Casey Neistat: Vlogger & YouTube Pioneer on Social Media, and the Quest for Authenticity – This Week in Startups with Jason Calacanis

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Key Takeaways

  • The ability to set aside long periods of focus is super important for creators
    • It’s nearly impossible to stop a creative task and pick back up in the same flow state where you left off
  • Folding smartphones/tablets will probably replace the need for laptops
    • Just think what Apple will do with folding screens…
  • “If you don’t know what you want to do in life, spend as much time as you can doing something you absolutely f*cking hate”
  • It’s cliche, but if you want something bad enough – you can accomplish it
    • You need to have the attitude – “I may never achieve the level of success that I’m fantasizing about, but I sure as f*ck will die before I give up trying”
  • The average American watches 5 hours of TV a day
    • If you got rid of TV, you’d gain back 1800 hours per year
  • Realize that if you’re born in America, have access to the internet/an education, have loving parents – you are LUCKY AS HELL
    • Make something of your life
  • A lesson in filmmaking – “Embrace your limitations. Don’t think of them as obstructions, think of them as opportunities.”

Intro

  • Casey Neistat (T: @CaseyNeistat IG: @caseyneistat) is a famed YouTuber with over 11 million subscribers
    • He and his wife also have a podcast
    • Casey is also the founder of 368, a creative studio in NYC
  • Jason first discovered Casey after watching this video of him snowboarding in Manhattan

The History of YouTube

  • It was founded in 2004 
  • It was sold to Google for $1.6 billion 
    • Jason calls it “the worst sale in the history of Silicon Valley”
      • YouTube is worth $250-500 billion today
      • Casey argues that Instagram was also a pretty bad sale (they sold to Facebook for $1 billion)
        • Jason thinks Instagram could totally have grown to where they are today without Facebook’s help

A Little Bit About Casey

  • “I always feel like you have authenticity and you do what you do because you truly find it interesting or rewarding, as opposed to other YouTubers who just seem thirsty and are trying to increase their subscriber count. I get the sense you don’t give a f*ck. You’re doing your art.” – Jason
    • To get an idea of what Jason means, check out this “ad” Casey made for Listerine (it didn’t go over well with them)
  • Casey didn’t monetize his videos until he surpassed 100 million views
    • “I was able to monetize my work in other ways, YouTube was sort of this sacred thing for me”
  • When Casey started daily vlogging, his subscriber count really started taking off
  • “I don’t watch YouTube”
    • Casey says he prefers to watch (when he has time…rarely) Netflix, or something like Game of Thrones

Why YouTube and Vlogs Are So Popular

  • “Society is so inundated with media these days”
    • “We spend the vast majority of our days in front of screens”
    • “There’s so much bullshit in the world of media – marketing, advertising, and people just trying to get you to pay attention to their stuff…we sort of yearn for a sense of something that’s real or true”
      • So when someone picks up a camera and starts truthfully talking – we latch on
        • “There’s no questioning the source of the voice and I think that’s a really special thing”

The Importance of Focus as a Creator

  • If you’re a ditch digger/construction worker – you can come and go as you please
    • If you stop for a break, you can pick right back up where you left off
    • “In the world of creativity, whether you’re writing or making videos or painting, it’s so hard to get to that place of focus where there’s no path ahead”
      • In a sense – you have no idea how big the “ditch” is even supposed to be
      • It’s nearly impossible to stop/start a creative task and pick back up in the same flow state where you left off

Protect Your Time

  • Casey says he no longer takes meetings or phone calls – this allows him more time for his creative endeavors 
    • ALL notifications are turned off on his phone – even calls
  • “I don’t like to be around people, I don’t go out after dark, and I’m home every day by 5:30-6”
    • “I get really upset and offended when people ask me out for a dinner meeting or drinks…how dare you, that is MY time”
    • “Of all the cool things I’m fortunate enough to be invited to, at the end of the day it’s just not as great for me as sitting home alone on the carpet with my kids or staring at the wall doing nothing”
  • Casey says “no” to a lot of speaking engagements, particularly if they want to have a meet/greet or dinner afterwards
    • “I’m very comfortable on a stage…my heart rate doesn’t really increase, even in front of thousands of people, I’m as calm as a cucumber, but the minute it’s over and people start to get close to me….I panic”

The Annoyances of Fame

  • Casey’s office is pretty public (it’s at 368), so people will frequently wait outside for pictures or to say hi
    • This doesn’t really bother him
    • “But I get upset when people have expectations, like when someone grabs me and says, ‘Can I just have 5 minutes of your time.’ My response is usually, ‘Are you f*cking crazy? 5 minutes!!??’ I don’t know you and you expect 5 minutes…that’s a lot to ask of anyone.”
  • What bugs Casey most?
    • When he’s with his family and a grown man insists on a picture
      • “I never take pictures when my kids are with me, especially when I’m with my older daughter (age 3) because I just don’t know the impact that’ll have on her…me taking 30 seconds away from her to give to a stranger is really a lot. In aggregate, what does that do to her?”
  • After Casey’s oldest daughter turned 1, he stopped including her in any of his videos for privacy purposes

Talking Tech and Social Media

  • Jason says he has a “heavy Amazon finger”
  • The Samsung Galaxy Fold
    • Check out this video poking fun at Casey’s review of the Galaxy Fold
    • “Folding screens are going to change everything”
      • Casey thinks folding smartphones/tablets will eventually replace laptops
    • “Generation 1 of anything is more of a proof of concept than anything else”
      • So it’s probably best to avoiding going out and spending ~$2k on a Galaxy Fold – it’s promising, but perhaps wait until the 2nd or 3rd version
      • “Imagine where we’ll be in 3 years”
    • Just think what Apple will do with folding screens
    • Casey is most excited about being able to shoot/edit/post movies all from the same device
  • Casey always carries 2 phones – an iPhone and his Android of choice
  • Casey had to delete all the social media apps from his phone
    • “Being forced to look at social media on a laptop meant that I only interacted with it once or twice a day”
    • “Social media kills art” – Jason 
  • Casey doesn’t read his DMs on Twitter
  • Casey says he slept on the street to buy the first ever iPhone

Casey’s Background

  • He grew up in southeastern Connecticut and didn’t finish high school
  • His dad was a used restaurant supply salesman
    • Now, he owns a coffee shop
  • Casey left home when he was 15
    • “I never went back and never took a penny from my parents”
      • Where’d he go? – He moved to Virginia to stay with his brother who was there for college
    • At 16, he got his girlfriend pregnant
  • Casey eventually moved back to Conn. to live in a trailer park close to his parents
    • He worked as a dishwasher at the time (making $8/hour) (he did this at 2 restaurants working 8-16 hrs./day)
      • Some advice – “If you don’t know what you want to do in life, spend as much time as you can doing something you absolutely f*cking hate”

You Can Accomplish Anything if You Want it Bad Enough

  • “I believe you can accomplish whatever you want in life, but you can’t want whatever you want in life”
    • There’s no faking it – you can’t manufacture motivation
    • If you actually want something in life – you can get it, you just have to put in the work
  • You need to have the attitude – “I may never achieve the level of success that I’m fantasizing about, but I sure as f*ck will die before I give up trying”
    • But not everyone has this level of “want”
      • Too many people choose the path of comfort
  • Remember – the average American is watching 5 hours of TV a day
    • If you got rid of TV, you’d gain back 1800 hours/year
  • Realize that if you’re born in America, have access to the internet/an education, have loving parents – you are LUCKY AS HELL
    • Make something of your life

A Lesson in Filmmaking

  • “Embrace your limitations. Don’t think of them as obstructions, think of them as opportunities.”
  • Casey’s favorite movie of all time is called The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp – the movie really does a good job of the above
    • It was made in 1943 in Britain (during the peak of the war)
    • “Limited resources make great art” – Jason

368

  • This is Casey’s media company
    • They have a large space located in downtown Manhattan aimed to be a “lighthouse for the creative community”
    • They do gaming events, have a podcasting space (where this episode was recorded), host creator events etc.

Random

  • PewDiePie has nearly 100 million subscribers on YouTube
    • What impresses Casey most is how well he’s maintained his relevance for the over the last decade
    • He busts his ass though – he posts every day
  • Casey is a big fan of David Dobrik‘s videos (he’s only 22)
  • Film has changed so much over the last 20 years
    • Casey used to edit videos using iMovie 1 with a 10 GB hard drive (it could only handle 25 min. of video before he had to export to tape)
    • Now you can make a movie with your phone and share it with the world with just a few clicks
      • “Every person has a device on them that can shoot ultra-high quality video. They can use that same device to edit and distribute the video to everyone on planet earth.”
  • China blocks YouTube
  • Check out the movie Pi if you haven’t seen it
  • Jason highly recommends The Master
  • Neither Casey or Jason were fans of Transformers 2
  • YouTube doesn’t let you run ads on your videos unless you have 1,000 subscribers
    • If they didn’t have this rule, it’d be very easy for a troll farm to make thousands of accounts/day, steal videos, and post them for advertising money
  • Jason thinks Casey should create his own video-making platform (he’d even fund him)
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