tv Press Here NBC October 20, 2013 9:00am-9:31am PDT
ask him anything, the so-called mayor of the enter net, reddit founder discusses entrepreneurships, start-ups and making millions while still in college. plus, the future of drones. we'll talk to airware founder jonathan downey. with reporters colleen taylor from tech crunch and quentin hardy of "the new york times." this week on "press here." good morning, everyone, i'm scott mcgrew. each week i introduce you to someone, and i usually try to give a brief sketch of who that person is before we start asking him or her questions. i find that summary particularly difficult this morning because my guest this week is alexis
ohonian. t his label shows why he's important-his website is incredibly popular used by millions including president obama, but it's difficult to explain what makes it so addicting. little more than an old-style computer bulletin board. es the son of an undocumented immigrant, an entrepreneur. he's been asked to testify before congress. he's funded 80 start-ups, launched a charity but most importantly, he's one of the most humble and nicest people you'll ever meet. he's written a new book called "without their permission: how the 21st century will be made, not managed." joined by quentin hardy of "the new york times" and colleen taylor of tech crunch. thanks for coming on the show. it's actually your second time. we can talk about your first time in a minute. i'm now going to leave it to you to explain reddit. and as you do for someone who's ever never seen it and says am i going to watch this alexis guy on tv or not, explain it well.
>> no pressure. >> no. >> well, it is a platform for online communities to share links and have discussions about really whatever they want. we just broke 81 million visitors a month, and people use the platform to discuss everything from corgis to nfl to politics. >> most people would be astonished to figure out how many things they see on the news started on reddit. it's kind of the birthplace, where the planets are formed for all the silly things you see. not always just silly but oftentimes the silly things you see on newscasts. >> it is a truly open platform for people to find an interesting link, submit it. and if other people like that link, they'll vote it up. yeah, oftentimes, it's the launching pad for things that end up going viral on twitter or facebook or the things your parents end up e-mailing you a week later. >> or a month. >> the fascinating thing that you get into in your book is how reddit succeeded even though there were other companies doing
the same thing, notably dig. a lot of people probably remember dig. it's still out there. but reddit has far surpassed. why did it win? >> this is a good lesson. we had just graduated college. and a week after we launched, because i did a terrible job doing competitive analysis. dig had had been around six months, had this tech slib right founder, was in the valley. we were in the suburbs of boston. but we focused so relentlessly on building something that could be a platform for online communities. you know, whereas dig was ultimately one front page, we knew very early on that reddit had to be a place where if you loved my little pony, there would be a sub-reddit community. >> it's amazing velocity. reddit travels at this really fast clip. you had this refresh, things moving, but what broke it off from dig and some others in some ways, it feels like a very interesting place with a sense of community and people talk about the community and
themselves and their personal voch involvement in it. now, you can say it just arose out of nowhere, but it gets engineered by user interface and participation and what you vote up. how many of that was planned and how much was signals and you ran with them? >> you know, i love bringing this up. steve and i really had very little plan when we started. we really didn't. we just wanted to create a place. this is a velocity. that's all a credit to steve's engineering. we wanted to create a place that would be easy for anyone to show up, submit a good link, submit a good comment and get internet points. >> it didn't turn into a sewer for trolls which frequently these things can. >> it was a lot of -- we gave a lot of dams. i hope i'm allowed to say that. >> go. >> we wanted to make sure that we never put advertisers above the user experience. we wanted to make sure that we always erred on the side of doing right by our user base. and i think people really respect that. one of the things i stress to
entrepreneurs all over the country, for so many incumbents, they've lost sight of treating users well. it's a huge advantage even if we're two nobodies. >> quentin -- one of the things i heard in quentin's question, reddit's a happy place. even when they're arguing. it comes across to me as a happy place. >> arguably. >> he hasn't been -- two dragons. there are naughty parts to it. i am troubled by that. >> dragons having sex in cars. >> sex with cars. >> very good. no, what i mean is -- >> your world, man. >> a light-hearted place. i realize there are parts of reddit that are naughty and i realize there have been controversies with reddit, but as you look at especially on the front page and you look at the comments, it's not people sniping at each other, and it's not youtube comments. youtube comments are awful almost all the time. it's generally funny. it's generally clever.
it's intelligent. and it's -- it feels happy. was that -- >> i mean, maybe this is why i always have cute mascots for all the companies. i think, look, at the end of the day, any platform is a reflection of like people. and i think the reality is, a lot of people are actually, you know, pretty happy, pretty reasonable people. i think when you start seeing stories, whether they're at reddit or anywhere else on social media is humans being kind to other humans, it's just a reflection of society. and the fact that actually that person that sits next to you on the subway probably could tell you an amazing joke. he's just not going to do it because he's read the paper. >> ebay worked out. it kind of showed people the good side. others don't because the trolls take over. maybe those are conscious design choices. maybe they aren't. i don't know. clearly on page, 171 people read this being boo, you say journalists are human beings. so it's clear you don't always know what you're talking about. >> are they not?
>> well, colleen? >> steve is the other co-founder. he's an engineer. >> yes, bril lant engineer. >> you are not. >> no, i've ridden his coattails for the last eight years. >> and you drew the mascot. >> yeah. >> other than drawing the mascot, what do you do with reddit? >> we were in the first round. everyone used to ask me that. everyone would come for dinner. it was a joke but i think they were kind of serious. >> yeah, i'm being kind of serious. >> the role of the nontechnical founder is to do everything else that the engineering founder, the technical founder, isn't doing. so while she's busy building the site, you're ordering the take-out, dealing with the lawyer, doing really mundane things. you can't come into it thinking i'm the businessperson. i'm going to do important business things. no, you're going to be doing the stuff that the other person isn't doing. >> you are the businessperson. you're the public face. you're explaining. and reddit wasn't looking for revenue in a big way. >> revenue, we've got to take a commercial break, make revenue
welcome back to "press here." talking with reddit co-founder and colleen taylor of tech crunch. >> yes. you were the nontechnical founder of reddit. one thing that you say in the book, you said for years now is that everyone should learn how to code. everyone should learn how to program. >> yes. >> my mother is an ophthalmologist. should she really learn how to code? why do you say this? >> wow, i don't know what an ophthalmologist is. >> a noncoder. >> okay. that's a whole another show. you know, the reason why i err on the side of everyone needs to learn how to code and i could make a case for writing basic scripts could make her job easier. anytime you find yourself doing a repetitive task, software
could do a lot better for you. it's especially important for this generation coming up. the reason i wrote this book, i wanted people to realize how much power we have if we can build things in software. software is eating the world. that's the an dreessen quote that i think most of us believe in. we have a huge demand already for people who can code. every company i invest in, every company i advise is hiring developers right now. that's amazing in this economy. and those jobs are not going away. and while this ability to, you know, innovate without permission is helping a bunch of people who can code, create significant wealth and significant value in a short period of time, in five years, can you go from starting a company in a bus station like drop box to being the owner of a multibillion-dollar company. that only will happen to people who have those skills and what already exists as a gap in this country will just grow if we don't get more people access. >> how do you decide what you're going to invest in now? >> i -- i really -- because i invest so early stage, the thing that matters most to me is
founders. . and i'd be a hypocrite if i said otherwise. they rejected me and steve because our idea was so bad. >> but is it passion? >> which by the way was not reddit. >> my mobile menu. you'll have to read about. i want to see some founders who i really believe in who i think they are going to do this because they've been able to prove they can build stuff, they lunch stuff and that i'm a little scared of. i'm a little worried that if i don't invest in her, she's going to create the next google and i'm going to miss that. >> you got paid a sum of money when you were in college by conde nast. is there other money coming in that -- i mean, i don't think you're a particularly wealthy person by silicon valley standards. >> no. >> and you've invested in 80. cans, right? >> mm-hmm. >> where's that money coming from? >> i mean, you guys watch "breaking bad," right? >> reddit's not profitable, right? >> no. i mean, steve and i had life-changing wealth. we became -- >> oh, no question, for college students, yeah.
>> but, i mean, you know daush. >> invest in 80 companies? >> it is amazing how -- >> you donate a lot of money. >> some of these investments are small $25,000. but look, like -- >> by the way, not a lot of money is a silicon valley kind of statement. >> $25,000. you've got a lot of money. >> and that brings me to my next point which is -- i live in brooklyn. i love living in brooklyn. it would make me so sad if i ever looked around and looked at some other very successful, you know, a bunch of multimillionaires and thought aww, shucks. i'm not doing well enough. i know this is fortunately a thing that i don't have. but you know, look. for me, it's partially an investment, but it's also partially kind of karma. why do i invent in these start-ups? write this book? go on this nationwide tour? i want more people to reach the maximum level. >> we were having that conversation before the show started that i think we -- the three of us -- have not been entrepreneurs. but as we meet entrepreneurs, you do get the sense that there
is that hey, folks, people can do this. >> yes. >> there's nothing about alexis that is so incredibly special. >> no. >> that only he could have done this. >> yeah. >> inside themselves and delusionally believe in themselves so much that they actually achieve it. >> yeah. i mean, this is -- >> such the american dream. >> it is. and the reason i'm so confident about it is i get to meet people. i go et to see people excelling not just in business but in philanthropy, in film, in music every day now because of the internet. >> can you tell us a couple that have blown your mind lately? >> the most recent one is this wonderful web comic artist named ryan north who does dinosaur comics. it's a bunch of clip art. there's no love making to cars. he went to his community, went to his audience and he said hey, guys, i want to do your choose your own adventure version of hamlet called to be or not to be. an interesting idea. he raised over $600,000 on
kickstarter. there is no world five years ago where he would have gotten that kind of advance or gotten that book to come to fruition. and here he is an artist doing what he loves. finally have hamlet make good decisions in his life and he can do that. he's now connected directly to his fans and able to do his art. it's not just the zuckerbergs and the drew housens. it's artists showing up in canada doing what they love. >> you're based in brooklyn, you mentioned, and you're a big proponent of the new york start-up scene. >> oh, yes. >> some people in new york have thrown barbs to silicon valley. >> very salty. >> he said i would never want to live in palo alto. how do you feel about silicon valley versus new york in >> i also -- i lived in san francisco for two years. and i lived in the mission. it was wonderful. your mexican food is much better over here. i will grant you that. but i was born, i was made, born in new york. i still have an affinity for the city. i think it makes me sad when i see the new york tech community or any other tech community trying to live in the shadow of
silicon valley. silicon valley is silicon valley. let's not try to be silicon alley or silicon fill in the blank. let's be our own thing. the bay will continue to be this amazing place for tech, but look, there are going to be tech -- i visited tech communities all over the country and arguably all over the world that are finding their own way. because when the cost of starting this stuff is as low as it is, what's going to happen to change the future of agriculture with, you no he, technology? start-ups like ag local. they're just friends of mine, but they started in kansas city. a start-up started by a couple hipsters in skinny jeans whether they're in brooklyn or the mission is not going to solve agricultural problems unless they spend time on a farm. >> but they came to silicon valley to get their legs. so there is a balance. >> i've got to jump in as well and say that we've run out of time. one last quick question. you have an ask me feature that president obama has done.
who has not done one that you wish would? >> easy, jay-z. >> really? >> yeah. i really want jay-z to do an ama. >> jay-z, if you're watching. alexis, and your book is "without their permission." thanks for coming back. >> thank you for having me. >> you're welcome anytime. thank you for being here. we will drone on about uavs when "press here" continues
welcome back to "press here." when you think of drones or uavs, there are two types that quickly come to mind. the first are predators and reapers which rain misery down on america's enemy. the other drone is the backyard hobbyist, the quadry copters and hexicopters. the real sweet spot will be the middle ground between the two, the ones used by farmers or
police agencies or marine scientists if the government allows it. jonathan downey is an m.i.t. grad and former boeing engineer who's building the brains and the operating system of uavs. thanks for being with us. >> thanks for having me. >> i should also point out -- had no idea when we were talking about when you were going to be on the show that alexis is one of your investors. >> yeah. >> and you guys tend to support each other with that. >> yeah, there's a huge community around it. it's a big part of the attraction to being part of this. >> let me tell you my theory here. and that is you're not building the air frame. you're not training the pilots. you aring do the brains of the uav itself, both the operating system and the chips that's kind of the bill gates of drones. because bill gates was in the right spot at the right time. he didn't build commuters. he built the things that the commuters need. >> yeah, i'm glad you made that analogy. it's in the back of our mind as
well. a lot of the autopilots, it's existed for the last 10, 20 years, things like the prosecute predator all have one. they're essentially like a black box. the mainframes of the old computer days. and now we also have these hobbyist solutions, something like the home brew computers. >> the soldered together tough. >> you could have accomplished kind of anything with them, but they're very temperamental and it's difficult to get them to do any one thing particularly well. they're fairly disparate. they're kind of the mainframe that runs one piece of software, you can't run it on a different mainframe. >> you are right in that sweet spot if the government -- because one of the things that happens is, there is no commercial use of uav, for instance, right? >> in the united states the faa said basically no commercial flights of small unmanned aircraft, but it's happening a lot around the rest of the world. >> yeah. there was one in australia this
week. some uav company said they would deliver university textbooks to i think up to 20 locations. >> was that just a way of getting in "the new york times"? >> hard to know. they said we can get it to you within 20 minutes. amazon, you can just step back. these guys are 20 minutes and 3 bucks for the delivery. now, does that pay? i can kind of make a case where it could. i mean, that might be a lost leader to get a attention, but it suggests the world to come. >> how do you get them to the ground? >> you name an open space where you want it delivered, somewhere near you. >> i'd imagine the reason there are regulations here in the united states, you know, there are good reasons for that. there's safety at play. there's security. there's privacy. >> but even if there isn't a commercial business, per se, there could be certainly the cops will want them. the emergency people will want them going through fire areas or earthquake or tornado areas. >> we expect there to be just a huge variety of different applications. >> the news has already flown them through various flood zones p.
>> what do you think is going to be the biggest customer? where's the sweet spot of the sweet spot? >> we think the variety of applications is going to be so huge, it's a big part of the motivation behind there being a platform in the space which doesn't exist right now. but some of the early verticals that we think there's going to be a lot of, you no he, use for are things like agricultural applications including precision agriculture as well as infrastructure inspection so everything from pipelines, bridges, you know, power lines, levees. >> do you suppose people are afraid of them, drones in general, because of the predator? because we've been introduced to drones in a military context, or because of some sort of robotic thing? and an example i give is, you know, they say they don't want news agencies to have drones. we have a helicopter with guys in it. you know, we can send a flying thing over your house. >> so does law enforcement, right? >> right. so do they. it's not a whole lot different. >> i think people hear the word "drone," and they only have one thing that comes to mind right now. it's what they've seen on nbc or cnn. they hear about the predator,
the drone, how it's being used in the military which is essentially one application. i think this technology is similar to gps. gps is a technology that was absolutely developed for the military with military funding. and if you had asked people 15, 20 years ago whether they were willing to all carry around a gps essentially tracking device in their pocket, people would have said absolutely not. that's crazy. and they may have been a little bit afraid of the technology. and of course, now everyone does it because they see the real value that it brings to people's everyday lives. i think that's going to happen with drones. >> tools are neutral. it's the use they're put to. i could say drones to find flood victims. i could say drones to fly drugs -- to fly drugs over the border, you know, it's just the use you put them to. but tell me who's buying from you and how strong these devices are a year or two in terms of lift, camera, range? right now they can't stay up very long. how long will they be able to stay up in two or three years? >> it depends. we have a huge variety of customers. part of our focus on building the hardware and software, the
platform they're built around is to really be able to address a human variety of different applications. everything from atmospheric satellites, aircraft with, you know, 40-meter wingspans all the way down to one and two-pound aircraft that might just be, you know, a camera looking at something. >> so who's buying them? >> some of the companies that we're talking about right now, delta drone in france, for example, they're using them today for open-air mining operation, for agricultural applications and for skperch rescre search and rescue. >> what is it your company has figured out that so many others haven't? you're a start-up. this is a space where big military players are. what did you guys know that others didn't? >> i think our company is fairly unique in the space in that we're kind of equal parts silicon valley dna, you know, start-up guys who are just running at the problem incredibly fast, but we also have a lot of aerospace expertise. half of our team, i think, is pilots. a lot of us have been in the
space for a long time. myself about eight years. and so we're really close to a lot of the technical problems. and then we're able to get close to a lot of the end customers and understand how they're going to be using the technology. >> here's a question. you're close to it technically, you're close to the business, you see where it's going in two or three years. what about this freaks you on up? what do you think is a hazard? >> that's a great question. i mean, i think there's still a lot of technical problems ahead of us. a big question in my mind, of course, is how regulators in the faa are going to respond. >> what should society be talking about? what do you think society should be legitimately talking about? >> safety and reliability is paramount and number one in our mind and i think in a lot of people's minds. this is a technology that's really going to be used for 100 different applications and kind of used in math. they're going to be flying around a lot of different place places. people need to know it's safe and reliable. >> what if everyone was making their own car?
>> we only have 30 seconds left, but let me ask you this. what country, if we are still figuring out the rules, what country's going to be the threat as far as the drones business goes? i don't mean threats from drones. i mean drones business. >> sure. there's cedefinitely a lot of drone business that could be happening right now in the united states. >> and it's not. who is? >> i think europe in general. a lot of it's happening in europe right now. >> jonathan downey, thank you for being here. >> thanks for having me. >> "press here" will be back in just a minute.
welcome back to "press here." colleen taylor is new to us. she's with tech crunch. we've had lina row on a number of times. and now you tell us about yourself. you do television particularly, video. >> yes, tech crunch tv which is online video. yeah, we do our best and we're actually investing a lot into tech crunch tv now.
so maybe you need to watch out a little bit. >> absolutely. you know, what surprises people in print or on the web is how much work television is. it's not better. it's not smarter necessarily or ever. but it's a lot of work. >> it's true. it's true. and i don't think that we'll be able to do the sort of live thing that we have, you know, here with the big investment from television, but there are a lot of really great stories that i think can be told best by video. demos such as the drone that -- the drone folks we were just talking to here, tech crunch can do a better job of covering those in short snippets. we're really focusing a lot on that. >> and quentin hardy, thank you for being with us. >> good to be here. >> what are we looking forward to what's ahead with "the new york times"? >> i'm fascinated with the ways the internet is moving out into the physical world. ge is putting 12,000 sensors on every turbine. it's the internet of things, but there's so many other ways they're doing this. mondsanto just bought this data
company. they talked seriously of taking a billion acres and putting it arnold the world. >> patrolling it with drones. >> if you will, sure, why not? precision irrigation. >> quentin hardy, colleen taylor, thanks for being with us this morning. that's our show for this week. my thanks to my guests. the website dig came up in conversation. we do have a dig, an interview with their former ceo on our website. i'm scott mcgrew. thank you for making us part of your sunday morning.
for continuing coverage on the b.a.r.t. strike, stay with nbc bay area. hello and welcome to "comunidad del ville." today a local artist with some amazing work is here in our studio. we want to make sure that you stay tuned to are that. plus, the buy national health week on your "comunidad del ville." ♪ we begin today with that buy national health week. with me here are sara cody, new santa clara county public health officer and with the mexican consulate of san jose. welcome to the show. >> thank you. >> congratulations on being the new health officer in santa clara county. >> thank you so much. >> and so you would know about th