My pal Ted Leonsis (finally) started a blog today!
When we started Weblogs, Inc. I thought of two friends who were built for blogging: Mark Cuban and Ted Leonsis. Cuban started immediatly, but Ted didn’t have the bandwidth at the time.
Now, I’m not sure of this, but I’m thinking Ted might be the most senior executive in the Internet industry blogging. Anyway, he’s brilliant and he’s blunt—so keep an eye on this blog.
OK, on to my story about how I met Ted.
Back in 1994 or 1995 I snuck my way into an AOL information partners conference in D.C. and watched Ted Leonsis give a speech about the future of content on the Internet. At that point AOL was a dialup business and they gave a percentage of their hourly dialup fees ($4.95 an hour at the time, I think) to the content providers, who had to suddenly deal with the fact that AOL was about to–gulp–go flat rate! The providers were now on their own and had to make money off advertising or subscriptions–it was the official start of the Internet industry. Ted’s Greenhouse program created brands like Motley Fool and iVillage, among dozens of others.
My career in tech was sealed at that conference. I couldn’t stop thinking about how to use the Internet as a publishing platform, and over ten years later I’m still thinking about it.
Ted spoke at the first conference I ever hosted, called “Meet the Alley” in 1997. We hosted it at Pseudo.com’s loft and the air conditioner broke half an hour before the event. It was 100 degrees outside and with all the bodies packing the loft it was getting much hotter inside.
I was in a panic, and he told me not to worry and that “us Greeks needed to stick together.” I calmed down and introduced him. Ted gave the keynote of a lifetime as everyone sat there drenched in sweat. No one complained about the heat and the event was a huge success. Those events made my career, and Ted was one of the first guys to believe in me–even when I had no idea what I was doing.
Truth be told, Weblogs, Inc. was modeled after two projects: AOL’s Green House and About.com. I always tell folks that Weblogs, Inc. is 40% Ted Leonsis, 40% Scott Kurnit and 20% us.
When we were in the process of closing the Weblogs, Inc. deal with AOL I was in a meeting with a dozen or so baby-faced AOL business and legal executives. The average age of folks in the room was probably 25–Brian and I were the oldest guys in the room.
Someone mentioned Ted, and I brought up his famous “the Internet will be Microsoft’s Vietnam” speech.
The AOLers all looked at me with these puzzled looks.
“You guys don’t know the most famous speech ever given in the history of the Internet industry?!?!?” They shook their heads and I thought to myself “dang, these guys don’t even know they’re working for Internet royalty.”
I told them the story and they were blown away: “Ted said that?! Noooooo…. no way.”
Things are about to get very interesting (again).