I recently caught up with an old friend and former client of a certain age who’s steeped in the world of tech startups, digital media and information technology (IT). Neither my friend nor I are coders, but we can more than hold our own when it comes to assessing, articulating and advancing the commercial prospects of the fledgling B-to-B and B-to-C companies we have advised over the years.
We laughed about our experiences at SXSW and other geek fests where our efforts to engage young tech entrepreneurs often were met with skepticism, then quick dismissal: “How could these 50-something wannabes possibly comprehend the bubblicious startup culture in which we so proudly reside?” While we thought: “If only they knew how much they don’t know.”
Days later the names of those who took our business cards invariably popped on our desktops and mobile devices asking to connect on LinkedIn or Facebook, or alerting us that we now have new followers on Twitter, Google+ or Quora.
As if youthful hubris couldn’t get any worse, here was the new issue of New York Magazine featuring “Mike the Ruler” on the cover. The caption read:
“He is 13. He is a fashion giant on Instagram.”
Thirteen, huh??? It came with a video titled “Secret Shopping with Mike the Ruler.” So tell me, what has Mike really accomplished other than racking up followers on Instagram? Does it merit a cover of New York Magazine for a story titled “The Weird Wide World of Internet Celebrity,” featuring other youthful “superfamous people you’ve never heard of?” (NYMag’s words, not mine.)
A few years ago, I contacted a tech journalist friend at Business Insider suggesting that the site produce a round-up (listicle) of “50 Over 50 Who Get Tech” to counter the endless and arbitrary 30-under-30 lists that generate so much buzz in their respective industries. This 20-something reporter “absolutely loved” the idea, but couldn’t bring his myopic millennial mind to make it happen. So I thought I would.
Rather than 50 over 50, I found 20 New Yorkers of a certain age who may not have as many Instagram followers as Mike the Ruler, but whose digital savvy and career accomplishments hopefully will put in proper perspective the media’s youth obsession.
Featured in alphabetical order (with linked photos) are: John Abell, Brian Bedol, David Carr, Brian S. Cohen, Esther Dyson, Richard Edelman, Eric Hippeau, Arianna Huffington, Ken Lerer, Jeff Jarvis, Andrew Rasiej, Jim Roberts, David Rose, Jay Rosen, Randall Rothenberg, Vivian Schiller, Micah Sifry, Margaret Sullivan, Fred Wilson and Dave Winer. (Finally, I welcome hearing about more New York women and people of color so I may more equitably expand the list.)
- John C. Abell, senior editor, LinkedIn, ex-@Wired
- Brian Bedol, founder/CEO, Bedrocket; Founder of Classic Sports Network and College Sports Television
- David Carr, media and culture columnist for The New York Times
- Brian S. Cohen, Professional Angel Investor; New York Angels; Founder, Technology Solutions
- Esther Dyson, Founder, EdVentures; Pioneering tech evangelist
- Richard Edelman, president/CEO, Edelman Worldwide
- Eric Hippeau, partner at Lerer Ventures: Former CEO, Huffington Post; Softbank; Ziff-Davis Publishing.
- Arianna Huffington, President/Editor-in-Chief, Huffington Post; Author, Thrive.
- Jeff Jarvis, journalist and author; Co-host of This Week in Google; Penned “What Would Google Do,” Time Inc. and TV Guide veteran.
- Ken Lerer, managing director, Lerer Ventures; Co-founder, Huffington Post, and Chairman of Betaworks and BuzzFeed.
- Andrew Rasiej, futurist, social entrepreneur, and Founder of Personal Democracy Media; Chairman, New York Tech Meetup; Technical Advisor, Sunlight Foundation.
- Jim Roberts, executive editor/chief content officer, Mashable; Formerly Reuters & The New York Times.
- David S. Rose, managing partner, Rose Tech Ventures; Founder, New York Angels.
- Jay Rosen, media critic and journalism professor, NYU; Advisor to Pierre Omidyar’s First Look Media.
- Randall Rothenberg, CEO, Interactive Advertising Bureau; Formerly Booz Allen and The New York Times.
- Vivian Schiller, head of news and journalism partnerships, Twitter; Formerly NBC Universal, NPR and The New York Times.
- Micah Sifry, co-founder, Personal Democracy Media; Advisor, Sunlight Foundation.
- Margaret Sullivan, the fifth Public Editor for The New York Times; Formerly managing editor, Buffalo News.
- Fred Wilson, NYC-based VC, co-founder of Union Square Ventures, investor in Twitter, Tumblr, Foursquare, Zynga, Kickstarter, and 10gen.
- Dave Winer, software developer, entrepreneur, writer, current visiting scholar at New York University’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute.