Friday, March 21st, Jeff Dachis spoke to the Grad & Undergrad Digital Media students at St. Edward’s in Austin about his adventures through the transformation of the digital landscape. I have included a link to a podcast where you can listen, and for a summary and my thoughts, written this here blog! For a quick introduction, you should know that just recently, Jeff Dachis’ fourth company, the Dachis Group, became part of the world’s leading Social Experience Management platform through a sale of the company to Sprinklr. Today he is pumped to start a new business as he extracts value from friction he sees today (38:20). But before we look to the future, Dachis reflected on his life’s journey.
He began with his high school days; days filled with a thirst and hunger for outlets to express his ideas. He was involved in every form of the expression of ideas, including all of the school’s dramas, yearbook committee, and radio. This led him to leave Minneapolis, Minnesota to study classical ballet at Purchase College in New York. Dachis humorously explains he was “good enough to do it, and bad enough to do it never again,” at which point we all laughed. He also mentions that during this time, all of the telecommunications and media outlets were fragmented in terms of production, distribution, and monetization: TV came over airwaves, magazines via mail, newspapers at your front door, etc.
Upon graduation, Jeff Dachis worked for his brother in the gambling industry, at a record company, and as a night-shift for a magazine production and distribution company. It wasn’t until he ran into his childhood friend, Craig Kanarick, that his first million-dollar idea was sparked. Craig invited him to his apartment and pulled up a file located at MIT using a ‘web-browser’. Dachis then had his aha moment, saying something like “This is it, man. THIS IS IT. This is going to transform society as we know it to be” and it was! And immediately a business partnership began, where Craig got all the money until he thought Jeff was worth half of the revenue. It exists today as Razorfish. This company revolutionized how the Internet was used as it created the first banner ad for AT&T which ran on HotWired (Wired today), as well as the first web animation ever, a blue ball that bounced around, which caused the company’s servers to crash. This shot both Craig and Jeff to the top, they had celebrities wanting to swing by their places, were on the cover of magazines, and were on CNBC every week!
Sadly, this good thing did not last. The Dot-com crash took Razorfish down from $108/share in late 2000 to $1.08/share at the end of the year. “It felt so unfair… because in a short period of time… everything was wiped out…Everybody thought it sucked.” And it was during this time Jeff and Craig were the piñata for what everybody lost from the bust. They received death threats, their property was vandalized, and clients and employees left in droves. In late 2001, they decided to separate the personalities of Jeff and Craig with the company. Today it is the dominant leader in digital marketing solutions globally.
Around 2001, the next wave of the internet came. These pioneers included – Google’s AdSense and AdWords efforts in monetizing the Internet, Bloggr allowing everyone to be a published writer, Katrina Faith’s introduction of Flickr, and finally, Chad Dourle’s YouTube. These companies started to capitalize on what Dachis terms the ‘democratization of the tools of self expression‘. Their entrepreneurial efforts allows people to express their ideas for free, worldwide! What I found interesting is throughout history, the power of the sharing of the word was first reserved for the Bible through the Gutenberg Press, and then more recently by millionaires who could own magazines and newspapers to share the news and ideas they deemed important to the masses. These businesses are truly revolutionary in that they took the voice from a mass communications to today’s mass of communicators.
Even more changes came by 2007 with Apple’s gen one iPhone. This product was usercentric in that it did not come with only prepackaged apps by the carrier, but from developers of all walks. The apps developed further introduced tools to democratize self expression. When he mentioned that we are “in the largest shift in the communication landscape in the history of mankind,” my mind was actually blown. Sure, I had noticed that things have drastically changed, but I had not realized that we are in a technology revolution that will go down in history!
Being a college student, his theory of jobs being different also caught my interest. Dachis mentions that everything will soon have sensors, and in having so, Big Data will be evermore important. This will become reality as sensors are getting cheaper, and bandwidth more plentiful (as mentioned in my Google Fiber post), that all of the data will introduce new business ideas and opportunities for us, graduates. Even more radical is his assumption that industries are going to transform into things we cannot today fathom.
It is with that, that I leave you with a message. We have the capacity to direct what the next shift will be. Where do you see technology taking us? I encourage you to listen to the very end, as Dachis shares his outlook on life: If he can wake up happy, with a satisfied soul, then the money comes.