After four years as an executive at MySpace, I decided that it was time for a change in my career (and I was fortunate enough to find a perfect fit for my next challenge). It’s been nothing short of a wild ride at MySpace since August, 2006 and not just for the reasons many of you outsiders assume. MySpace gave me the opportunity to break the mold and dive in head first to create new opportunities around content, business and engagement. There were little rules (which obviously wasn’t all for the better), but it allowed for discovery, trial and error and ultimately, multiple success stories…and I’m grateful for all of it.
Yes, I said success and I’m not just referring to 2006 and 2007. Did you know that a couple of months ago MySpace did a contest with GLEE where they gave one lucky user the chance to appear on next season’s show? Users had to upload two videos of themselves and guess what…there were over 75,000 video uploads. Anyone who has done a video upload contest knows that number is ridiculously good. More impressive than that…MySpace allowed people to vote on their favorite videos and by the time the contest had ended (3 weeks in total) 105,000,000 votes had been cast!
I’m sure you didn’t hear about that one, or the hundreds of other great things MySpace has done in the past year or two. I’m sure you don’t realize MySpace is still one of the most trafficked sites in the world, has a HUGE young audience (young meaning what we and our friends used to be considered by marketers but no longer are) and some of the highest time spent metrics per user anywhere. Nobody seems to want to talk or write about that anymore (and that’s a shame), but that doesn’t mean it’s not true. Yes, there have been challenges, mistakes, exec shuffles and missed opportunities, but that happens at nearly every business on the planet at some point or another. MySpace is on the right path and I’m hopeful they will be able to execute against their new strategy because if they do…look out. There will be more crow eating on that day than in any other day in Internet history.
So why leave when I’m so excited about MySpace’s prospects? All I can say is A) I was afforded the opportunity to do so many things. From building out MS Video, launching an original series business, doing hundreds of content, distribution and tech partnerships, becoming a stronger manager and having tons of fun all the while. And B) the reason I’m leaving is to go work at Ustream. Ustream is an exciting company with many opportunities in front of it. They are well funded, growing like crazy, have a committed management team and a clear focus. That focus is live video and the ability to consume, create and share it no matter where you are or what device you’re using.
Ustream actually reminds me of MySpace when I joined 4 years ago as they have nothing but opportunity in front of them and now it’s all about commitment, momentum, focus and execution. There are tons of exciting things to experiment and execute on as I believe we’re just scratching the surface on the potential of live video online and via mobile from a consumer and business pov. I wanted a new challenge, a new chance to build and I felt Ustream was a perfect fit to take advantage of where I’ve been and where I’d like to go. I really believe it has HUGE potential and I’m fortunate to get to be part of that.
As I embark on my new adventure, allow me to share some of my learnings with you:
1) Don’t judge a company merely by the press’ perception of them (either positive or negative). Uh, Glee anyone?
2) People make the place, not the other way around, and without good ones (and a good culture to match) it will be tough for your company to ever realize its true potential. Happy to say new management at MySpace now understands this & it appears my new bosses at Ustream do as well.
3) Have a plan, support it properly and stick to it at least long enough to see results (good or bad). If the results are good, repeat them. If not, learn from them and try again.
4) Value outside relationships like you value your stock options. In most cases, these 3rd parties (and how they exist within or around your company) can make all of the difference in the direction your company goes (positively or negatively).
5) Have fun. Life’s too short otherwise and you’re missing the point if you don’t work hard, play hard and laugh even harder.
6) Content- Maybe. Distribution- Perhaps. People- duh. However, what I’ve learned is that if done right, product is king. To be king, however, means the product must represent and showcase the goals and povs of the company’s mission, brand and key departments (ie marketing, sales, tech, etc).
I didn’t learn #6 all by myself. In fact, the most succinct explanation came from two 17 year olds…yes, two guys who were still in high school when I met them. About two years ago the SMOSH guys came to MySpace for a meeting. Yes, the same SMOSH guys that have become infamous on YouTube. There we were, sitting at a fancy restaurant in Beverly Hills, pitching them on why they should do an exclusive content deal with MySpace when one of them simply said: “Look Jason, if you build a superior product we will be forced to use you. If you don’t, we’ll be forced to go somewhere else.” Smart guys (except for the fact that they passed on 4th row seats to the Laker game following dinner). Nobody’s perfect…
For those of you I worked with over the past 4 years (internally and externally) I thank you. It was the most rewarding job in my career thus far and I look forward to continue to do great things with you. For those of you I will begin to work with at Ustream…get ready to rock!