think that the struggle for interestingness, that’s a line that VCs are pitching, but like solving the struggle for interestingness from a video perspective is paramount to having anything succeed. And I think what Snapchat did that was so amazing, beyond the story of mechanism of being so fascinated but like I dismissed Lenses as kind of a gimmick when it first came out, but what Lenses did was it solved the struggle for interestingness from both the creator’s perspective and the viewer’s perspective. Here put dog ears on, that’s interesting, that’s fun. And I think the trouble that we’re seeing, certainly we saw at Beme, that there seeing at Spectacles and that I think every single live platform, none of which have truly succeeded yet. Is because they don’t address that struggle for interestingness. And I think that the reason why video games have succeeded in the live space is because they do. Here’s something that we all understand, it’s a game. And I can see your face playing it, that’s dealing with the struggle for interestingness. But I think broadly live is too wide open, there is no box there. And I think what we’re trying to do with Beme, it’s one of the things we talked about it should be a four-second clip or a six-second clip, you string a bunch of them together and it needs to feel fun, like you’re watching an edited movie. We’re wrong, it got boring, quickly. Watching people’s raw-lives got boring quickly.
Craig Cannon [00:02:22] – How are you going to deal with that in the future, if you’re handling multiple feeds from all over the world?
Matt Hackett [00:02:27] – With the products we learned a lot with Beme v1, that we imported to a much, much smaller problem set which is what we’re dealing with in Panels, the product that’s out now. And Panels is just purely about opinion, it’s what is your opinion on these five stories today, these things happening in the world, we wanted to be this place where you get to actually see the full spectrum of perspectives on an issue that might be controversial, that might be, what do you think about the Republican healthcare proposal. To actually see what a civil debate in video looks like on that and the reason. It’s just really contained, we took a lot of the little product cues about how to set one up in a context both to create and consume in which they’re going to be articulate and pointed and fast. And we do that with some priming and there’s some ways that we actually try and guide you towards creating something that’s really compelling. But the domain is much much smaller like we’re not trying to make this. That’s not the platform for everything you could possibly take a video of in the world. It is, what do you think about this news story?
Casey Neistat [00:03:38] – Yeah, if you hand someone a camera and say say something interesting. They’re going to have no idea what to say but if you hand someone a camera and say, what do you think about the latest healthcare proposal? They’ll probably have something to say and that something will be tied to a specific narrative. That is an attempt at addressing that struggle for interestingness.
Craig Cannon [00:03:57] – It’s tricky because it seems that the internet deviates toward kind of a shit show most of the time. People aren’t civil.
Casey Neistat [00:04:03] – So generous, you said that so generously.
Craig Cannon [00:04:05] – We’ve turned off YouTube comments, I see that you still have them.
Casey Neistat [00:04:09] – You turned off YouTube comments?
Craig Cannon [00:04:11] – Yeah is that a bad idea?
Casey Neistat [00:04:12] – You still get views?
Craig Cannon [00:04:13] – Yeah. Not as many as you.
Casey Neistat [00:04:15] – Yeah you’ll be annihilated in the algorithm for that. They punish you severely for that.
Craig Cannon [00:04:19] – Oh really? Maybe we should turn them back on.
Casey Neistat [00:04:21] – But I agree, comments are absolutely toxic. If you go near community settings in the left hand side you can go down you can highlight words and if any of those words pop up. Those comments will be automatically hidden.
Craig Cannon [00:04:31] – Oh alright.
Casey Neistat [00:04:32] – If you were to go into my library of those words you would find the most disgusting dictionary, bibliography of words that humans have ever ever uttered. And the funny thing about that is the people who use the kind of slurs and profanities that I have blocked. They also don’t know how to spell those slurs or profanities. You have to come up with every spelling of every derogatory word you could ever identify. Because they don’t know how to spell well.
Matt Hackett [00:04:58] – Here’s the thing about that though. It’s really easy and I especially think for people our age who sort of grew up on the very early internet. Which was a very very small place. Compared to the, almost half the world that has access to it now. There’s this easy thing to go, oh it’s just the internet. It’s a gross place. Anyone can say anything. I actually think we as people who make products need to stop thinking like that, and start thinking about. No, the entire world now has access to this thing. How do we actually design it purposefully so that that doesn’t happen. How do you actually create a place for, people to not be harassed. To actually have a civil discourse. If you’re designing a social product and you kind of just throw your hands up and go. It’s the internet, you’re wrong. That is not the era we live in and we need to take on that responsibility, people who make these things.
Casey Neistat [00:05:50] – Yup, who just said. Somebody smart just said, I used to go to the internet to escape the real world and now I go to the real world to escape the internet.
Craig Cannon [00:05:58] – Oh yeah, I don’t know who that was.
Casey Neistat [00:06:00] – That tweet was floating around, but I think that pretty much sums it up.
Craig Cannon [00:06:04] – And so is it heavily community moderated? Like how do you, because this is like. Obviously a contentious opinion. How do you put these ideas into your product?
Matt Hackett [00:06:14] – There’s no one answer. I’m not going to come and say here’s exactly what we’re doing and it’s perfect. What we’re doing right now with Panels is we’re very purposefully building it slowly. It’s not an open community yet, you have to sign up. Give us some info about yourself and we’re trying to let people in real demographic bounds. We’re trying to you know… In general tech early adopters tends to skew a little bit male. We’re trying to make sure that that doesn’t skew the community and so we actually set up a place where. When we do open the doors fully, it is something where you’re like. Oh all kinds of opinions are welcome here. Trolling doesn’t work and isn’t going to get me attention. Moderation is definitely a piece of that but it’s every aspect of the product design and every aspect I show you build the community. Which I don’t think at this point you can just have. Okay well just let everyone on, free for all and we’ll moderate out the bad stuff. You need to be thinking a lot more carefully.
Craig Cannon [00:07:12] – Yeah and you’re also building a media plus product company. I mean they’re kind of wrapped together. Do you see the world shifting towards that? Controlling your content and making lots of content that people like while also building product?
Casey Neistat [00:07:25] – Almost every media company right now. Their technology products are just a device to further disseminate the media that they’re making. There isn’t a holistic consideration of how can the media and then the technology that they’re using to promote that media. How can they have a more symbiotic relationship? And I think that’s easy to talk about that problem, it’s very hard to talk about solutions. And I think being Panel is a very literal version of integrating those two. It’s a very good example but I can tell you plainly it’s very hard to realize like the way we’ve integrated being thus far into our content, I think is boring. I don’t think it’s that interesting. I think it’s much more interesting to explain it. Like we have this crowdsourcing product that we can have people chiming in from around the world and instead of having panelists that are old bearded men. We have panelists from all around the world. That’s fascinating, that’s a very compelling idea. But then when you see the reality of it, you’re like I don’t care. These are very challenging problems to solve and I think again the benefit that we have here is that we are trying to solve them from day one. We’re trying to solve them proactively instead of reactively. We’re not going to be backing our successful big media company into solving these problems. We’re building a company around those problems.
Craig Cannon [00:08:42] – And is managing these like disparate kind of teams new and weird for you? Have you felt like you figured it out so far?
Matt Hackett [00:08:49] – No I mean I absolutely it is new and weird. I’ve always been on sort of the other arrangement where you have like, we have technology team. I work on a technology product around a team that makes technology product. That lots of media gets made with. Never having both of those under the same roof so every single day. It’s on that very basic thing that I was talking about of getting people in the news room to realize that this can change. That we are in 100% control of the product we’re using. That requires daily reminders, rejiggering of the way that we work. Figuring out, alright how do we actually get a producer who sits not just on the news team but also with the product team? And actually gathers feedback, brings it into the actual product. The perspective of hey I have to make a video and it’s due tomorrow and I would love to include people from Panels ,but these ten things don’t work. It is very is very different. I think it’s fairly unchartered. I don’t think there are many people who have tried to both simultaneously like this.
Casey Neistat [00:09:58] – My response to that question is that, Matt does a great job.
Craig Cannon [00:10:03] – Transitioning, but something that I also think is really cool about you guys is just overall creative output. When you started vlogging, cause I’ve known Matt for awhile but like. He started talking about you to me and he’s like, “Oh yeah, man he’s doing videos every day” and having made some videos myself I was like, “Holy shit.” This is a lot of work and this is a lot of editing and one of the common questions throughout all of the Twitter responses to us. Was about the creative process and creative energy and do you guys have any rituals or practices to just consistently put out creative work? Both on engineering side and videos and all that?
Casey Neistat [00:10:41] – On the videos side, that’s something I can speak to very well. The ritualistic aspect of what I do is entirely wrapped in kind of my own self reliance. And one thing that’s made abundantly clear to me is I’m working with this big unbelievably talented skillful media team here at Beme is that I’m a very effective person when I’m by myself and when I have to work in groups like I fall to pieces. Does not work well with others is what it said on every report card I got until I dropped out of high school in the tenth grade. And I think that’s very true so for me that creative process is one where and finding that cadence that you talked about of making a video every day was one where I removed every obstruction between me and finishing it. And other people are the biggest obstructions. I have an idea, well lets talk through that idea and the metaphor I use of discussing ideas is groups is when an idea at it’s inception it’s an ice cube and it’s rock hard. You can look at it, you can see it, you can study it. You know what it is. But when a discussion begins you have to pass that ice cube around the room it’s starts to melt and melt and melt. And after enough discussions the ice cube’s gone and everybody’s hands are wet and nobody quite remembers what that idea was. That’s a major obstruction so for me when it comes to creation. Remove that obstruction, don’t talk, don’t involve other people. Don’t need anything from anyone to realize this new video every 24 hours and that’s wildly effective. It doesn’t scale, period.
Craig Cannon [00:12:17] – It seems to crush you too, just actual time and energy.
Casey Neistat [00:12:22] – No. Not me, I feel great about that. That’s an energy source for me, it’s like running. Like aren’t you so tired you run a dozen miles a day, it’s like no I’m not tired because I run a dozen miles a day like no I’m not crushed because I made my video. The days that I’m down are days that I don’t finish anything and there is that sort of dopamine rush you get when you finish something and there’s not greater sort of punctuation to finishing something than clicking upload and sending it out to millions of people. So no, that’s a power source for me. What’s crushing is now, we’re trying to scale that. There’s one thing I’m hyper aware of it’s my own limitations, creatively, editorially. I have a lot of them and the people we have here working at our media department. Especially in the editorial side way more skilled than I could ever be. As far as a journalist goes. Incredibly smart, articulate, capable, amazing on camera. Better looking people than I could ever. Then how do I sort of impart my understanding that I’ve gotten via eight million subscribers in 800 videos. How do I share that understanding and scale at least some part of that? With this incredibly capable team and I think the answer to that is something that we’ve been working towards for the last year.
Craig Cannon [00:13:39] – And what about you Matt?
Matt Hackett [00:13:40] – I’ll talk about engineering and coding. Building a product because at this point I’m… This point in my career I’m manager and that’s very different. It is a very different skillset and it’s something that you need to work on a different way. But I don’t think that’s quite as interesting probably to the early stage founder. I’m the technical half of the team and holy shit we have to have this thing ready for an Apple keynote and what am I going to do? That’s the context I would give this advice in. To me, when that was me. When I was sitting there going. We have this Apple presentation and I have to hot glue this app together so we can show it to them. So they’ll get excited and maybe include us in this keynote. The thing that I always try to pay attention to is just listening to my own body and head and this is something that I think all of the, not all but a lot of the startup rhetoric will push you away from. And just say crush it, drink a Monster energy drink. Stay up all night, deliver it and there is once a year max where that’s actually affective and that’s the right thing to do. Most of the time if you sit down and the code’s not coming it’s just… You’re struggling, you shouldn’t be doing it. Like step away, go for a walk. Come back in half an hour, try again. Go do something else that’s mindless, gets your head off of it. Programming is like a deeply draining incredibly mentally complex task and doing it 12, 14 hours a day. You’re not getting 12 or 14 hours of work and you’re just completely fooling yourself.
Matt Hackett [00:15:18] – Actually listen to what your head is telling you. Alright I’m not, I’m not doing this a 100% right now. Take A 15 minute break.
Craig Cannon [00:15:27] – And what’s your equivalent to Casey’s running?
Matt Hackett [00:15:30] – My equivalent to Casey’s running is I am so unlike Casey I need 7 hours or sleep and I need to exercise four days a week. That’s basic basic basic context for being a functional human for me. It took many years to get to that point where I’m like, “That’s what I need, that’s why I’m not functional on the weeks that I’m not functional.” But it’s just like, that is baseline. That needs to happen or nothing else will.
Casey Neistat [00:15:57] – What else can we? I want to talk to early stage founders.
Craig Cannon [00:16:00] – Sure yeah.
Casey Neistat [00:16:01] – That’s who I want to talk to right now because that’s…
Craig Cannon [00:16:04] – Well, I mean there are plenty of broad questions around like advice right for a startup company.
Casey Neistat [00:16:11] – Lets do advice supported by funny anecdotes. Do you want me to start with a funny anecdote? I’ve got a great one.
Craig Cannon [00:16:17] – You got like a type five minute bit right now?
Casey Neistat [00:16:19] – It’s way less than five minutes. When Matt and I were first pitching, the very first iteration of Beme. Which is like Matt coded it and it was mostly just duct tape and spit.
Matt Hackett [00:16:27] – It was glued together, it was a framework demo that we were pretending like an app.
Casey Neistat [00:16:35] – It was a series of what do you call, like an email feed or something like that. A series of cells I guess, and you would press on a cell and a video would start playing. We figured out that when we would hand it to someone, who would be an investor. After they’d scroll up and scroll down their finger would typically be over the 6th cell. So therefore, under the 6th cell. Under each cell we had videos that we meant to feel live but were actually prerecorded and edited and manipulated and put in there. Under that 6th cell was a Google glass video of Jack who worked with us at the time. Being pulled over by a police officer and the iteration of him talking his way out of a ticket. It’s like bright lights, red and blue, like nothing more interesting. when we hand it to an investor they would thumb there and invariably hold down on that cell and they’d be like whoa what’s happening here? And Matt and I would have this dog in pony show, we’d lean over the table and be like, “Oh my god, oh that’s Jack. Is that the police?” And he’d be like yeah, the crazy stuff that pops up in this feed and like that. You wouldn’t believe it. That was the kind of, the kind of theatrics that we would put on. To me it’s reminiscent of like the stories of Steve Jobs’ first demo for the iPhone. For if you didn’t follow the specific path through the product demo, the entire OS would collapse and that was some of the dog and pony show that we did first sharing with the app was capable of. Or what our hopes for it were.
Craig Cannon [00:18:05] – Well then you also have like dog and pony show before CNN right? Are they…?
Matt Hackett [00:18:09] – Yeah, so I mean we should talk about the acquisition true and I think it’s the same. I think the thing that you, especially if you’re an engineer and you’re approaching these things. You’re like, you don’t think about all of these interactions are sales processes like every single time you talk to someone external, whether it’s a potential investor. You are selling and I think it’s really hard for engineers to get that mindset because they’re like… You know if I make a good thing, it’s just going to sell itself. Or my co founder will sell it. It is every single interaction you are selling. Running a fundraising process, running an acquisition process. Mechanically and what it’s like in the room they’re a little bit different but essentially it’s the same thing. You are selling and selling isn’t just performing and it’s not acting a certain way. It is getting as much information as possible about the other party, what they want, how they think. What motivates them, what’s going to make them feel like they’re going to miss out if they don’t do something with you. And that’s exactly the same for fundraising as it is for the acquisition process. In both we played games, we figured out ways to create psychology in the people we were trying to sell. Where they really really thought they had to work with us and this is an opportunity and a window that’s going to close.
Casey Neistat [00:19:29] – It’s Robert McNamara’s Rules of War. It’s like empathize with your enemy and in our case it was always… For me the psychological approach is always sort of empathizing with the people we were asking for money from, we were raising. Or potential suitors when it was, acquisition time. But I think that was something that was really really effective and honestly like this sounds naive or almost… A bit of a platitude but it’s like, once I realized what demonstrating the passion behind what we were doing. The effectiveness of that. I lean on that really hard for the first phase of fundraising because of my own insecurities about my lack of technical understanding. And took one to find my lack of technical understanding, I have zero. Zero technical understanding. Matt has to help me set up my email accounts.
Matt Hackett [00:20:19] – Well we have CNN for then.
Casey Neistat [00:20:22] – I was really insecure about that and I used to look to Matt and it was only through the process that I realized that. Any investors, any understanding realizes that a good, a good founder will hire the best engineers. Engineers that are better than he or she is and they really don’t give a shit about how well you can write code. They care if you will succeed or if you will not succeed and Gary Vaynerchuk who, really is all he’s cracked up to be. I say that with no hesitation. Extraordinary human being but Gary’s one of the first people I met with and I pitched the product to him by myself as best as I could. At the end of that pitch, he had this look on his face and I looked at him and I said, “You don’t have any idea what this is do you?” And he’s like, “I don’t get it at all” and then he said, “Put me down for half a million.” And when I asked I said why? He said because I bet on the jockey not on the horse and that was extremely telling for me. Because I think to hear Matt’s story, what Matt represents and why he’s doing this and then from me is a much more compelling story. A much more compelling narrative than what we saw the potential of our product at the time.
Craig Cannon [00:21:36] – And so were you relying on each other during that sales process? Because for people who don’t know you, you’re a very personable person and not just this engineer guy who sits in the corner all the time.
Casey Neistat [00:21:51] – Thank you.
Craig Cannon [00:21:54] – It’s obvious through the podcast but for those of you who don’t know. Cause what have you learned from Casey in this whole process? Obviously you’re interesting person, YouTube does really well. You’re captivating and now you have a crazy reach. Were you guiding this fundraising process or were you relying on each other?
Matt Hackett [00:22:13] – We’re absolutely relying on each other and I think the thing about the fundraising. Like fundraising, acquisition process both is we developed an act for both them. The first time we did it, it was a disaster. We were both talking at the same point. Investor sitting at Sequoia and when one of the Sequoia partners asked a question and we both look at each other and start to answer at the same time. Total disaster and it took…
Craig Cannon [00:22:37] – Wait, what are the pro tips?
Matt Hackett [00:22:38] – The pro tip on fundraising, actually those kind of sales processes. Start with someone and this is something. Someone gave us this advice, but start with someone you don’t care about. Who you don’t think is going to. You know them well enough to know they’re not going to invest or don’t shoot for the moon and them screw it up. But the first person you talk to should be someone who you know is going to say no. So that you can get all the jitters out. You can try the act and literally what we would do is, we drove all around the valley for our fundraising. And we would go to a meeting. You know have this very typical hour meeting with the partner at a VC firm and then we would go as far away as we could. We would go to like a donut shop where we knew nobody from the valley was going to be there.
Casey Neistat [00:23:29] – It was always a donut shop.
Matt Hackett [00:23:33] – And there’s this one in Redwood City in fact that we probably had I don’t know ten hours of conversation in. But we literally go to this donut shop, sit down and debug the entire meeting. We would just go there and go like okay. That part where you jumped in and said x, that was perfect. We need to do more of that. Or we got too much in the weeds when they asked this question, actually Casey you should just take that one and kill it immediately. We developed a pretty honed routine.
Casey Neistat [00:24:03] – Yeah and I’ll say that, Sep Kamvar who is my MIT professor and one of the earliest investors. The first investor in what ended up being Beme. He said to me, he was like practice your pitch on people that you don’t want money from. Don’t practice on friends, practice on real world.
Craig Cannon [00:24:21] – Real investors.
Casey Neistat [00:24:22] – And when he said this to me I rolled my eyes. Not to be dismissive of him but that idea just seemed like why would I waste that opportunity as just an exercise. But he could not have been more right, he could not have been more right. If you have to, your nerves, your anxiety, all the things you think you’re going to say. The things that make sense in your head when you get derailed by a single question. All of those things are real world and they matter. I always think back to presidential election, or presidential debates and like all the practicing they do like it can prepare them in some capacity. But what the real world is like, with those cameras and all of these variables. Fundraising for us, exactly the same like. We learned so much more from when we completely screwed up than we did from the ones where people are like, “I’m really excited about this.” We could feel like it was a win, those we just walked away from. High fived and had donuts with less conversation. But it’s when we really fucked up and there were a couple like. That should have been home runs and I think we just screwed up and I just straight up did terrible pitches.
Craig Cannon [00:25:26] – Can you break down in specifically, what did you do poorly in the pitch that people can learn from?
Casey Neistat [00:25:30] – Sure okay well first of all. We’re going way back here, this is like asking about my first date with my wife. But I think that failing to really understand how siloed the skills that we uniquely bring to the table are. And when I say skills, I don’t just mean the languages that Matt can write code in. I mean like Casey should be this sort of loud over the top passionate blind aggressive sort of… I should be the chutzpah at the table that’s just like borderline hysterical and Matt has to be this like rock solid voice of reason. That has incredibly practical. Like Matt has to be the competence and Casey has to be the passion. We didn’t understand that and the trouble with that is. Matt’s not a square, Matt is a passionate guy. Matt’s someone who can be like incredibly emotive and like we can both represent that. Like I can sort of bullshit about technicalities all day long and instill confidence but he’s better at that than I am and I’m better at this than he is. And like understanding that and then to get more granular it’s like a question that may seem like a technical question has an answer that should be more driven by passion than about the technicalities. How do you distinguish that? And then at what point in time do we stop looking at each other to say who’s going to answer this one and we just know where that poetry is going to be. And that, Robert McNamara is sort of empathizing with your enemies. Things like if I’m being, if I’m on the other side of the table. I want to see two people that are firmly in control.
Casey Neistat [00:26:59] – Like I want to be blinded with passion and then completely reinforced with the confidence that they know how to turn that passion into a real business. It’d be very difficult for one person to represent that dichotomy. And that was something that we evolved into after a lot of screw ups.
Matt Hackett [00:27:18] – This is derailing a little bit but fundraising wise which I wish somebody had told us and maybe they did. Because we got so much advice which you should get so much advice. We talked to Sep almost everyday, when we were in the valley we would go back to the hotel room and like Skype with Sep. He was incredible for doing that with us, he’s a very busy man. But, aside form getting advices. One that never, either I never heard and it didn’t stick or I heard it and it never stuck. Or I never heard but understand what a no is and understand the many many many varieties of no that you can get from investors. And they’re all nos and they should all be treated the same. This is very smart on investors behalf. They’re very smart, they want to keep optionality. The want to make it possible to still invest in you if it turns out to be a hot deal and they just had the wrong perspective. So you rarely, I think the best investors will give you a strong no. But in general you’re rarely actually get a no, you’ll get lots of things that sound like yes’ but are actually nos. Things like,
Matt Hackett [00:28:24] – My favorite one where Casey and I left the meeting and we’re like, “Yes, like, that’s a huge check, we’re so excited”
Casey Neistat [00:28:30] – That’s our lead.
Matt Hackett [00:28:31] – And then we started talking to our advisors and other investors and they’re like, “Oh that’s a no”. And this is something that I’ve since seen in other companies who have asked me for advice is someone going, “That’s great, we’re totally in for x amount, as soon as you find a lead.”
Craig Cannon [00:28:48] – Oh okay.
Matt Hackett [00:28:49] – And that is just such, you’re like, “Alright great, they’re in for x amount.” Actually they’re not in at all unless you can sell someone else who’s willing to take more of the risk. But there’s a million varieties of that and there are some good blog posts about this, but just understand that if you don’t have a term sheet, it’s not a yes.
Craig Cannon [00:29:08] – Yeah.
Matt Hackett [00:29:09] – And even if you have a term sheet there’s still some chance that it’s not a yes but probably is. But don’t leave a meeting and hear “Yeah we’re super interested, tell me who else is investing and we’ll definitely be in”. That’s a no. Almost everything other than a term sheet is a no.
Casey Neistat [00:29:28] – We were raising, Sep was our voice of reason, he’s just one of the most thoughtful people especially when it comes to fundraising or anything in the start up world of anyone that I’ve ever interacted with. And he was who we leaned on the most, but we had another friend, who’ll remain nameless, who was in the valley at the time. He was in the process of, it was like an 80 or 100 million dollar raise, which he did execute on. We would go meet with him when we needed nothing more than a proper ass kicking. And I remember when we finally closed our lead, which was a wing and a prayer, it was I think, ya know, Jeremy Liew at Lightspeed really believed in what we were doing, he saw the vision, but I think the most impressive thing about Jeremy is, he took a big swing, he took a risk. I can speak more to that, but he is an incredible VC because of his willingness to sort of assess and understand the risk that he saw in us but he took that chance.
Matt Hackett [00:30:24] – And he was decisive too, I think in comparison to lots of other investors, he was like a day later, we got a yes.
Casey Neistat [00:30:29] – Extremely decisive, but when we went to this crazy maniac that was our voice of insanity. And I remember we finally told him, look we got our lead, and I just remember this guy being like “Okay, here’s what you do. You get him on the phone and you say you listen to me you fuckin’ blood sucker, here’s what we’re going to do. I want quadruple the amount of money at 10% the evaluation that we discussed, or the deals off the table”. And it was like, I think he was 80% serious when he was talking like that and I think what I learned from seeing that kind of maniac type person succeed, at least in the fundraising part of the process is that just how much people respond to that blind passion. Because he was nuts, but he was nuts for what he was doing. So much so that he was able to raise nine figures based on his idea. But Matt and I really sort of leave our meetings with him jazzed up and we would always say we would dismiss 99% of what he said but that 1% was just enough to sort of give us a little bit more confidence in our future pitches.
Craig Cannon [00:31:39] – That’s wild, was there anything you guys did to kind of build that up within you? Because it’s even just doing like podcasting, the countertransference of energy between people is such a thing that’s not necessarily obvious to people when they start podcasting, what did you do to build up that skill?
Casey Neistat [00:31:54] – Countertransference of power, is that what you just said?
Craig Cannon [00:31:57] – People use countertransference as a psychological term of energy. If you go into a room and you’re kind of just like a dead fish…
Casey Neistat [00:32:05] – Oh I understand what you meant, I just have never heard that.
Craig Cannon [00:32:08] – Yeah.
Casey Neistat [00:32:09] – Okay, what’d you ask me? How did we do that?
Craig Cannon [00:32:12] – How did you get better at it?
Casey Neistat [00:32:13] – How do you get better at it… One I think Matt is an extremely level person and I’m not. If Matt gets nervous I’ve never seen him show it and I have to say that I drew a lot from that. There was a lot, I think, walking into a meeting alone would have been very, very scary. But like that countertransference was not from them to me but it was sort of mitigated by the fact that there are two people on this side of the table. And again that sort of dove tails back to that balancing act that Abbott and Costello routine that we had worked ourselves into. For me that’s what a lot of it was, learning how to rely on Matt to keep myself level in meetings and be as effective as possible.
Matt Hackett [00:33:06] – I think the other thing is getting yourself in the mindset before especially if you go to Sand Hill Road. If you go to these places feel, that are designed to feel powerful, is to just take a breath outside and go, “I got invited here I got this meeting”. That was easier for me to do because I had been part of Tumbler’s fundraises and had been to those physical spaces and been like yeah I can get in there, it’s okay. But even if you haven’t I think it’s important to sit there and go like, I’m not begging
Casey Neistat [00:33:38] – I’m looking for a partner I came here because you invited me, and just to get yourself in that mindset of like absolutely belonging in this room.
Craig Cannon [00:33:46] – What’s a little bit more counterintuitive advice that you’ve learned along the way? I know Matt you think a lot about start ups, maybe Casey you similarly think about start ups all the time but also just creative work. What’s the counterintuitive advice you’ve learned?
Casey Neistat [00:33:59] – Sure, I mean my counterintuitive advice is just the power of brute force and I mean that. I think it’s always about intellectualizing and thoughtfulness and listening to more podcasts and reading more books and all of that. But I think at the end of the day it is brute force it is hard work, it is an absolute unwillingness to accept failure, to accept no. And that’s true with fundraising, and that’s true with ideation, and that’s true with making a YouTube video, and you know in the, how old am I now, 36, in the 18 years of my career I have found that to be the one sort of consistent, the one constant through everything. In any version of success it’s been because of an absolute reluctance and of that sort of brute force. I will not stop moving until I achieve what I want to achieve, and every time that we’re identified as a failure it was because of a lack of that or a questioning of that. And I think Beme 1.0 is a very good example. Our product failed, but the company succeeded. And I think a lot of that comes back to sort of that absolute relentlessness and tenacity of, not just Matt and I as leaders, but the entire team. We had a product that was failing, nobody on the team quit, nobody cared, nobody really gave a shit. It was heads down, what else can we build? So we started building all these weird products and experimenting and we built one about the election and it was just like, nope, lets just keep going, heads down, keep moving, keep pushing, keep pushing. And I think that that is not sexy advice. That’s not romantic advice.
Casey Neistat [00:35:32] – That’s not something that can be analyzed and broken down but I do think it’s absolutely pivotal for any kind of success in life; is to embody that in everything that you do.
Matt Hackett [00:35:41] – Mine’s not necessarily counterintuitive but I think especially for engineers, people with a more technical mindset it’s really tough to learn is just ask for what you want super directly, simply…
Casey Neistat [00:35:55] – It’s good advice.
Matt Hackett [00:35:56] – In the really, this is a very tactical sort of micro thing, but I think it’s something that I see. I’m now on the receiving end of the lot because people are asking me for start up advice and I often get emails that are just super round about, and essentially “Hey, can I, I’m starting a company, it’s a social app, can I buy you coffee”? I don’t want to be bought coffee. If you sent me a one line email that said “Hey, I’m really looking for an amazing iOS engineer who’s looking to found a company.” Like oh, there are three people I can introduce you to. And I can do the research on who you are, you don’t need to fill me in, just ask. If that’s what you’re asking, I’d love to help. If you’re asking for an hour of my time to vaguely talk about ideas, I don’t have time for that.
Casey Neistat [00:36:47] – I literally have the words “pick your brain” I have that as a Gmail filter, so if somebody emails me saying “I’d love to buy you lunch so I can pick your…” they’re filtered and they go immediately in the trash. Yeah I’m completely like, how I start meetings, I literally was running one last week and a woman stopped me and she works at one of the biggest publishers in the city, and she’s like “I want to have lunch with you and discuss with you this thing I’m building, I think you could be a really big part of it”. And I looked at her and I was like “What is it and what are the actionables”. And she was like “well lets sit down, and lets have a…”
Craig Cannon [00:37:16] – No.
Casey Neistat [00:37:17] – And I was like, I have three minutes right now, tell me what it is and tell me what you want from me. And she could not do that, she couldn’t do it. So there’s no fuckin’ way I’m giving this woman and hour of my time.
Matt Hackett [00:37:27] – Well, and if you can’t do that, you’re probably not ready to get that advice to ask that question. If you can’t write it in the subject of the email, and this is my favorite by the way, like my team probably gets annoyed at some point, I’ve probably sent 10 of these emails today, but it’s just a question that is the long subject line of the email and that is it, and that is me asking for something very directly that I need, if you’re not in a place where you can do that, and it might be, “Hey I need really specific advice about how to build a technical team, can you give me advice an how to build a technical team for my company of eight.” That’s a specific question, I can do something with.
Casey Neistat [00:38:03] – Respecting other peoples time is something that sound silly or elementary, but like especially in the world of startups, nobody has time. So respecting other people’s is absolutely paramount and I think that comes down to how effective of a communicator you are. And I think that that idea permeates everything that we’ve discussed today from fundraising to being an effective manager, to being a good leader, to being good at anything. But if you can’t be effective in the way you communicate and not waste other peoples time, I think it’s difficult to succeed in this space.
Craig Cannon [00:38:37] – Matt, one of the questions we got like, over and over and over again was about the acquisition. We talked about this off camera, but if someone asks you, “How do I get acquired?” What do you say?
Matt Hackett [00:38:49] – The number one place where I would start with this is it takes forever. People will tell you this, our best advisors told us this they said, “It takes six months if you want to go down that path at a minimum” and me as a process optimizer, hyper-organizer was like no, of course we can do it in three months, you cannot. 90% of the people ask me this question when they’ve got a month of cash left and the answer is, you can’t.
Casey Neistat [00:39:17] – What’s that thing we’re told so many times it’s like “You can never sell your start up, it can only be bought.”
Matt Hackett [00:39:22] – Yes.
Casey Neistat [00:39:23] – Or something like that. Because we were trying to raise, and we’re like “I think the best move here is for us to sell this company lets be a part of something bigger than us, I think it’s how we can be most effective and most successful.” And like the minute we started telling our trust advisors that they’re like, “Well, stop saying that. Don’t ever say that, what you’re doing right now is you’re fundraising, and when you meet with people who you think might be interested in buying your company you tell them you’re fundraising. You’re never in the process of selling your company until it’s been sold.” And that is extremely good advice because throughout the entire process we realized just how true, and we spoke with a number of potential acquirers, like it was a major process for us, and that one truth sort of permeated every single conversation. “No, no, no, we’re not selling the company, we aren’t interested in selling the company, actually we’re in the middle of a raise right now.” Which was 100% true… but you could say that without revealing your whole card, which is that ya know we’re very interested in pursuing potential acquisition opportunities.
Craig Cannon [00:40:21] – And how did you manage, so CNN slides an offer across the table, and what do you do after the fact, or maybe that’s not even how it works.
Matt Hackett [00:40:28] – Were that it were that simple– No, to talk about how you get to that first offer. That probably, we made the decision sometime in the Spring we’ll say March or April, where we’re like “We’re going out for this raise, but we should really really seriously talk to acquirers, and lets put our energy and focus actually there”. That decision led to probably four months of conversations with eight to 10 different companies–
Casey Neistat [00:40:59] – All over the place.
Matt Hackett [00:41:00] – None of which, because of the psychology of it like Casey said, that advice is very true, you can’t go in and say “Hey, we’re selling the company” and so those conversations had to be pretty round-about. They had to be “Well we’re doing a raise, and we think it might be interesting to have you strategically involved. Oh we’re looking for deeper partnership.” All these sort of bywords.
Casey Neistat [00:41:21] – Euphemisms.
Matt Hackett [00:41:22] – Where people know what you’re saying but it just took an enormous amount of time because you couldn’t be that direct.
Casey Neistat [00:41:28] – You know the irony of all this I don’t know if you know this Matt, but like my first meeting ever with Jeff Zucker was not about Beme it was about… YouTube, and meeting with his son, who was on his way to Harvard, and it was a broader conversation. But at the very end of that meeting, when Jeff, who just had knee surgery, and was rushing out to another meeting, and running a gigantic company and had two kids in the room, as I was leaving that meeting with my skateboard in the hand, Jeff said, “How can we work together?” And I looked at him and I said, “You should buy my technology company.” So there was no beating around the bush, there was no bullshitting. And that was for a lot of reasons. It was because someone like that, who is as I think as capable and as smart as Jeff Zucker, like I had 30 seconds before I was walking out the door, there was no bullshitting someone like that in that position. So knowing when to sort of lay all your cards out on the table and say, “This is what’s in front of me.” I think is also like, that is pure, sort of human nature, understanding what might feel appropriate about that. I also think it was the fact that it was a media company,
Casey Neistat [00:42:32] – that Jeff Zucker’s at the helm of, not a technology company. You know, they’re not used to typical tech acquisitions the way that a gigantic tech company might be. There was some latitude there for some creativity, and how we kind of pitched it. And I will say, immediately there after that, immediately after that conversation, it did become much more typical. The next step was that meeting with Matt, and understanding technically what we had, and then sending a team down here to sort of interview our team, to see if we’re as capable as we say we are. Looking at some of the tech we built, like digging into it, it was a very, very formal process, that was initiated by a very off-the-cuff statement.
Matt Hackett [00:43:09] – I think the other key thing there, is that we were far enough along in conversations with a couple of other companies.
Casey Neistat [00:43:14] – That’s right.
Matt Hackett [00:43:15] – We could leverage that.
Craig Cannon [00:43:17] – Right, without bullshitting.
Matt Hackett [00:43:18] – Without bullshitting, and you can’t bullshit, because you’re, if you’re in the valley, everyone talks to each other. Assume that all the information is out there. If you’re not in the valley, it’s maybe tuned down a little bit, but still like, don’t get caught lying, it’s not worth it, it doesn’t make sense. But you can stretch, you can push. We legitimately were in other conversations, and so we could say, “Listen, we’re in other conversations that are moving along.” And constantly create these forcing factors of we need to tell, we need to tell this technology company, that shall remain unnamed, whether we should pursue the process or not, we need to hear from you by Friday.
Casey Neistat [00:43:55] – We can only say that, and we did say literally what Matt just said. We used those exact words, those were the semantics we used. But we could say that, and we could say it with confidence, because we weren’t bullshitting. And I think if there was no truth to saying something like that, then that would have been found out, that would have transparent no matter how convincing either of us could have been.
Craig Cannon [00:44:16] – Is this all wisdom from your advisors? ‘Cause unlike meeting with investors, you can’t really do this. There’s not a lot of like dry runs of these acquisition conversations.
Matt Hackett [00:44:26] – I mean once there are two of our investor advisors who were super instrumental in this Sep, Sep was super instrumental as well. The other ones that I’m thinking of are Rene Reinsberg, and Marek, whose last name I can’t pronounce (Olszewski), it’s terrible of Locu. And they had gone through this process with Godaddy, maybe a year before we had. And so they just like, Rene was so tuned to exactly the moments we were in, and we did the same thing with fundraising, where we would be like, we would debrief at least once a week, if not two or three times a week with him. And just go like, “Here’s that they said, here’s what they said.”
Casey Neistat [00:45:03] – Those throughout the acquisition process, they were much closer to therapy. Like you’d go to a therapist, because you need to make sense of all the things in your brain, and we would go to Rene to make sense of all of the things existing in our acquisition conversations, ’cause it was very hard to find anything sort of sensible, or a straight line in there, for us to build the actionables around. But a difficult scary process, that I think was made easier by the fact that our backs were up against the wall. Matt and I knew, like we knew when we were out of money, we knew when the gig was up. And there was something, for me, something very confidence inspiring about that, it was black and white. That didn’t make me more scared. It was like optionality I think can often be to one’s detriment. I always say that, like when people ask me, “What was it like having a kid when you were 17, versus having a kid now?” And it was like, well, I have resources now, I have money now, and when I was 17 I was on welfare, so it’s very easy when I had Owen. This is a binary, can I have that? No.
Craig Cannon [00:46:05] – Yeah.
Casey Neistat [00:46:05] – Can I do this? No. And now it’s like I have this little kid, and like I just want to give her whatever the hell she wants, and she’s like a spoiled monster, who wakes us up at four in the morning, because she wants to play with Elsa. But, there was something about the do or die environment, with which we were going through the acquisition process, that I found tremendous confidence in.
Craig Cannon [00:46:27] – Were there any books you resorted to throughout this process? To figure out a mental model how to deal with this, or is it just straight up advisor’s advisor therapy?
Matt Hackett [00:46:38] – I mean, it’s funny, I ended up buying a like Venture and Acquisitions for Entrepreneurs. A literal business school textbook, which was useful for looking up like three terms, in the eventual term sheets we got. But no, this is really bad advice.
Casey Neistat [00:46:59] – Yeah, I read all those books because of my own insecurities, and I went through every VC that I was a fan of. All their blogs all the way back. And all of that helped to the same degree that I could give you a book on how to skateboard, and you could study that book and memorize that book, and fall off the board immediately. But skate with Tony Hawk for five minutes, and you’ll be better than anything that book can impart, and I think that’s what it was like for our advisors, is one 30 minute conversation with Rene or with Sep, informed us in such a tremendously impactful way, that everything I had read up until then, just sort of felt unnecessary, because it wasn’t real world, it wasn’t reacting to our specific set of circumstances. How could I apply these general principles to what is a very, very nuanced environment?
Matt Hackett [00:47:54] – I also think people, the psychology of it is just so hard. This is the part that nobody told us about, ’cause there’s not really a way to talk about it. But the psychology, especially with your team, is one of the hardest parts. Because it feels like you’re cheating, ’cause you’ve not told your team that you’re potentially selling the company, and I’m going to disappear to San Francisco for three days.
Craig Cannon [00:48:19] – Under the guise of raising money.
Matt Hackett [00:48:21] – I’m just gone for a couple of days. So the way that we did it, is we told everyone increasingly more as the certainty went up. My feeling about all this, and just the general thing being manager, executive, founder, is you should give people as much information as possible, you really should try and be transparent. If that information is actionable, if it can actually cause them to do something, create a new venture, build a new tool. Build something that will actually have an impact on it. There is zero you can do as an engineer on our team, if I say, “We’re talking to CNN, and these six other companies about potentially being acquired.” All that does is make you panic, and go, “Okay.” Paralysis.
Casey Neistat [00:49:09] – And this is a team of a dozen people, who rely on their paychecks as everybody else does, who is aware of the fact that our core product, is not working, and we’ve stopped really focusing on it. They don’t know what else we’re focused on, they don’t know what the future of this company is, and they’re unbelievably talented and skilled, and sought after by other companies. You can’t bullshit them, and you can’t tell them the process, like what Matt just described. So you don’t have anything to tell them, so it’s this really like, avoid eye contact scary. And this isn’t days, this is months.
Craig Cannon [00:49:41] – Yeah no, for sure.
Casey Neistat [00:49:42] – One of the best business decisions Matt and I ever made, was summer 2016, we’re out of money, we had like five months left of money, we could barely pay like our Amazon bills, we were struggling, we’re–
Matt Hackett [00:49:59] – We booted the product, it didn’t work.
Casey Neistat [00:50:00] – It didn’t work. I had cut my salary to zero. We were struggling, we didn’t know what to do. We were just started, we didn’t know what to do. Matt and I came up with this decision, like, it was one of our means, like, “Nothing’s off the table, what should we do right now?” And we came up with the decision to spend God knows how much money renting two huge mansions on the beach in the Dominican Republic, and flying the entire team– Flying the entire team down there for a vacation at the beach, where we all like rented banana boats and went fishing, and Matt crashed a golf cart. And I think at the time it was just like, we needed to do it, because we needed to talk, we needed to fix things, we needed to show a vote of confidence in the team. But what that enabled us to do was get the hell out of the office, break that unwillingness to make eye contact, to be as honest with the team about how we can’t be honest with the team. There was many conversations that was like, “Look guys, we want to share with you what’s going on, but it’s a liability, we can’t, like read between the lines, we’re trying to figure things out. All we’re asking is for you is to have confidence in us.”
Matt Hackett [00:51:06] – The other thing that you have to have, if you’re trying to manage your own psychology in this situation, is you have to think, if it all goes south, if everything goes to shit, deal falls through, I’m going to spend every waking hour, making sure that everyone on my team lands an amazing job. I’m going to pump my network, I’m going to make sure that everyone gets out of this, before I think about myself. And that was always something rolling in the back of my mind, was like, alright if it doesn’t come through, and we run out of cash and like, well, that’s what I’m going to do. And having that, that at least helped me go like, okay I can actually help everyone land in a great place, and frankly, because everyone is an engineer, highly sought after, they’re going to be okay. As long as I know I’m going to dedicate myself to that, if it doesn’t work out, then it’s okay.
Casey Neistat [00:51:54] – Yeah, and we did. I think throughall of the tumult that was the last quarter of Beme 1.0, pre-acquisition, no one on our team, there was never a missed payroll, there was never a delayed payroll. This is something that Matt and I have always made priority number one. And I think that like, look, no one left, no one left, and this was a shitty seven month process. Really, from when we knew this app was not going to succeed, what’s next? And then telling them that we were going to be acquired, it was not a short amount of time. And little things, like that stupid retreat in the Dominican Republic, was just sort of, it was us trying to demonstrate to the team, how much we believe in them. Like guys, look, here’s something awesome we’re going to do together, does it make sense right now? From afar probably not, but like, we’re all here, having conversations we wouldn’t be having, at one in the morning, while drinking like really terrible warm beer. And the effectiveness and the importance of that, these are things that are intangible, things that are very challenging to quantify. Chemistry is something that you cannot quantify. But I think it is chemistry that makes a team, both on the engineering side, and on the media side, and the creative side, it makes a team cohesive, it’s what makes a team work, it’s what makes a team ultimately effective. And it’s easier to do when you’re small, and as you grow it gets more and more challenging, but that was always a really, really primary focus for us, through all the ups and downs of us being a venture backed start up.
Craig Cannon [00:53:17] – Would you change anything about how you did it?
Matt Hackett [00:53:21] – I don’t think so.
Casey Neistat [00:53:22] – I mean, me personally, yeah. I never, ever talked to anyone on the team about the vlog. And, the reason why, is ’cause I knew in the back of my head, how instrumental the vlog could be to benefit this company. And I had insecurities about saying that to the team, so I didn’t want it to diminish their work, and then ultimately if we didn’t succeed, I wouldn’t have wanted to falsify expectations, because of the success of this YouTube channel. Inside I just kept my mouth shut, and made videos all day everyday, and I think that that must have been really challenging for the team to see, but then in the end, it was a big part of why the acquisition took place. It’s why now this is no longer just a technology company, but a media and technology company. It’s ’cause I think there was a demonstration of what we can do within that cross section.
Craig Cannon [00:54:16] – The question that I’ve been wondering, is this whole process of you guys getting together, starting Beme, selling Beme, working at CNN, tremendous learning experience, and it probably seems like a crazy amount of time, but it’s been like, what, two years, three years?
Matt Hackett [00:54:30] – It’s been a little over three years.
Craig Cannon [00:54:32] – Okay, so, what are you working to learn now? How are you personally trying to improve yourselves?
Matt Hackett [00:54:39] – I mean for me, this is about learning to run a completely different kind of company, and a completely different scale of company. If you think about a business that I’ve never had to think of, which is media. We are a technology and media company. Technology I think I understand the parameters there, media I don’t, and I’m learning on the job, and that is 95% of what I’m reading, what I’m consuming, who I’m making sure that I have breakfast, lunch and dinner with, is learning that.
Casey Neistat [00:55:12] – Yeah, I’ve never had a job before. The last time, I get a paycheck every two weeks, the last time I got a paycheck every two weeks, was when I was washing dishes when I was 16 years old in South Beach in Connecticut. I mean, I’ve never had a job before, so that’s sort of a fun new thing for me to learn about. But certainly working with teams, and I’ve always been an entrepreneur, I’ve started and built companies my entire life, since I was in my early 20s. And understanding that our focus here is purely on building a successful company, not so much worrying about the resources that are around us. I look at these cameras, and I immediately, what I mean by that, is I look at these cameras, and I immediately get stressed out. I know how much that costs, and I have to figure out how much we’re going to earn, to be able to compensate for the price of that camera. And then understanding that when you’re a part of an apparatus, when you’re part of something that is as huge as Time Warner, as CNN, that those sort of considerations are not entirely relevant. Because this is a long game, this is a long play for CNN, they want Beme to be wildly successful for the next 10, 20 years. They want to break into new markets, and that’s how they view it. And that is so foreign to me. I mean, Beme 1.0 venture back, Matt and I were week to week, focused on the success of that company. And we’re getting really upset when I found out people were ordering Blue Bottles in the carton, or whatever the hell it was, ’cause they’re six bucks each,
Casey Neistat [00:56:34] – and being like, “We can’t afford this right now! This is absurd.” Being in an environment like this, where it’s not about, sort of the minute by minute or the day by day, but really trying to build a successful company, that will last long into the future, is completely foreign to me. Because as a start up, as a start up entrepreneur, it’s always like, it’s always that day to day, it’s always about the right now. And we’re trying to build something that has much, much longer legs.
Craig Cannon [00:57:00] – And so that’s just done by what? Stepping back and imagining what you wanted?
Casey Neistat [00:57:05] – Absolutely, like deep breaths kind of thing, it’s like, we talk about the reason why I don’t create granular. Like an example, we had discussed yesterday with the team, is like, “I’m not promoting Beme’s YouTube channel on my main YouTube channel right now.” And the reason why is I want the bench to be deeper on Beme’s channel. We have nine videos up right now, and I want it to be 20 amazing videos. So when I push my audience there, which I haven’t done in a while, and they show up, they’re like, “Whoa, this is incredible.” And it’s like, yeah I want to do it today, ’cause I want to see our numbers bump today, but let’s be thoughtful here. Let’s understand what the long play is here, and like, if I’m going to ask that of my audience, I want them to be really rewarded by what they find when they get here, and we’re not there yet. It’s like taking that deep breath, taking a step back, and like no, no, no, let’s be thoughtful here. And doing that at every turn is a foreign practice for me.
Matt Hackett [00:57:52] – One of the fun things about getting into the media side of things, has been learning how media especially does not have process thinking in the way that engineering does. And I think a typical engineer would be shocked, to see that there are all of the elements of an agile or similar sort of methodology or development, but none of the vocabulary, and none of the sort of feedback loops, which are actually critical to making that happen. And this is not…
Craig Cannon [00:58:20] – We have a file naming convention.
Matt Hackett [00:58:23] – When I think of U.S. people on our media team, and I have, people on our team are like, “This is the most transparent, feedback-oriented, media team I’ve ever been on.” And I look at it and I’m like, “Oh my God, this is so much messier, and way, way less feedback.” Like, there’s not a two week sprint, there’s not a retrospective, and so I think as an engineering manager, I’m starting to realize how much of that is applicable to media, and I’m also learning where it is absolutely not applicable. Something of interest to listeners of the podcast, is engineering thinking has applications way outside of running an engineering team, and I have some unique advantages, and some disadvantages in running a media team because of that.
Casey Neistat [00:59:09] – Everything Matt just said, really underscores why I find such success and ease in making content when it’s just me, and why I struggle so much when it’s a team, because everything that he just described, is exactly right. When you talk about inefficiency, and opportunities for greater efficiency, but where does efficiency contradict creativity? Where do those two butt heads? And if you’re focused on efficiency, this creativity starts to fade, and all of those variables are completely annihilated when it’s a one-man show, because none of those considerations have to take place. There is none of that intellectualization taking place, it’s purely that brute force. Start at zero, get across the finish line, and that’s an environment I fucking love and thrive in, and an environment that’s far more managed, is one that’s the thing that I’m most excited about really learning.
Craig Cannon [01:00:04] – Are you guys doing any longterm planning for your lives? Do you have a longterm goal, Casey or Matt 20 years from now?
Casey Neistat [01:00:12] – Yeah, I mean I have a one day, three day, five day, one week, one month, three months, six months, I’m not kidding, one year, two year.
Craig Cannon [01:00:20] – Alright how far can you go in that, what is it?
Casey Neistat [01:00:22] – All the way to death, I have the entire thing outlined.
Craig Cannon [01:00:23] – Alright, what’s the goal or the theme before you die?
Casey Neistat [01:00:28] – I mean really, you want to get into that?
Craig Cannon [01:00:29] – Sure, I’m just curious how you guys are thinking about the future, what are you working up to?
Casey Neistat [01:00:34] – I mean, from a more granular perspective, I want to move to Los Angeles and leave New York City. In the next three to five years. And I want to do that because I think New York City is a wonderful place from 20 to 40, but 40 to 60, I want to be out of New York City. I think New York’s amazing when you’re young and broke, or old and rich, and I’m neither of those. We want to raise our kids outside of the city. So when I think about that, what the implications could be, even bringing that idea up to Matt very anecdotally, he’s like, “Well look, if Beme doesn’t have an office in L.A. in three to five years, we’ve got bigger problems.” And I love hearing that, so that’s nothing more than a little sort of nugget, that’s a tiny nail for me to start hanging things off of. But this is the kind of planning that eventually those ideas turn into actionables, those actionables become much more practical, in three to five years from now, who knows? But some version of what’s now a consideration, will most likely be the reality. That’s some broad strokes, that’s the five year plan.
Craig Cannon [01:01:38] – Okay, cool.
Matt Hackett [01:01:41] – For me it’s critical to have a totally different career. I don’t know when this is, still have thoughts on timing and ways to do it–
Casey Neistat [01:01:47] – Tell him what you majored in in college Matt.
Matt Hackett [01:01:49] – Yeah I have, I’ve already, I guess you can say I’m probably on my second or third career, but I have a degree in Victorian Studies.
Craig Cannon [01:01:58] – I knew this, but the listeners didn’t.
Matt Hackett [01:01:59] – I also, you know, my first career, which lasted approximately 18 months, was in contemporary art.
Casey Neistat [01:02:07] – That is a multifaceted manager, he’s a man of many, many talents. But no, I think that the biggest, sort of longterm goal in my head, is find success in a completely different career, completely different field. Start from scratch, learn something completely different. I have a few thoughts on what the possibilities for that are, but I just think, I want to basically be at the bottom again, and learn how to do something completely different.
Craig Cannon [01:02:38] – That’s great, alright, let’s wrap it up. Thanks you guys.
Casey Neistat [01:02:41] – Yeah, of course.
Craig Cannon [01:02:42] – Alright, thanks for listening. So as always, the video and transcript are at blog.ycombinator.com. If you have a second, please subscribe and review the show. Alright, see you next week.