Jim Spanfeller on Video
By Wendy McHale
Played by George Clooney in the film Good Night, and Good Luck., Fred Friendly ultimately went on to head up CBS Network following his role as producer for Ed Murrow.
Like Murrow, Fred shared a similar vision of using the power of TV to inform and educate the public. He was a huge consumer of TV. When conducting a meeting in his office, visitors were impressed to see that Friendly had installed 12 TV sets into his office wall, so he could view what every TV network, Independent and PBS-affiliated station was airing in the top markets. This enabled him to view up to 40 or more different programs a day from his media-walled office, making him the one person on earth to have that much TV programming available at his fingertips.
I recently met with Jim Spanfeller to discuss the online video business. Like visitors meeting with Friendly, I was equally impressed with Jim's Forbes.com office, but there was a difference. I could see the actual studio from which Forbes.com produces their daily programming. It was great seeing it all happen in real time.
I was interested in interviewing Jim to learn more about his view of the business as president & CEO of Forbes.com. In addition, having recently been elected as Chairman of the Board of the IAB, I hoped to get some juicy scoops for Journal readers!
During our interview, I learned that Forbes.com is the leading source for original business video for the Web. Though as compared to Fred Friendly, Jim is not the only person to have it at his fingertips. He shares that media walls-worth of online content with anyone who's within clicking distance from a broadband connection. Anytime and anywhere. The other distinguishing contrast is that it not found on 12 screens. Rather, it all happens on one, the new Forbes.com Video Network.
If you have not yet seen the film, do go to see it. You will find out why an interview with Fred Friendly was as impressive then, as my interview with Jim Spanfeller is now. Good Day & Good Luck!
Wendy: Well, it's interesting, reading your bio. I know some of the same people that you know. Both you and I have a similar print background. I worked at two major publishing companies, where I went back and forth. [Smiling] One thing funny about both of them was; if you go somewhere else, right away, they're like, "Are you interested in coming back?"
Jim: [Smiling] Right. "We're happy to have you once you have gone someplace else"!
Wendy: [Smiling] it's kind of like my early experience going back and forth between online and offline. So I was curious, when you made the leap from traditional to online, was it anything like that for you? What was your initial experience, and how did it shape how you felt about your new venture?
Jim: Well, you know prior to coming here, to Forbes.com, I was at Ziff-Davis for over four years. I went over to Ziff to launch "Yahoo! Internet Life" [Magazine] which we did with Yahoo! And then eventually we launched "Expedia Travels" [Magazine]. I ran all the paid-circulation titles at Ziff. I had the opportunity to work with Jerry Yang, Dave Filo, Tim Koogle and the Expedia team from the get-go. I wasn't there at the dawn of the Internet, but it was close to it. So, I got a pretty good understanding of the web, and what was going on with it, and how to coordinate a magazine-related venture with it. That said, during the first few months, I went home with a headache everyday, because the learning curve was intense and I really didn't know much of anything. So I'm not really sure how they put up with me initially! [laughing]. The businesses are, as you know, somewhat similar but there's a lot that's different. The pace and regularity of the web can be backbreaking, sometimes slavish.
Wendy: And the technology. The technology portion sometimes still loses me. You know, someone will be talking to me about web concepts, and I'm like, "Will you repeat that for the third time?" Did it change the way you looked at business or approached things? Did everything sort of have to change? Did you have to think from a different side of your brain, if you will?
Jim: I wouldn't look at it that way, although the great thing about the web, despite the backbreaking speed and complexity aspect of it is that the payback one gets from it on both sides of the desk it worth it. It's basically being able to do anything a client wants. If you find yourself in the print world--where you're constantly on call—there are always moments when an advertiser is asking you to do something that you can't deliver. Like if a marketer only wants to reach people who work in financial service companies. Or "I really want the content, but I don't want to do it in every issue." Well, you really can't do that. Or, "I really want to do a printout of your video." These are legitimate objectives but you couldn't accomplish them offline as compared to the web.
Wendy: Good point.
Jim: So this was really one of the most emancipating aspects of the transition. With the web, you basically can always say yes!
Wendy: You're right. It's a really exciting medium for that. It can really get your creative juices flowing. And I agree from a sales perspective, it's like, "Yes, we can do that, and here's the price tag."
Jim: Yes, I've seen how you can move somebody from what "they really want to do" to "Yes, we can get that done for you." That's a wonderful place to be.
Wendy: That's a good transition to the next question, which is the Forbes Video Network. I have to tell you from what I've seen, there's nothing else that's quite like it. It's very exciting. This is clearly a huge initiative and something that you're making a big commitment to; the development of a broadband video network. What makes it different? Is there anyone else out there that's doing anything similar that you see, or is Forbes.com really in the forefront of going forward with this thing?
Jim: It's all a matter of degrees, right? We're producing content that's not all that different from what you might see on other news sites and TV channels. What's different, of course, is that we're able to produce it in a very specific way. We're able to offer it in very definable, edible chunks. Which is not to say that you can't watch a cable TV news channel for five minutes and receive valuable news updates. But you most likely won't get the news you're looking for in that exact five minutes. Most likely, you'll have to watch the whole show to see what you were looking for.
Wendy: Tell me about it!
Jim: Forbes.com gives you what you want in those five minutes. It has 8 content categories and 10 subcategories under each. For example, on Forbes.com you don't have to watch some long show to find out how a CEO answered questions about earnings, or how a newsmaker responded to a tough question. I think there are a lot of revolutionary things around web-oriented video. What makes Forbes.com different is that it offers a wealth of video content against the widest variety of relevant topics. And it's up to the minute on all of them. It's sort of this notion that we've been applying, which I'll call for lack of a better term, "entwined media". That's the concept of consumer control taken to the n'th degree; the classic understanding that you watch what you want to watch and you digest what you want to digest when you want to digest it. Right?
Jim: For example, now with TiVo, you can make some of those choices. You can decide that you want to watch the show "24" not on Monday night, but on Friday night. That's all well and good, but with the web we think there's a very important differentiation. You can also choose to digest the subject matter in a way that's most interesting to you, or ways that are most interesting to you. Is it video? Is it text on screen? Is it a data base? Is it audio? Is it some sort of interactive chat with an editor or one of your peers? Or some combination of all those things?
Jim: Well that's really an incredible number of choices for the consumer. The more choices you give the consumer, the better off that consumer feels, and the better off you, the content delivery system is going to be.
Wendy: Absolutely. What are your expectations here? Where do you want to take this? Where are you going to get traction quickly?
Jim: Traditional media. I think the first competitive advance we see is against other news properties, particularly against TV networks. Our first communication point to get the industry's attention is to let them know that Forbes Video gets the same kind of reach on the web as they have on TV.
Wendy: OK. This may be a little redundant, but other than your typical user, who I assume are the Wall Street folks' managing portfolios, who is your user base?
Jim: Actually, the portfolio managers are a somewhat atypical audience for us. Our core user base is people who run companies.
Jim: There's a real difference between those groups. I mean, I would never tell you that we don't have institutional folks on the site or we don't have people on the site looking to see whether they should invest in say HP or Microsoft. Certainly, that's part of the makeup. But the fundamental core component of the site, what the site is developed for, are the people at those companies who are actually running them.
Wendy: OK, good. So what's the reason that people should tune into the Forbes video network all day long?
Jim: There's a variety of reasons for that. One would be to get management insight. How do I run my company better? Also, of course, we have a variety of things on our pallet in terms of the network. Besides business, we cover technology, investing, leadership, lifestyle, events and more. We have interviews with executives, editors talking about the latest news in all areas, market experts of all different types and various close-ups of trends affecting every aspect of our lives.
Wendy: So what sort of challenges lie ahead in the future to inform and educate Madison Avenue about what's going on here? How are you going to generate awareness? To date, you've had your Mass Targetability campaign running. Now you have an entirely new product where the learning curve will be steep. How are you going to get the word out there and what points do you want to hit?
Jim: Well, we're introducing the next generation of broad-based marketing. Invariably, we're out in the marketplace everyday and are now talking to people about the site in a variety of ways. Our new campaign is to focus on how Forbes Video compares to other online and traditional mags who publish a small fraction of the stories we publish a day. The others reach a few million people every month. We reach 15 million every month. It doesn't mean the online mags are bad; they're great. But we have this huge plethora of content that is well in excess of the online and offline magazine opportunities. And then of course there's the point you made earlier about the power of video. Video is an area we feel has been under-recognized. Obviously, the fault for that is ours as an industry.
Wendy: That's true.
We're going to try to fix that. How do you get Mass Targetability for a video? If you think about the sort of classic Ying and Yang of marketing, which is if you buy TV, you get massive reach and sight, sound and motion. But you can't get a real specific target. It's a little better if you buy cable networks but then you get a really fragmented audience. Well, now we can offer video applications that have a great big reach, but reach that's specifically towards a specific target audience. We're talking about specific audiences like small companies or large companies, or automotive companies or retail companies, or a specific location such as Los Angeles or New York, or even specific job titles for that matter.
Jim: So, it's a brand new sort of mind-set that marketers and agencies should see its value. Of course, that doesn't happen overnight, but once it sinks in, we expect the interest to grow, ideally quicker than later.
Tomorrow, look for part 2 of my conversation with Jim, where we discuss the state of the business on Madison Avenue.
Part 2 of 3
By Wendy McHale
We began yesterday with Part 1 of my conversation with Jim Spanfeller, president and CEO of Forbes.com and Chairman of the IAB. In that segment, we touched on the transition of moving from traditional to Interactive media. We also discussed the new Forbes.com Video Network and the company's excitement regarding the value it now offers to Forbes.com's audience base and advertising partners.
Today, this next segment covers the relevance and popularity of integrated marketing, as well as how consolidation continues to change Madison Avenue agencies, marketers and publishers.
As I explained yesterday, when interviewing Jim in his office, it reminded me of Good Night, And Good Luck, the film written and directed by George Clooney. Shot in black and white, Clooney tells the story of the impact new media had during the 1950's. By doing so, he makes an unmistakable, yet subtle commentary on the world of 21st century communications today.
Therefore, it was not terribly difficult to see the connection between the growth of TV and its challenges back then as compared to the somewhat similar issues we face today with the growth of TV-like broadband video on the Internet.
Clooney plays Fred Friendly, Edward R. Murrow's producer, who later on in his career went on to run the CBS Network. He does an excellent job at depicting the CBS exec; who was known for his passion for TV and its potential to tell a story. If you have not yet seen the film, do go to see it. You will find out why an interview with Fred Friendly was as impressive then, as my interview with Jim Spanfeller is now. Good day & good luck!
Wendy: Let's talk more about Madison Avenue. How long have we all been talking about integrated deals? It's sort of a yawn now. I'd like your opinion. Do you think that marketers and agencies really desire this one-stop shopping approach? Particularly in the case of agencies that traditionally like to spread the money around instead of putting it all into one deal.
Jim: That's a good question; especially how you asked it. It reminds me of a conversation I had recently with a senior exec at one of the big media agencies, who said, "I don't get this integration thing. Isn't it what agencies have done forever? For example, we've always taken the clients' needs and integrate TV, newspapers, radio and magazines together in a plan; and now include the internet into the mix. Then we work to achieve the best media price. Sometimes, if we find an idea which we can play off the content, we include that in the mix we ultimately recommend. Would you tell me how that is all different from the buzz around integration today?" Well, on one hand, I personally think this person is right. He makes a legitimate argument.
Wendy: I can see his point of view.
On the other hand, the classic thought-process of integration is that you now have a kind of platform within a platform. The difference is that we can program one content topic found in all media for a client. That's different than media mix dispersion. One advertiser bought our program consisting of the magazine, online and within the Forbes Video Network. And it gave them a total integrated plan that was relevant to their campaign message with every media vehicle in its own way. It's always more interesting to enter into a conversation where people are thinking "out of the box" and doing something different; where they are looking more for a collusion of ideas and less focused on pricing. Sometimes I think what is passed off as a push for integration is really another word for price negotiation.
Jim: And that's fine, but let's just call a spade a spade. It's price negotiation. They want a better rate because they are buying a package that consists of a collection of media tools with one vendor. With our video network, we are being approached more and more for both kinds of deals, though the difference is that if the emphasis is really about price only, we have the capability to offer it as well as anybody else. But if the emphasis is really around integration, we can offer that more effectively than others. We can integrate around a brand that has multiple touch points with their consumer without any stitch work that others have to do in order to have it resemble an integrated solution.
Jim: Some of the other larger media companies we know have separate divisions; let's say in everything from news, to movies to sports. However, since these divisions really work independently most of the time, when they're asked to come together, it's really more about pricing. The thinking on the client's side is, "I want a better price because I'm going to buy more media from that corporate entity". That's fine. There's enough value there for the advertiser because they did get a better price. But it's not the same value you get when a company like Forbes can put a deal together.
Wendy: At one of the publishing companies I was with, it was more about a multi-title buy. Each was a separate entity and even though they might be rolled into a corporate buy, the benefit wasn't really about a lower price. Sometimes the only extra benefits for a group buy was in value-add, since there would be no additional discounts across the board.
Jim: So the marketer in essence would get a better merchandising package, a better party!
Wendy: Exactly. I think that some publishers actually do it well and some don't. Forbes doesn't seem hamstrung by these competing media divisions. Do you see more of these deals in the future?
Jim: Oh yes. It's a big calling card for us. Again, because we have a singular brand. And the other thing I think we're happy about is the notion that we've integrated the brand differently in a different media. That's a big part of the success of Forbes.com as well. It satisfies a different itch, if you will than Forbes magazine. It's the same with the people. If you take that iteration of the idea in the magazine, it's a series of pages and pictures integrated with the message. On the web site, we'll take that and target it against specific types of companies. On video we can offer sponsored content that the whole theme surrounds the core target audience that the sponsor is trying to reach. I think that it's a much more profitable place to be and of course, every media survey since the beginning of time suggests that a single medium is not as strong as several media working together.
Wendy: Let's talk about something that is somewhat controversial. Everyone seems to have a different opinion about this. Madison Avenue consolidation has been going on for the last ten years or so. I'd like to know how you feel about the handful of companies that control 80 to 90 percent of the media business. Do you see this as detrimental, or a good thing?
Jim: I don't necessarily think it's a good thing, per se, but it works for the shareholders. I think there is probably enough argument on both sides of the fence to talk about the impact on creativity. But I think fundamentally that the role of a financial institution around agencies is certainly less to blame for the creativity issues than things like the cost of media. Whereas, you're getting into less and less executions and more and more copy testing because it has to be "just so" because you only have X number of shots. That in itself causes the science to push the art further off to the side and makes it harder for the campaign. The other big problem here is that more and more money is flowing to the web and the web is harder to plan for. There's no question about it. Hopefully we can find ways working with the industry through the IAB to make it easier, but it takes more people hours to get a web campaign up and running. One of the paybacks though is that it's clearly more trackable.
Wendy: No doubt about it.
Jim: An argument can be made that the web has a lot of advantages in efficiency in terms of similar messages delivered against similar audiences. You're going to get a bigger payback from the web than from anything else. Agencies have focused their business model on 30 second TV commercials. Especially the major businesses, the bigger agencies, are under incredible attack. And having to move these big battleships is tougher and tougher. All the key creative talent has come up through the channel and left the ranks by having the best creative reel.
Wendy: That's an issue.
Jim: Now that reel, while certainly is still important and probably will be important for some time to come, is not as important, and will continue to be less and less important with each iteration of the plan. The ability to make money off that process will be less and less viable. So how do you rebuild the model? How do you fix the boat while you're sailing it? It's tough, and I think a really hard place to be right now for the agencies.
Wendy: I agree.
Jim: And it's going to get tougher before it gets better. Eventually, it will get figured out, but right now it's a hard place to be.
Wendy: Yes, and it seems on some level that the agencies and the publishers are competing against each other. The publishers have the content, but then because of that they can go in directly to the marketer and say, "Look, with my resources here, I'll be your media platform, but I can also create your ad and provide a channel for you to sell your products directly if you would like." So in a way they act like the medium, the agency, and the store, which among other things completely cuts out the agency. There's a lot of muddying of the waters right now. What do you think?
Jim: I think you are right. It calls to mind how agencies started in the first place. Not that many people today know the genesis of ad agencies. The first agency was started by the Saturday Evening Post Magazine when there were no major national advertisers at that time. It was fundamentally almost like classified advertising. So one day somebody came to the magazine and said "Okay, we want to advertise our product and we want you to create the ad for us." So the publication had their promotion department dummy up an ad and then got a go ahead to run it, which worked out great. Then another company came in the next week and said, "We want the same thing." And after a while, the magazine said to itself, "This is not my business. I really don't want to deal with all this ad creation." So the magazines essentially offered to help their promotion department start a separate business by saying, "I'll give you 15% of the ads that are sold if you'll do all the creative and deal directly with the advertiser."
Wendy: I didn't know that
Jim: This took the responsibility off the publisher which made them happy. Okay said Mr. Ayer and so began N.W. Ayer in Philadelphia, which is where the first agency was built. I think there's still learning today from that story in the sense that you need agencies. The advertising creative business is too complicated. Trying to go out there and get an aggregation of different groups of people at separate agencies media companies together based on one specific creative brief--sharing the confidential data about the clients goals and objectives--linked to their problems is probably just a little too much. The agency model is necessary. It's how they create that allows them to have a way to profit with the full pallet of media.
Wendy: Let's turn our attention to the IAB. Obviously, you've been a member for years.
Jim: That's a lot of years in today's environment [smiling].
Wendy: I look at the IAB and I think that this is an organization does a lot more and has a lot more breadth than dozens of other associations.
Jim: Not to get overly Pollyannaish here, but I think it's what's worth keeping in mind is there is a huge amount that has gotten done on the web, yet there's still so much more on the list of things to do. The membership has as much to do around that as the organization. They both need to share that responsibility for how they move forward. They certainly are trying, but it's a large issue that still needs to be taken care of.
Wendy: There are multiple councils and events that are overseen. It seems huge. After all, you have a day job so to speak. How are you balancing these responsibilities?
Jim: I wonder that myself! (Laughter) I have some level of involvement with the IAB, but of course my first job is the well-being of Forbes.com. It's a pleasure to work with the IAB staff. Greg Stuart does a great job.
Wendy: Yes, he has driven so much of what has been accomplished; the ideas, the creativity, etc... I feel that the IAB is just a tremendous organization, because as you say, they have gotten so much done, even as there is still so much left to do.
Look for Part 3 tomorrow, the final segment of my chat with Jim Spanfeller, where we cover the IAB, the highs and lows of the entrepreneurial spirit and Jim's own personal recollections of his most exciting or terrifying moments to date on Madison Avenue!
Part 3 of 3.
As compared to the smoky room below, these days Madison Avenue feels as fresh and clean as a misty morning dew. Like after a good rain, a dousing of sorts that rinses all the dry heat and "hot air" away. At least that's what this week has been like for me. I'd like to thank you all for the wonderful feedback we received on my conversation with Jim. It seems I was not the only one!
I keep referring to the early days of Television because I think there's a lesson there for us. We are still in the early days of Broadband Video, so of course there must be similarities.
One is the leadership Jim Spanfeller brings to our industry, just as Fred Friendly brought to the CBS Television Network. In Fred's day, Madison Avenue referred to CBS as the "Tiffany Network." Few people refer to it that way now, but they did then and from George Clooney's film about Friendly and Murrow, I can understand why.
It begins and ends with a speech. Here's a link to it for those interested in reading it. Written and given just under 50 years ago this year, his RTNDA Convention Speech--delivered in Chicago October 15, 1958--continues to reverberate today.
This final segment covers Jim's own career path and what motivates him today. That's right. I saved the best for last.
Wendy: A couple of personal questions please. Not too personal!!! You're a veteran of the business, so without mentioning any names, what has been the most exhilarating experience in your career so far? What gave you that "I've got to pinch myself" feeling?
Jim: There have been a lot of things. Launching Yahoo Internet Life [Magazine] and "Newsweek On Campus" [Magazine] [ were lots of fun; especially when you're early in your career. Seeing ad growth over the years - where we could we doubled the number of issues. I've been fortunate in having a lot of fun stuff to do.
Wendy: How about something terrifying? You know like those launches you just mentioned.
Jim: [Laughing] That's right! We all prefer to remember the good time! Launches are terrifying!! I would say every job I've had there's been a moment where I would say "How did I get myself into this again?" It's probably my personality, to push the envelope. When it's "make or break" and it could easily break! Repeated moments like that.
Jim: The "Brand Increase Guarantee" campaign Forbes.com instituted here was a memorable make or break moment. If you recall, Forbes.com was the one to incent advertisers to advertise with a money-back guarantee if they did not see results. That took a lot of confidence. At the end of the day we were out there promising to return all their media investments if the ad didn't work. Until that first set of research comes back, you can't breathe.
Wendy: Taking that into the mainstream, the whole idea of entrepreneurship versus a corporate company sort of job—-which are not as available as they used to be anymore--there have been a lot of articles lately I've read about whether can you really teach someone to be an entrepreneur? Opinions are varied. What's your take on that?
Jim: Sitting here as a latter-day anthropologist [smiling], I think we've probably done a really great job of teaching people NOT to be entrepreneurs. The infrastructure created post-WWII through the '60s and '70s was really all about working for a big company and being taken care of for life. At this point, I don't think anyone really harbors that hope. It's unlikely that you will find employment for life. Going into the business world now means accepting that you'll have several jobs; maybe ANY job. Every year new companies are born and then go away. There's more and more of that stuff that's going to happen. I was having dinner not too long ago with a very, very successful businessman from Asia and we were talking about how "Gee, China's coming on strong". He agreed that there are a lot of wonderful things happening in Chinese business and it will continue to expand.
But to my surprise, he didn't see any major threats or issues for the U.S.. He felt that the U.S. continues have this sort of frontier spirit that doesn't exist anywhere else in the world. Entrepreneurship is not only tolerated here, it's celebrated. You try that in some other country, for example; in Europe, if you go bankrupt in Europe, your life is fundamentally over. Whereas here if you look at folks in the 500 list of the most successful entrepreneurs, there are many serial entrepreneurs. It could be their 5th or 6th company. And they've gone bankrupt once or twice.
Wendy: The whole Millennials generation as they are defined are definitely a generation embracing this. Particularly in this industry, which is really an industry of free lancers. And they seem to have a terrifically high risk tolerance. Much higher than mine initially until I got some experience under my belt being one. (Laughter) I still struggle with needing that steady paycheck every once in a while!
Jim: I think it's like skiing.
Wendy: How so?
Jim: How old were you when you learned to ski?
Wendy: I was around 20 I think.
Jim: Well, that speaks to my point. I was 25, and it was incredibly hard for me to learn to ski. It was very frustrating, and very belittling. And you see these little kids go whizzing by. I have three kids of my own, and I see them just pick it up like it was nothing. And when you're young, you don't know what you can't do, and falling is no big deal because you're closer to the ground.
I think there is less fear with the younger generation because there is less knowledge of what the downside is. Actually the downside isn't all that bad. You don't have a family; you're not yet challenged with trying to put kids through college. So you try a few times. If it works, great, if it doesn't, the feeling is "I'll get a real job."
Wendy: I have a great friend who said almost those exact words the other day "If it doesn't work I'm going to have to go get a job, so I really hope it works". I thought that was great! If someone came in here and they were a college grad, and said they would like to get into the media business, what advice would you give?
Jim: I think a lot of it is being in the right place and the right time. Work hard and knock on as many doors as possible. If you have contacts pre-established in the business, whether it is an Aunt or Uncle, or even a friend of a friend, whatever, that's the way that most people get it. And that's a testament to a problem we have in the media industry in general. We just don't make it easy for folks to get into the business. We probably all went through this. "We can't hire you without experience". Well, how do you get experience if no one will hire you. Especially now with smaller and smaller entities that are having a hard time getting started.
It used to be you went to some third tier magazine or a community newspaper and worked your way up from there. Some of that still exists, but it's few and far between. There's no easy answer. That's where of the things new media differs from the larger more established business community.
But we have to apply some knowledge and some thinking for all of media, all sides of it to help people figure out how to get into it.
Wendy: It used to be that companies had a training program. I guess at some point the feeling became that it was not particularly profitable, so it was one of the first things to go. It's not like that in all industries. For example in the pharma industry, training is mandatory at all levels.
Jim: Yes, and they also have outreach programs on campuses, that sort of thing. Media is lazy because we've gotten used to thinking that Madison Avenue is some kind of glitzy business where people will always want to come in. I'm not sure that's good for the business.
Wendy: In reading through your bio, I noticed that you're associated with the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship nfte.com . They help inner city young people develop their skills as entrepreneurs. Is that correct?
Jim: Yes. I was on the board of that organization and remain a big supporter of it. It's really an incredible thing. The whole concept is basically to help inner city kids who don't have a lot of hope. It's bewildering to me that people wonder why they have the attitudes that they do. They have two choices – they can go the McDonald's route and basically get by on the minimum wage at starvation pay, or they can deal drugs. The fellow who started this program Steve Mariotti was working at Ford in New York as a financial guy and one day he got mugged by a gang of kids.
Because he only had $20 in his pocket, they beat him within an inch of his life and he spent major time in the hospital. When he got out, he hired a private investigator to find the kids because he could not figure out why anyone would do that. It was not for payback or to bring them to justice or anything like that. He didn't understand what made them do such a thing. And he got this full on sense of the options – deal drugs or starve. And so he thought "how can I fix this?"
Wendy: That's incredible.
Jim: Yes. He lit on this idea of entrepreneurship. There are no jobs in the inner city. So what do you do? Well, you move. It's really tough when you haven't had any really good reason to go to school. So he created this program to teach entrepreneurship, trying to get kids as early as possible.
And now he's on 4 or 5 continents, and there are close to 50 or 60 cities where they run this program. There are some great success stories around it, and it's a really amazing thing. The guy is really a saint; to go out there and find these kids and instead of punishing them, to do this great thing.
Wendy: That's a very satisfying feeling—to see what's happening and be able to make that sort of impact.
Jim: Some years ago there was one particular kid who became sort of a poster child for this program. She said, "I don't want to die in poverty, I want poverty to die with me." At the time that she said it she was maybe 15 or 16 years old living in the inner city. She said it at a black tie event and people were sitting there crying.
Wendy: Wow! I'm getting goose bumps.
Jim: Forbes is a big believer in the entrepreneurial spirit. It's a great place to be. I've been really lucky. I can say this for so many reasons. Right now, it's because we can bring video to the web. It's going to make it an even more exciting media.
Wendy: Thanks, Jim. It was great talking to you.
Jim: Same here. Thanks for coming by.