My First Million Podcast Art Cover

Kevin Rose: His $100M/Year Watch Blog, Money From Digg.com, & Web3 Business | My First Million with Shaan Puri & Sam Parr (#382)

Key Takeaways

  • Because Kevin Rose was a college dropout, he was hesitant to ask questions out of fear of embarrassment
  • There is no hard set number of months to determine when to move on from a project— decisions are made based on the market size or concept behind the project
    • For Kevin, starting a business is driven by personal motivation, not money
  • The playbook that Hodinkee nailed so well was that they took editorial seriously. They hired a fantastic team of writers
    • Find people with natural organic built-in love for the topics they write about. In this case, it was about horology, for all things mechanical watches
    • It doesn’t matter if they are B+ writers as long as they have the technical knowledge
    • That’s a lot easier to fix because you get them to put that technical information out in draft form, and then you apply an editorial layer over the top of it 
  • Once your readers trust you, you can extend commerce in a meaningful way. Trust is so essential
  • According to Kevin, maximalism is a one-way ticket into crazy town
    • If it’s not pure Web3, it’s not right?
    • Decentralization maximalism is the real danger of Web3
    • For Kevin, the hybrid approach makes more sense
  • “It’s okay to use a web to log in; it’s okay to use your email and password with two-factor authentication. We don’t have to throw away a lot of the fantastic technology that’s been built in Web2.”Kevin Rose
  • If you have money that’s sitting around, buy an I bond
    • It’s earning over 9% is just insane; that’s the most no-brainer scenario for someone that’s listening to this podcast

Intro

  • Kevin Rose (@kevinrose) is an internet O. G. He co-created Digg in 2004, the fasting app ZERO, and was a seed investor in Twitter and a bunch of other stuff. Recently, Kevin launched an NFT project called Moonbirds. He is a big fan of NFTs and Web3 tech
    • In this episode of the My First Million podcast, Kevin Rose talks about the beginnings of his watch blog (Hodinkee), the psychological effects of hustle culture, decentralization maximalism, and practical NFT use cases 
  • Host – Shaan Puri (@ShaanVP) and Sam Parr (@theSamParr

Kevin’s Background

  • Kevin’s career path looks very random
    • Venture investments, angel investing, back-to-venture investing, niche communities (apps for mediation and fasting), podcasts, etc.
  • Shaan and Sam need clarification. Is there a method to the madness?
    • There is no method. Kevin always had a passion for tinkering and play
    • He doesn’t want to sit on the sidelines; he is willing to take risks and build something that doesn’t exist
    • 90% of the time, he fails, but there are a few ideas that become pretty big

Meeting Mark Zuckerberg Early in His Career

  • Kevin Rose was 21 years old when he met Mark Zuckerberg
  • He was surprised by the level of maturity, and knowledge Mark had
  • Kevin discusses the fear of being taken seriously as an entrepreneur and the importance of being able to admit when one does not know something
  • Because Kevin was a college dropout, he was hesitant to ask questions out of fear of embarrassment
  • Mark was asked many pointed questions and was open and curious. He didn’t care if he didn’t know something. He was determined to get to the bottom of it right away

When to Move On From a Project or Idea

  • There is no hard set number of months to determine when to move on from a project
    • Decisions to move on are often based on the market size or concept behind the project
  • Kevin’s fasting app (Zero) sat at ten thousand users for the first eight months
    • Fasting apps have become more popular and are now a household thing
    • That’s when it exploded to million plus monthly active people
    • If the market is not mature enough, put the app into maintenance mode 
  • In 2014, he created an app called Tiny, which was a fun little photo-sharing app
    • It was designed to make tiny photos and reduce the anxiety of posting selfies
    • It caught fire immediately, and they had hundreds of thousands of downloads in the first week, and then it just died off
    • That one he shut down pretty quickly because there was no depth to it (it was a feature, not an actual product)
  • What projects are the most fun for Kevin?
    • For Kevin, starting a business is driven by personal motivation, not money
    • As long as it’s something that he is naturally drawn to, he is always having a good time
  • More recently, he has gotten into the art and NFT and the world of cryptocurrency
    • There is so much to be built in the world of crypto
    • It’s not about creating yet another app and competing on CAC in the app store

Beginnings of Hodinkee

  • For Kevin, Watchwille was a personal passion project (he got into watches because of his dad)
  • Watchville was an aggregator that brought together different sources so that people could read about horology on their mobile phone
    • Back then, most of the watch sites didn’t have mobile versions of their site
    • Kevin made it all very readable with push notifications, and it just started growing 
    • Some of the most prominent collectors were now using the product
  • Soon after, he and Ben (Hodinkee) merged the two companies
    • Kevin moved to New York and became the CEO, and then they turned on e-commerce and started selling and creating partnerships with the big watch brands 
  • The playbook that Hodinkee nailed so well was that they took editorial seriously. They hired a fantastic team of writers
    • Find people with natural organic built-in love for the topics they write about. In this case, it was about horology, for all things mechanical watches
    • It doesn’t matter if they are B+ writers as long as they have the technical knowledge
    • That’s a lot easier to fix because you get them to put that technical information out in draft form, and then you apply an editorial layer over the top of it 
    • Then you have copy editors that come in and stitch together a better, more cohesive story before you publish it out to the world
  • Kevin had a deep understanding of the world of watches—the mechanics of the internals of the watches, all about the different movements and escape mints, etc.
    • It was a real geek’s blog with technical hardcore writing— that’s how they got the trust of their readers
    • Once your readers trust you, you can extend commerce in a meaningful way. Trust is so essential

What Gets Kevin Excited?

  • For Kevin, new ideas and working with creative people is the most potent source of fuel 
  • When he gets together with an artist or a fellow entrepreneur, it doesn’t have to be someone that has created something big 
    • Instead, it’s someone that has wild ideas that are potentially just new to him, new ways of looking at the world
  • A lot of entrepreneurs are opportunistic, iterative entrepreneurs
    • They see something rough around the edges, sand it down, make it easier for consumers and launch a business, and they have great success
  • Kevin likes the ones that are thinking about entirely new verticals, flipping something completely on its head in new and creative ways
    • Those are his favorite startups to invest in, those crazy or world-changing entrepreneurs 

How Constant Hustle and Grind Lead to Anxiety

  • The last 4 to 5 years of his life have been spent trying to master his mind
    • If you can’t come to grips with your mind, it’s a horrible place to be
    • As a young entrepreneur, Kevin was always hustling 
    • For Kevin, hustling created a level of anxiety that was not good for him 
    • That’s one of the reasons why he made Oak, the meditation app 
    • It was just a natural forcing function to take some of that stuff more seriously
  • “I just want to be able to be able to sit and not have to have my mind be always on, and that’s kind of been my goal, and it’s something I’m still, I’m still working on.” Kevin Rose

Let the Humans Die. But Dogs Live Forever

  • Kevin has been interested in a drug called Rapamycin for longevity
    • Rapamycin has been proven to extend life in animals like mice and rats
  • Kevin and Jack Dorsey and Brian from Coinbase and a few others have been putting money into funding studies at the University of Washington to prove this out in dogs and canines and then eventually moving into human trials
  • He is trying some of these experimental things, not because he wants to live forever but because he is an older dad (he had his first kid at 40)
    • He would like to be around a little bit longer for them
  • However, if it just worked for dogs, that would be fantastic
    • Forget humans. If he could have his dog live for an additional five years, it would be a big win

Excitement About Artificial Intelligence

  • It’s obvious that AI in the next five years is going to change everything
  • “I have no doubt in the next five years we’ll see a New York Times bestseller that was 90% written by AI, so there’s just so much interest and with the interest and excitement flows the engineering talent.”Kevin Rose
  • He is looking for a lot of investments in that particular sector and is very bullish on it 
  • He believes some great businesses are going to be built there
  • Adobe purchased Sigma; it was a crazy acquisition
  • The speed at which we can develop and deploy new ideas is going to be an order of magnitude better than it is today

The Decentralization of Everything (Web3 Debate)

  • Sam believes Web3 is basically some circular economy of a bunch of people making products to serve an industry/movement that has yet to figure out what they are doing
    • He thinks Web 3 people are egotistical and elitists, saying things like “Web 2 is old” and “this has to be decentralized.”
    • Just because you’re putting Web3 in front of something doesn’t mean that there’s actually a problem there
    • According to Sam, much time and energy is wasted by working on something that is like a circle jerk that doesn’t solve a problem better than the Web2
    • Sam doesn’t want everything decentralized, and they are too dogmatic
  • Kevin feels Sam’s frustration and agrees that decentralization without structural advantage is not a good idea
    • “It’s okay to use a web to log in; it’s okay to use your email and password with two-factor authentication. We don’t have to throw away a lot of the fantastic technology that’s been built in Web2.”Kevin Rose
  • Decentralization Maximalism– decentralization is the best approach in every aspect of one’s lifestyle
    • According to Kevin, maximalism is a one-way ticket into crazy town
    • If it’s not pure Web3, it’s not right?
    • Decentralization maximalism is the real danger of Web3
    • For Kevin, the hybrid approach makes more sense
    • There are examples like Coinbase—a centralized organization that holds and keeps decentralized currency

Practical NFT use cases beyond digital artworks

  • The art one is easy—you can pull from real-time data to display art in very unique, fun, and creative ways
    • NFTs provide provenance and scarcity and create opportunities for art
    • You can’t create duplicates because it’s all recorded on the blockchain
    • NFTs are a new vertical for art fine; they are an inevitable part of the future of art
  • Ensuring the authenticity of products
    • Kevin is also working with a well-known wine producer  
    • It’s a tricky business because there are forgeries, there are fake labels 
    • They’re putting holograms on the side of them and chips inside of the labels so that they can be scanned to prove that they’re authentic  
  • Gaming industry
    • NFTs can be a solution for an easier time trading in games
    • Either a game that accepts items from a different game or recouping some of your investment if you are done with the game
    • Nowadays, if you spend money to buy in-game items, you can’t resell or recoup any of that value

Kevin’s Portfolio

  • For the crypto side of things: 50% NFTs and 50% digital assets
  • If you have money that’s sitting around, buy an I bond
    • It’s earning over 9% is just insane; that’s the most no-brainer scenario for someone that’s listening to this podcast
  • “You’re getting the full faith of the U. S. Government as the backer, and it’s over 9%, and you can do 10,000 for yourself and 10,000 for your spouse, which is amazing.”Kevin Rose
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