“We help people discover the next John Gresham.” – Lulu’s Bob Young
Note: The Skinny blog is written by Rick Smith, editor and co-founder of Local Tech Wire and business editor of WRAL.com.
RALEIGH, N.C. – Thank the maker that Bob Young is still doing business, creating new worlds of opportunity, rather than playing golf. He says so.
Young, the colorful co-founder of Red Hat who helped remake the software world and is doing his utmost to remodel publishing at , shared successes and challenges from his entrepreneurial career at and FutureWeb on Friday.
Between jokes and self-deprecating humor, he also offered some astute insight into building a a business where others thought he would be just lulu to even try – Open Source software offered free of charge and self-publishing when the world remained focused on New York publishing houses.
Feeding the mind:
“You spend more of your disposable income feed your head increasing every day. It used to be we spent most money on food, clothing and shelter.
“When we take time off now, we play videogames …
“We are more interested in feeding our heads these days than anything else.
“I’m excited about 20 years from now because the market will be so much more receptive.”
The rise of Red Hat:
“My single biggest contribution to Red Hat was the building of the management team, particularly the hiring of Matthew Szulik.” [Suzlik is now chairman.]
“I realized that my resume would not even get me an interview [in 2002]. At that point, I stepped aside and the board put Matthew in charge.”
“I’m very lucky.”
“Last year Red Hat was added to the S&P 500 … This is a company that 15 years ago was in my wife’s sewing closet.”
Lulu or golf?
“I could in theory enjoy my success by playing golf all the time. You guys have never seen me play golf.
“Instead, I work with the smart guys at Lulu thinking about the future of publishing.”
“[Technology] is a fascinating place to play.”
“[The Internet] is a medium that connects everyone to everyone else, and that’s all it is.”
Secret of the day:
“Use earch.twitter.com. … What Google can’t do is differentiate whether something is a worthwhile link today or two years ago. The beauty of Twitter is that if you’re looking for the score of your high school football game … Twitter looks at the most recent posts or tweets as the most relevant.”
More on Red Hat’s early success:
“Reporters were calling us and saying you are a real David and Goliath story. I said yeah, we are a David and Goliath story but you have it backwards. We’re the Goliath. We have a bigger engineering team than either IBM or Microsoft employ. We have all these people contributing through the barter system to the development of Open Source tools. We have a better engineering team than Microsoft and Sun Microsystems put together.”
The dead tree experience:
“It’s been 500 years since Gutenberg and the reading on dead trees experience began. [21 years ago] the big advance was orange text – orange ASCII text on black and white screens. Today, for 200 bucks you can buy a device that provides you with full motion video.
“Extrapolate 20 years into the future – Is it plausible that the pleasurable experience will be reading a book on paper in bed? If you bet on that, I’ll take your money.”
Electronic books and e-readers are “moving the needle a little” but still only represent some 10 percent of Lulu’s sales. “We might be a little bit ahead of the industry.”
The bet is not on which electronic device will be the model of choice in five years. “A better bet would be electronic books vs. traditional books.”
Future books and social media:
“Books will be a different kind of immersive experience, much more multi media and much more social.”
“We are social animals.”
Social media tools such as FaceBook are key to promoting, selling, reviewing and buying books.
“Most books we read, we read because our friends have recommended it.”
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