September 2007 Archives
September 14, 2007
This Movable Type blog started in 2002 when, having recently moved on from Red Herring, I wanted to publish on my own and learn a new medium. The decade I spent working on Red Herring, from 1992 to 2002, was phenomenal. As the magazine chronicling the entrepreneurialism of Silicon Valley and beyond we truly had a passion for what we were doing and a sense of deep purpose. We weren't just publishing a magazine, we were helping people launch ideas and build great companies - companies that changed the world - and so we believed we were changing the world too. It wasn't a company, it was a mission. And as Tony, Zack and I were entrepreneurs by practice and by inclination, we built the magazine that WE wanted to read.
Sadly, as things do, the Herring era came to an end -- yet another victim of the tornado that swept the Valley in the dawning of the new millennium, like so many we had covered. I knew I needed a new professional passion, but I doubted I would ever match what we had at Red Herring.
I turned to blogging.
It seemed to me at the time, and it seems to me know, that we are in the midst of a period of massive positive, if tumultuous and sometime painful, change and growth -- impossible to grok completely from up close, but inevitably obvious centuries from now: A new flourishing of the individual, a technological revolution, an explosion of creativity, new heights for freedom and self expression, with democracies finally outnumbering autocracies, with liberty outpacing oppression. In short, a Renaissance - but a Renaissance of the 21st century: r21. It was interesting thing to write about, so I started doing my best.
I asked around for what technology to use and a friend told me that all of the people in the know were using this thing called Movable Type. That was good enough for me. It was a major project getting Red Herring to and off the presses. One of my first jobs was learning how to get information into Quark and out to files, figuring out how to create films from those files, plates from those films, and magazines from those plates (alas our presses didn't use movable type). An amazing and not inexpensive process that seemed at the time completely streamlined compared to the printing process that had powered information revolutions in centuries past. While it took us almost a year to get up and running with Red Herring, with Movable Type I was publishing in hours. Incredible.
Through using the technology, and then participating in the industry when we started Rojo - built to help people READ all of these new blogs - I came to know Six Apart in a sense. But it wasn't until just a year ago that I really got to know the place through a twist of fate becoming the GM of Movable Type, upon Six Apart's acquisition of Rojo.
What great people! I was instantly impressed by the folks at this company. Smart. Dedicated. Focused. Passionate. Creative. Six Apart is both bigger and smaller than many think. It is well beyond the early stage start up that fights to turn a vision into a reality, but for a company that has such an impact on the world it is still only 150 people. And how it changes the world. Over 20 million people blog with the tools that Six Apart provides. And while we can only prove over 40 million people read those blogs in a month, I believe the true number is 2 to 3 times that. When you look around at the amazing expression and diversity of LiveJournal and the relationships built there, at the powerful ideas and passionate discussions powered by TypePad, the friendships formed and extended on Vox, and of course the countless sites powered by Movable Type, from Iran to Japan, it is staggering to contemplate. Collectively these products amplify the voices of some of the world's most powerful people and companies, but even more compelling is how it has given power to the powerless.
I spent some time this week with China's most popular blogger who has been using Movable Type for 5 years. I had met him several years ago when he told me that he never blogged about politics nor did anyone else in China by and large. When I asked him this week if that were still the case, he said no - he and countless others have started blogging about politics in China. Why? The Chinese government had cracked down on bloggers, shutting down millions of blogs and forcing others to register, and this has been the bloggers' response.
Six Apart matters. It matters to millions upon millions of people who use it to communicate - about life, works, ideas, politics, sports, health, economics - about virtually every area of significant human endeavor. When our descendants look back at this time, as we today look back at the Renaissance and the other eras that brought advancements to human civilization powered by amazing new technologies, this will be one of the things that is studied. This company matters.
Today I have the privilege of being named Chairman and CEO of Six Apart, Ltd. The opportunity to lead this icon of the Internet is both exciting and humbling. I am grateful to many people. To Barak Berkowitz, who brought me into the company and supported me as his successor when he resigned, and the board that has but their trust in me. To Ben and Mena Trott who had the vision and drive to create this enterprise -- as we built the magazine we wanted to read, they built the platform they wanted to use, and it shows. To the incomparable Anil Dash who has kept the passion alive since being the first employee. To Aaron Emigh, who helped me bring Rojo to Six Apart. To the folks I have had fun working with every day, Andrew Anker, Michael Sippey, Marissa Levinson, Mark Simmons, Dave Tokheim, Nob Seki, Olivier Creiche, and many more, who I so desperately want to acknowledge individually but there are just too many of them!, who I have the honor and great opportunity continue to work with to build this company into what is deserves to be. I think about what I owe my family, my friends, my past business partners and colleagues, who have influenced and supported me and I'm grateful.
I didn't think I'd find something I'd be as passionate about as I was at Red Herring, but I've been lucky again. OK, enough of that. I better get back to work!