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4.20.21   3:29 PM

Most people could not have predicted the rise of TikTok as a launchpad for some of the world’s biggest influencers, such as Charli D’Amelio, a dancer now with over 100 million followers, or Addison Rae, a dancer and singer with nearly 80 million followers. But Ariadna Jacob did.

Jacob, founder and CEO of Influences, is a 37-year-old former digital marketer who was born in Mexico City, raised in the U.S., and became fascinated with social media platforms from their earliest beginnings. A natural networker with a skill for spotting “shiny, new" opportunities, she recognized the potential mass appeal of amateur performers on the short-form video app long before brands and big talent agencies did.

More recently, as the app and its top stars exploded in popularity, Jacob’s business did, too. But then problems started to develop. A group of “collab houses” she either had a stake in or managed — posh L.A. mansions where late-teen and early-20-something influencers could live and create content together — became nests of rebellion during the pandemic. Brands stopped paying on time, and influencers wanted out of their contracts.

Eventually, the conflicts made their way into a New York Times article, which raised damning allegations of Jacob exploiting clients. Jacob felt “stuck between a rock and a hard place,” unable to fully respond to the claims, or offer evidence to refute them, because she was bound by non-disclosure agreements. Influencers and brands abandoned her; her business was left in tatters.

But from the ashes of that mess, Jacob, also known as “Ari," is rising again. She has partnered with other seasoned talent marketers and is developing an app that would be an “Uber for influencers,” resembling an “Ari in your pocket,” she explained. Targeting the tens of millions of potential rising influencer stars, it would democratize access to basic resources and services that traditional agencies and management companies are only able to supply to a select few. Here is more about her story and what she has been up to.

NOTE: Journalists at other media outlets have asserted that Jacob's company previously worked with Addison Rae and Charli D'Amelio but did not "manage" them. Neither those influencers nor their representatives responded to requests from The Business of Business seeking clarification on their past relationships with Jacob. Screenshots provided by Jacob showed that both influencers had previously used the domain of her company, Influences, for their professional email addresses. 

Gary Vaynerchuk did not respond to a request for comment.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

  • The road to becoming an influencer agent


    Business of Business: How did you come to develop such a passion for the influencer economy?

    Ariadna Jacob: So, basically, I wanted to be an entrepreneur since I was a little kid. I was born in Mexico City, and my dad actually passed away when I was just like two years old, and my mom met an American guy and got married to him. And we moved to United States. And he adopted me. So he was a sales guy for a big corporation. My room was right next to my dad's office. So I always used to see my dad. Yeah, I just looked up to my stepdad. But he was my dad, you know.

    I was extremely creative. I was a storyteller. And I taught myself HTML code, and Dreamweaver, and Photoshop, Windows Movie Maker to edit videos, around 1999. And at that point, there was very little technology. You know, there wasn't much technology that existed to do the things young people can do now. YouTube wasn't even invented until 2005. But I was making and editing videos in 2001. So I always dreamed of being a creator. How that gave me a passion for the influencer economy is that I went to San Diego State and kind of did all this stuff as a hobby. And when I was a junior, I went to a digital marketing class. And basically, I was about to flunk out.

    The teacher said, “You never come to class.” And you know, [I had] this is really bad ADHD. And so I said, “Listen, I love your class, but I already know how to do this stuff. And I get really bored.” [The professor said] “Okay, I'll make you deal if you come into class every time and build a website, at the end of the semester, I'll give you a grade based on that.” So I built this kind of like a Yelp for hospitality venues, and nightlife and all that. And by the end of the semester, I ended up getting an ‘A.” I built this amazing platform that I wanted to, you know, basically take and make my own company.

    So I dropped out of college and started my own company, it was just this company, and my dad cut me off financially. And he said, “it's great that you want to start your own company, but you can do it on your own dollar.”

    So I think from that age, I like really realized how important it is to have mentors that can help you because at that point, I mean, even if my parents wanted to help me, they didn't really know which direction to take…Okay, your kid wants to do something in social media.”  Like it was such a new [thing], this is like still like MySpace days.

    “I guess I just saw myself in a lot of the new creators these days.”

    And so, at that point, my company worked with venues and helped them manage their MySpace accounts. So this is like really early stuff. And so I guess I just saw myself in a lot of a lot of the new creators these days, I thought, “Gosh, they're, they're basically who I was 20 years ago, or 15 years ago.” And imagine if I could give them those 15-20 years of experience, and, and catapult them to another level, because very few people that had that type of experience that I had.

    Additionally, when I lived in San Diego, I worked in the entertainment space, I opened up entertainment venues, I dealt with all the celebrities that came into town, the sports people, the hedge fund managers, you know, people with a lot of wealth. I learned how to become friends with them, and also figure out how I could be useful to them. I remember one time the Situation from Jersey Shore came in, I ended up building their website. So it was just things like that. I really saw myself in the creators and thought maybe I had a special niche.

    Cool. How did Influences get started?

    In 2009, I had this idea to build an app that would connect people with ideas and inspire them and I I'd met Gary Vee [Vaynerchuk] at a book signing in San Diego. And I basically like stalked him down. And he agreed to have coffee with me. And I told him my whole idea. Gary was like, “You know, I don't invest in this early of a startup, but what I would suggest you do is go to startup competitions, you know, build an MVP [minimum viable product].” 

    So I started really, like, geeking out on all this stuff. And I also knew how to sort of, you know, rig things like, for example, a mock up of an app using Photoshop and video, things like that. So he basically just encouraged me to keep going, and he was like, “I believe in you.” And that was the first time anybody who I felt knew what they were doing in this space believed in me.

    And so in 2013, I bought I wanted to buy, but it was going for like half a million dollars. This is like back in 2013. So I'm like, “influences is available.” For one thing, it was like $4,000 or $5,000. And I had a friend in real estate. I explained to him like, “Hey, if this all is worth nothing, at least we'll own this piece of real estate will be worth more later.” He's like, “Okay, cool, we'll get it for you.” And that's how it all started. But it really pivoted in 2017 when I was working with Canelo Alvarez, the boxer, I was doing all his digital and social and, and I came up to L.A. and I met my friend who was living with French Montana at the time. And he said, “You know, French could use help with his Instagram.”

    So I started working and you know, I had contacts from my entertainment life and so, but once I started working with these big celebrities, I met the younger people that were like YouTubers, like Logan Paul and Amanda Cerny and King Bach. At that point, people didn't realize how things were about to explode. I mean, this is like, I think Vine was still going on.

    So yeah, so that's kind of how the idea for Influences started. And then we kind of pivoted to a talent agency, talent management company, around the time that TikTok started.

    So you were basically part of building the infrastructure for a whole form of entertainment that there was no infrastructure for?

    Yeah, and part of the story I always forget is that I worked as a client strategist at a digital agency. I would go to all these marketing conferences, and meet CMOs and heads of digital…I was selling search engine optimization at the time before influencer marketing, and I'd sell them SEO, and then I'd be like, “what do you think about working with influencers” and so I had a whole team…that could support me selling this sort of social media marketing, which a lot of people hadn't bought yet. So I had probably five years of experience working on the digital side media buyers, affiliate marketing, SEO. And so because I knew all that data, as a talent manager, talent agent, now I could talk to brands in their language, right?

    Traditionally, what happens is somebody that's hiring talent is going to call an agent, and they know it's going to be this slick back and forth. “This is how much my client is worth, how much are you willing to pay.” Brand managers don't want to hear that. Brand managers are being evaluated on the performance of their media buys. So if you take that approach, a different approach, which is what I took, which was more of a collaborative, data-focused approach, to a brand and perhaps you're not going to take every deal.

    For example, an influencer might get an incoming deal and you know that if you charge them $50,000, and that video doesn't perform, that brand’s probably never going to call not just that influencer back. They’re probably never going to call me back for any other influencer because they're gonna feel bamboozled. So what I did was I really thought about how do we make deals that are going to be make the client happy and in turn, that actually got my creators more business. So I think that was a different approach and perhaps that shook up and disrupted the the talent industry a bit.

  • Convincing brands TikTok was the next big thing


    Right. It’s a whole different way of doing things. It makes sense. You discovered some TikTok stars, right?

    I guess, you know, the qualities that you need to build this type of business are…it’s not like a cookie-cutter thing, like, oh, you're gonna go to school and go to, you know, you know, graduate with a PR degree, or whatever. I think the qualities that it took was just being able to build relationships, and understand people and their aspirations.

    I think that was the most important quality because, of course, when you see somebody, you have to be able to see the vision of what they want to become and helping them build that plan to execute effectively. So I would see this talent, that reminded me of [being] in a fraternity or sorority, if you were part of like, the recruitment process, you know, it reminded me of that…They always put me as the best recruiter when I was in a sorority, because I was just really friendly. And I could try to try to empathize, put myself in the other person's shoes of like, what is important to them? And how can I help them get there.

    I think the second quality is just experience. I think in life, you have to do reps, like repetitions. Even if you're a bartender, you have to have reps, you have to be making those drinks over and over again, and eventually you build this kind of subconscious knack for it. And that's sort of what I did with with the influencers.

    In terms of experience, I think that I did a lot of like complimentary work for people over the years when I was younger, so I could get those reps and build a case study along along the way. And so much of so much of social media was experimental, that if you didn't do that stuff, for free for someone to sort of prove your worth, and show them the value, and the results, they they weren't even really willing to pay for it. And so I did a lot of free work. Even when I moved to Los Angeles, I spent my life savings essentially from working in nightlife to to rent the penthouse at 1600 VINE, which was like a dorm room for all these Vine stars.

    And I didn't sign any influencers at that point in around 2018. I spent months getting to know them, I'd invite them to come over and book meetings with me. And basically, we would audit their social media and build brand case studies for them. And I would use my hospitality contacts to book them VIP trips in Vegas, and Coachella and all this stuff I wasn't getting paid for.

    It’s basically what Gary Vee taught me, which is just be kind and have empathy. And it all comes back. It's not a “tit for tat” thing, it just, it'll work itself out. And so, basically, you know, I think I built this really nice group of people that I felt were really similar to me. And yeah, doing that free work to build the relationships while I worked with brands, that was the most valuable thing.

    So by the time TikTok exploded, I had a huge Rolodex of Vine stars, YouTubers and Instagramers, who loved me and had great reviews of my work and and told everybody, “Oh, it's amazing, you know, that you're working with Ari.” It was great to go to the Streamy Awards. And you know, I saw like Tana Mongeau, and, you know, all these influencers, and I was with Addison Rae, and they were like, “You're so lucky, you have Ari, like, she's the best.” So I think, and then on top of it, working with Canelo Alvarez, French Montana, and then having Gary Vaynerchuk, who is essentially like the guru of all gurus in the space as advocates for me…It just was like, it was a great at that point was really the height of my career.

    That's cool. And just to give some context, Addison, she’s one of the top influencers, right?

    Yeah, so Addison, I found on TikTok, like when she had, I think maybe 100,000 followers. I think now she has over 76 million. I really don't know. I met Charli D’Amelio and her parents through Gary Vee. They were all brand new. And I mean, I think that there's like 20 million people that watch the Superbowl. Imagine if someone has 100 million followers, like the value of that, right?

    “I saw the trajectory but it was like a hard sell because these brands, they didn't get it yet.”

    So in the beginning, I saw the trajectory, but it was like a hard sell to these brands like they didn't get it yet. And by the time they got it, it was like, “Yeah, good luck hiring her because everybody wants her.” It was just it was really the first time I think anybody has witnessed true overnight success. Because like they say in life “overnight success,” it takes 10 years, right? It didn’t. It took a lot of luck. These kids were hard working. And I think that they were the right place at the right time. You know, and I think the pandemic might have even helped because there were no productions in March of 2020 happening. If you were an advertiser, you pretty much had to go to TikTok or Instagram or YouTube. And I think even just the attention that TikTok got with the potential of blocking of it, it was like the Streisand Effect. More and more people wanted to download it.

  • Pitfalls of working with the young and suddenly Internet famous


    Let's talk a little bit about the challenges in this space. I mean, working with overnight success stories, who are teenagers, sounds challenging in itself. How do you deal with that, as well as the other I'm sure many challenges?

    I want to say like, I think like 98% of the people we worked with were over 18. Charli was one person under 18…But yeah, 18 to 22 year olds are an interesting group of people, especially today, in this day and age. It's funny, because people would complain about millennials. And then now I'm complaining about Gen Z.

    But I think the biggest challenge is just really being funded properly, to get a fair at bat, in order to have a business that can scale. You have to be able to hire experienced people who you can trust. And the creators are very impressionable. So if you allow one bad apple into the circle, then that person can influence the creators negatively and gossip. And that kind of stuff can spread quickly amongst people that, you know, maybe didn't even go to high school or just graduated from high school and didn't go to college.

    Additionally, you have these legacy entertainment agencies that have worked in this sharp-elbowed environment for years who use their name and size to throw their weight around to the talent. It's also very misogynistic. I hate to say it, but it just is. The reality is that those decision-making digital brand executives are not used to those types of people. And so I actually think that our approach helped us drum up so much business, but it created a lot of enemies that I didn't even really know were there. Anytime somebody disrupts an industry, this is going to happen. Like you saw it with Uber, you saw it with Airbnb. But those companies were well-funded. And so when there was lawsuits, and when there came the time to fight, that you could fight.

    But I think for a lot of traditional investors, they couldn't really like…”Oh, take, take my word for it: Charli D’Amelio has 100,000 followers. And in five months, she’s gonna have 100 million.” How many people would take that risk, even though I was spot on? Nobody wants to take that risk.

    “What I didn't know is when you have a monopoly, or a perceived monopoly, like you are a target, so you have to be prepared to combat those things.”

    So funding is just so important, to build something like that involves this many human beings and personalities. And I think you just have to be prepared. I read [a book by Peter Thiel]. Peter Thiel wrote about basically being a monopoly. And so when I had all these TikTokkers sign, and nobody cared about TikTokkers, and I sort of had the biggest stars on the platform under my umbrella…I’m like, “I'm doing what Peter Thiel said to do. I bought a monopoly.” Well, what I didn't know is that when you have a monopoly, or perceived monopoly, like you are a target, so you have to be prepared to to combat those things. And I don't think I was fully prepared.

    Can you briefly recap a little bit about [the controversy you were involved in]. You were in the news, there was some controversy involving part of your business.

    So, at one point, I had several creator houses. And I actually was close with this kid Nick Crompton, who basically was like the manager of Team 10…and I actually worked for Kevin Gould, who was Jake Paul's manager. So I had a lot of very inside knowledge of how that thing blew up successfully. So when the Hype House blew up, which I think was really like the coming out to the world of what is TikTok, who are these creators, right? After the New York Times printed a story called The Hype House

  • What happened with that "collab house" mess


    [Backing up], so you’re talking about houses influencers were living in essentially. You were managing some of those and financing some of those?

    Yeah, so at that point, I was like, “Oh, I can create these houses,” and basically create these like little entities like, The Girls in the Valley, which was like an equivalent to Seventeen Magazine. Then you could sort of sell the media placements as a group and get more eyeballs, right, it's better if 10 people post at a time than just one. So this was a trajectory, and there was some positive press…And a lot of brands were actually circumventing, they weren't even going to the big three-letter talent agencies, because they were like,”Oh, this is the girl that knows everything about TikTok.”

    Additionally, I had spent five years in that world where they already knew me, they're like, “Oh, that's the girl from internet marketing. She was talking about influencers.” But you know, 5, 10 years ago, whatever it was. So, I think that that was another reason why maybe we were targeted, because on top of it, I was building a personal brand as a leader in the space. I looked up to Gary Vee. I wanted to be like, the female version of Gary Vee, the guru of the social media world on the West Coast. And I think a lot of people didn't like that.

    At the same time, you couldn't take away all that time I spent with the influencers, the influencers liked me, I was their connection. I’m single, I don't have any kids. If they have a problem at 1. a.m., I could just go over there. And I think that’s something that was just ingrained in the way that I work. I mean, I don't have a time to start or a time to finish I was just always on.

    “There was an article that came out that was scathing about us. And you know, our Achilles heel was our reputation.”

    This company was my baby. So basically, um, what was the snag? Well, at in August, there was an article that came out, that was scathing about us. And, you know, our Achilles heel was our reputation. What was the one way they could take me out?

    People who knew I was bootstrapped and probably knew that I wouldn't survive if they could take away my credibility hit just that. And it started with unsubstantiated false rumors, which I believe came from those jealous competitors. And it ended with a pretty scathing article in The New York Times.

    The bottom line is that, you know, we signed people that had 10,000 followers, when we met when we met them, and we helped them to a point where they had millions and we're making significant amount of money. I would not have been able to afford to build them at 10,000. If we didn't have the paperwork in place for for how we were going to be compensated in the end, if they could just hit the big bucks, and then left us for one of those three-letter agencies, it would have been a terrible business model.

    My background is in marketing, and there's always contracts, you know, and and every time we talked to a creator, we made sure that they had an attorney review [their contract]. I never wanted to sign anybody that didn't have an attorney because I didn't want…I don't want them to say, “Oh, she forced me to sign it.” So we did everything above board, because this is something that I put in my whole life savings into and I didn't want to have any hiccups.

    When the pandemic happened, I think it was a culmination of the struggling agencies… productions were halted, they had to lay off hundreds of employees, this is all documented online, and which made advertising with influencers hot and competitive. And additionally, the house productions, it became harder to manage the houses because influencers started squatting in houses that weren't supposed to be there. They became restless, and they were no longer following the rules. Some parents, I think, even saw their child's income and being able to manage their own kid as a way to also help pay the family bills, and perhaps, you know, get an opportunity that way. And so I just think it was unfortunate timing. And, you know, it's more of the perfect storm.

    Yeah. And plus, like corporate brands…they were taking longer to pay, longer than usual to pay, because of the pandemic. So some Fortune 500 companies paid us over 180 days late. As much as we invoiced and followed up incessantly, some creators found it easier to blame us instead of seeing the reality of it was beyond our control.

    When the article came out what was even tougher about it, just from a CEO perspective, anybody that deals with this, because I know there's a lot of canceled culture happening, is…once I realized that, my PR guy said, “My spidey senses are not feeling this is a good thing.” And I had kind of just had a gut feeling that something was was brewing because a lot of things. I just felt like something's wrong. So so we I had my my attorney respond to the questions. And you have to remember you’re bootstrapped, you've got 85 clients, you've got some, you know, consultants working underneath you. But really, a lot of it was on my shoulders. People are paying late, creators are, you know, creating liabilities that needed to be tended to.  And so now I have to pay my attorney to stop everything he's doing, and answer these questions [from the New York Times] thoroughly.

    Additionally, the attorney said, “there's a plethora of things that will exonerate my client.” We had, you know, “you want to see the accounting, you want to see this,” but I was under contract with not just the brands, but also with the influencers, [non-disclosure agreements]. Just because they're breaking their NDA doesn't mean I'm going to break mine, and I don't want to disparage them. Like, I really believed in them. And I thought maybe this is a bad, you know, decision on their part. But I'm not a kid. Like, I have to think like an adult. And even though there's some emotions, when people are trying to cancel you, you have to really think logically. And so, you know, we respond and say we happy to show you all the stuff on background. And, you know, the reporter says, “No. Anything that you send is on the record.” And so it’s almost, you get put between a rock and a hard place. Because if you show all that stuff to exonerate you, then you get could sued by all of these Fortune 500 companies. You can get sued by the reators. So we decided we can’t, that’s much worse of a liability.

    At that point, it was the nail in the coffin. And the sad thing, I think, for me was just mainly the brands, because I'd built such long relationships and like, having the brand managers call me and be like, “I'm so sorry, this happened, like, we love you. But in the public, we can't work with you until this stuff gets cleared up.” Because just, you know, big corporate companies don't want to be associated to stuff where, you know, people think that you don't pay people on time, or that you're taking advantage of young people, which wasn't the case at all, but you know.

  • The next project: an "Uber for influencers"


    Yeah, right. So yeah, perfect storm, kind of ruining your image. And, but the good news is, you are clearly very resilient, and you are bouncing back. And so what's the new thing you're working on?

    I had a lot of time to think after…we let our clients…some people want to stay with us, but at that point, we just wanted everybody to have the best at bat. And if being connected with Influences at that point wasn't the right move, I didn't want to hold anybody back. So I called a lot of my former colleagues and mentors, and they're like…“It’s really time to just take a beat for a second, you have some money in savings. Why don't you just really think about what you want to do, maybe this was the best thing to happen to you.” 

    Everybody was like, “As much as we know, you're like a hard worker…do you want to do something that's healthy so you can have like a life and not be like, you know, essentially babysitting TikTokkers.” They’re like “we don't even hang out with you anymore. You hang out teenagers.”…So you know, you get over the sort of depression of your baby getting destroyed. I thought about all the tough things that I [went] through in my life…like, when my dad cut me off. And  I got right back to that thinking, “Okay, well, what can I do? I'm good at building websites.” I always figured out something that I could do. But I really felt like I had so much knowledge in this space.

    What's funny is the month following the smear, kids that like fired me were starting to hit me up again. They're like, Hey, Ari, how you doing? By the way, do you have a contact at Twitter? Like my accounts down? Or like, “By the way, like, do you know how to get TikTok working again?” Or like, “Hey, I saw this brand, like, do you think I can work with them.”

    It’s so funny, because the creators need this information until they get to the point where they're superstars. And so I'm like, “What did I love to do?” I loved finding those bright, shiny, new opportunities with building new talent. Because they're all like bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.  In the beginning, it's like, how do you protect those people from just getting bad information.

    I knew I was good at is all these questions that influencers had, like, our Influences Instagram account every day had like, 50 messages from people that had, like, 50,000 or less followers, and they’re asking questions.

    And I'm like, “Man, this is why this is not scalable..this either should be automated, or there should be like a database for all this information.” And people that are young at an affordable price. That's what I like to do, if I could do that for free and make a living, that's what I would have done.

    “There's way more of these new kids than there are Charli D'Amelios of the world.”

    There's way more of those new kids than there are Charli D’Amelios of the world. And these people are much more appreciative and open-minded, and they want to listen. And so how can I work with those people? I started doing some research, and there's 700 million people with an addressable audience online on several platforms.

    That’s a lot of people. Where do they go to get this information, like having “an Ari in your pocket?” There’s nothing. We looked up all this competition and there was really nothing. What’s funny, is when I first bought there was a time when I wanted to build a LinkedIN for influencers, and just didn’t go that route. And then I thought this was something I was thinking, and I ended up going to Kevin Dillon’s house. His girlfriend’s a good friend of mines and Kevin, you know, he was on Entourage. He was Johnny Drama…

    I went over there and this guy Antonio was there, and Antonio had like, I don’t know a couple hundred thousand followers on TikTok, but he had kids and he invested in a bunch of companies, and it was this odd match because I’m like, “Oh you’re this investor who is also a TikTokker. That’s bizarre.” So WE kind of hit it off. And then the next take I met up with him and told him about this idea.

    He's like, you know, I really want to introduce you to my friend, Jim Sellers. Because if you guys get along, then maybe we could really do something. And so I we ended up booking a meeting with Jim. Jim was the CEO and founder of Tagger Media….they were doing all these brand campaigns, like for Coach and all, these big brands, they used to have to do all the influencer outreach manually. Finding the data on how many people view this is extremely difficult. Everything is spread out…And so they built the platform, and then they kind of tweaked it.

    And now it's one of the best influencer marketing platforms. Now there's dozens of influencer marketing platforms. But his was one of the most successful. So but I met him and he really understands, you know, running a business on the sense of like, so what was cool is we realized that we all have different strengths. Antonio had this financial background…we talked about what is my role. Jim’s like, “You're the rainmaker…”

    And so, we spent several months meeting up and thinking about the different the different features that we could have. And obviously, when you're starting, you really want to have as little features as possible, you want to focus on one feature that’s really, really great.  We basically came up with this way to almost make like an Uber for influencers, because right now, if you think about it, the most successful creators have, are able to spit out the most content. What makes you more successful is if there's other creators with the following that are in your videos.

    Putting together those mini productions is very difficult for an influencer, right? It's almost like you have to have a production manager, and what about the makeup artist and the videographer and, and all these people. And so imagine if you could put in all that information, press a button, choose who you want it to decide to come invite them to come collab. And you could do that every single day, if you wanted to. And then imagine not having that and trying to compete with it. I mean, it would be impossible, it would be very difficult. So that’s the feature of the app, I think is going to be the stickiest…

    [Another] sort of functionality would be like, you know, being able to chat, live or on a text with basically someone like me, right? “Hey, I got canceled yesterday, what do I do.” Or “I need an attorney to look over this thing…” There’s so many things that I think, you know, these influencers need that it's not packaged anywhere…Even getting a domain name….what I realized is that there’s literally nothing out there like this. So that really got me excited.

    And you know, the fact that people that are successful in this field didn’t care about the New York Times article. I had a lot of prominent VC’s reaching out to me that were on my side and wanted to help. It’s kind of weird how everything happened. But you know, a lot of people in the tech world understand that the media can be dangerous. It can help you, and you want to  align with good journalism. But you know these days as a CEO, what can happen and cancel culture, and everything that you say can be used against [you], everything you text….after the New York Times [story] came out, Gary Vee texted me and he just said, “you know, how are you doing? And just keep doing good work.” He’s like “You’ll always be judged by the work that you do. So if you keep doing good work, it’s all gonna be Ok. And I truly believe that.”

    That's great. That's a really inspirational thing to say.

    Yeah, it's pretty simple, but it's going and keep doing good work. It's like, “Oh, Ok.”

    You build up so much resentment, which is hard not to do is you know, it's your life, it's your name. But then you can't get to that like creative point that's positive, you know. I didn't come up with a new idea until I thought about what was positive about what I learned and what I liked to do, and and how can I bring that back.

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