Venture Voice – interviews with entrepreneurs

Entertaining Entrepreneurship

VV Show #37 – Jay Adelson of Digg

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Digg, the news website that uses its own readers rather than editors to decide what stories are most important, has been growing with a fury. While founder Kevin Rose has gotten a lot of attention including a recent cover of BusinessWeek, CEO Jay Adelson has been guiding Digg toward business success. This isn’t Jay’s first time though the throes of entrepreneurship. He started Equinix, a company that now has a market capitalization of $1.5 billion. Despite its success, Jay didn’t make much money because he held his shares until after the dot com bust. In fact, he had just enough money to put his kids through college and live a more modest lifestyle himself. He was ready to go off and work at a coffee shop or become a teacher until Digg came along. Now he’s back in the game.


2:00 Early career

  • “I was focusing on sound engineering. I thought I would do that for the rest of my life.”

5:00 Entrance into entrepreneurship

7:15 Co-founding Equinix

  • “I over delegated.”
  • “I wanted people with experience doing very big things.”
  • “I wanted [Equinix] to be a billion dollar company, sure, but I think I wanted it to be something that was a little less commodity focused.”
  • “I’m extremely proud of what happened with that company.”
  • “I’m never satisfied with myself.”

19:00 Between ventures

  • “I drive an eight year old car. Never got the sports car or Ferrari.”
  • “Unless you’re truly incompetent, it’s really hard to set yourself up so that you’ll never get investment capital again.”
  • “There are a lot of people who confuse good ideas and good businesses.”

24:00 Quitting entrepreneurship

  • “I could get by at this point with a much lower class lifestyle. We made the decision to leave
  • San Francisco and move to rural New York.”
  • “I just kept trying to help him [Kevin Rose] change what was a good idea into a good business.”

28:00 Starting Digg

  • “One thing was clear from our perspective: We couldn’t charge users. That would never fly.”
  • “It wasn’t too hard for him [Kevin Rose] to convince me to come on as CEO [for Digg].”
  • “Kevin was never satisfied with the specification.”
  • Digg went live in December 2004.
  • “Probably less than $5,000 had been spent before the site was public.”
  • “If I don’t handle the growth, then I’ll implode.”
  • “He [Kevin Rose] literally is the chief architect of Digg.”

41:30 Virtual business

  • Uses http://www.apple.com/isight/ iSight frequently to run Digg.

43:30 Worst business decision at Digg
45:30 Business model
47:00 Biggest competitor

  • “My biggest competitor is probably someone I haven’t met yet.”
  • Competitors: RedditNewsvine and Netscape
  • “They [Jason Calacanis‘s Netscape] even copied the look and feel.”
  • “I don’t believe that we should be compensating any Digg user for their participation.”

60:00 BusinessWeek cover

  • “Kevin Rose did not make $60 million. He did not have that cash. That was completely invented.”

62:00 Business capitalization

  • “I’m not feeling the pressure [to raise a lot of money].”
  • “What happened to the days when I could just focus on building the business?”
  • “At Equinix I never sold my stock, and oops. Oh well.”

68:30 The future of Digg

  • “The best I can tell you is Digg as a concept can be applied to other content aside from news. Just wait and see what we’re going to apply it to.”
  • Closing on funding round for Revision3.

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