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史蒂夫·哈蒙独家中文博客

互联网风投与管理者,创业企业是谷歌Adsense概念创造者之一

 
 
 

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我是美国风投创始人和管理合作伙伴,曾担任过Jupiter Media公司VP,Paul Kagan Associates机构分析师,我的创业企业Applied Semantics2003年被谷歌收购,是谷歌Adsense概念创造者之一。现着重投资互联网领域,对中国互联网和网络新媒体有深刻研究。我写的《零重力1.0》和《零重力2.0》成为彭博社最畅销书籍,比尔盖茨、杨致远也读过我写的商业报告。在中国,我给网易科技独家供稿。hapn.cool try it!

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Interview with Online Pioneer Ted Leonsis Who Built AOL  

2011-11-23 05:28:38|  分类: 默认分类 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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Ted Leonsis owns pro sports teams and Verizon Center in the US. He was in Internet marketing before Internet marketing even knew what it was. In the era of online services Ted launched Redgate Communications which was snapped up by the original America Online as its first acquisition in the early 1990s. AOL then went on to grow from 800,000 subscribers to over 8 million, and a market value over $100 billion.


Today, you may better know Ted from his ownership of sports teams, NBA’s Washington Wizards, NHL’s Washington Capitals and the WNBA’s Washington Mystics. And a small place called Verizon Center  . Ted sits on the boards of several companies including Groupon, American Express, Nutrisystem and Rosetta Stone, among others. He also serves on the board of directors of his alma mater, Georgetown University.

I first met Ted when he had just joined AOL in 1994 and wanted to get an update on a marketing pioneer in the Internet who is still tackling opportunities and more.

1) You’ve seen a lot of comings and goings in the online and Internet industries. I recall talking to you way back when you sold Redgate to AOL in the mid 1990s, the days when everyone had to dial up to access an online service. The “Internet” wasn’t there yet, people had to log into AOL, Compuserve, Prodigy or BBS (bulletin board services run by uber geeks). “Baud” meant something, namely how slow a news article showed up on your computer screen. And yet we all persisted in this new medium. What brought you to believe there was anything to the “online space”?

Ted: In 1989– I wrote a white paper called “New Rules,New Media”. I sensed that something magical was happening when media went from an analog state to a digital state and when people could share information easily – and build out communities of interest. The shift from institutions creating content to individuals creating content was a foreshadowing of today’s social media and networking revolutions. I also sensed that the lines  would blur between telephones– televisions and computers and that all 3 screens would become apart of a new ecosystem that were all connected by high speed new pipes. I founded Redgate Communications to capitalize on  and celebrate these new trends– and this company was eventually acquired by America Online in 1993.

2) At AOL one of the key successes was its “disks everywhere” campaign that mailed out floppies and CDs to seemingly every house in America. People could install and logon for a free trial of AOL. Were you responsible for this diskscapade? In today’s social Web era what is the equivalent way to market?

Ted: People forget that getting online was a very cumbersome experience. Personal computers did not have modems built into their systems  and the connectivity was hardware based–not software based. Hence– getting online was  a two step process– you would have to identify if a customer owned a modem with their pc– and if they did– you could offer them a start up  kit– and they would pay $ 5.00 for the software to get started.It seems prehistoric today– but that is how it worked back in the day.

Once we saw IBM building in modems into their PC’s –we thought that we would spend tens of millions of dollars building software and hundreds of millions of dollars  giving it away to get ” America Online”. Free trial– offering free email and content and connectivity certainly worked and we popularized the notion that living your life on the net was a populist movement– a movement that would be driven by community– by convenience and by user generated activity. 36 million people around teh world once started their online experience as a subscriber to AOL.

We also should be credited with inventing “viral marketing” as AIM was the first product to capitalize on the network effect– and get marketed by users  who loved the product and became more productive with the more friends and family that used AIM. AIM peaked at 250 million world wide users and we also acquired and operated ICQ–so we had the largest communications network –and the first social network ever created.

3) AOL has gone through several iterations, from up to “king of the world” media merger, to an “unmerger” with Time Warner, to public company with a Google guy running it. As vice chairman of AOL (and other roles) you played a key part in AOL surviving the ups, downs and rollercoaster of an industry that changes rapidly. What do you think of AOL today? Do you use it? 

Ted: I wish AOL the best. I started the original content creation movement at AOL in 1994 with AOL Studios and our Greenhouse efforts.I also started the AOL Audience business which is today what AOL is all about. But I retired from AOL in 2006. I think content and being the world’s largest publisher is a good place for the company and it can prosper in this space. I do believe though that not capitalizing on communications–email; chat– message boards–social media–AIM– and  commerce– local and social and mobile — are areas that aol should get back in the game.AOL invented social media and local commerce; and it can be blended into content and distribution in new innovative ways. I have faith in Tim Armstrong; he “gets it”.

4) If you were a fresh-faced VP of marketing at a new venture what would your first thing to do be?

Ted: The more things change– the more things stay the same. In marketing– it is just paramount to surrender your product to your users– to  listen–to sense and respond;  to be in the mix with them–to not be defensive– to live and learn and to make sure that you have frictionless ways to innovate and distribute incremental improvements to a growing base of customers. Being willing to change business models and being respectful of the customer’s currencies– time and money–and showing an ever increasing return on investment to the customers is also key.

5) You survived a plane crash in 1983 and decided to make a list of 101 things to do before you die. Most of us have been in planes with bad turbulence so we can only imagine what a crash landing would feel like. What became most important for you? 

Ted:  I asked for a second chance. I promised  that if I made it though– I would “leave more than I take”. I also was determined to find keys to self actualization and happiness. I wrote a book last year ” The Business of Happiness”. In it I show the 5 tenants for personal happiness and corporate development for happy and successful companies.

Happiness breeds success; success does NOT breed happiness.

The 5 tenants are :

1..Be an active participant in multiple communities of interest.

2..Show high levels of personal expression.

3..Tune up personal empathy.

4..Get out of the ” I”; and into the ” we”–volunteer and give back.

5..Find the higher calling and mission in all that you do.

These tenants guide me and all of my businesses.

6) You wrote a book (The Business of Happiness: 6 Secrets To Extraordinary Success In Work And Life, 2010). What’s the Cliff Notes version of it? By the way, here’s an endorsement: “Ted Leonsis is absolutely correct that money can’t buy you happiness, but it can buy you Ted’s book, which will bring you happiness—and success.” —LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers

Ted: My book has had a very positive influence on many people which is most gratifying. Every one  has a ” reckoning” a time of great angst and self reflection.All companies do as well.

Then– we make our lists of things to do to fix the problems. I made a list of the 101 things to do before I die– a way to metric a full and developed life. I also then segued to how to become self actualized and happy.

We are all in the Business of Happiness; the best companies in the world focus on happiness and delight and satisfaction of customers and of employees.

7)  If you were giving a 30-second elevator pitch about your company what would it include?

Ted: I have interests in sports– in entertainment– in local commerce– in video distribution; in venture capital.I am most active with my teams; with Revolution Growth 2 speed up capital fund; with Groupon, with Clearspring; with Snagfilms. I am also an activist philanthropist and believe strongly that supporting young charitable start ups in a great way to give back.

8)  What’s your take on Facebook? Twitter? 

Ted: Facebook– I use it– it is a platform to stay connected. I mm concerned about some of the new features that are bordering on creepy to me– do I really want  all 5000 of my friends to know what I am listening to and reading day to day? Do my friends really care?

Twitter–I use  it– I see Twitter as next generation AIM; AIM had a status away messaging  launched in 1996– it was pre cursor to Twitter. I blog every day and use software that turns my blog posts into Facebook news feeds and  Tweets– I respect very much what they have built. I see great challenges in building Twitter into a media business though– been there and done that and it is hard.

9) What’s next for the Web?

Ted: Next big things– the obvious– local meets social meets mobile– ( Groupon); I think we will see some big new verticals emerge; Global companies coming into America will be an interesting  development–  America is now less than 10 percent of the global Internet audience; I also think  reinvention of film and video distribution(Snagfilms); and turning old one way media into social media are  huge opportunities– we are just getting started.

10) To date, what are you most proud of in any area of your life?

Ted: My children and my relationship with my family.  My priorities are self evident.
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