Jake Lodwick, founder of Vimeo, "serial entrepreneur" and artist

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Jake Lodwick at the FailCon Toulouse the 18th june 2015.
Jake Lodwick at the FailCon Toulouse the 18th june 2015. (Crédits : Rémi Benoit)
He defines himself as a serial entrepreneur and an artist. More than ten years after Vimeo, Jake Lodwick has still the same goal : to create things and help others to become creators. Thursday 18th June, he shared his experience at the second FailCon organized in Toulouse.

How do you define yourself ?
I have changed a lot but the one thing that is consistent is that I'm a serial entrepreneur. I start new companies all the time. I can't help it. One company after another. Sometimes they are succesfull and sometimes they are not successful. Usually, they are not successful.

Are you a bad entrepreneur ?
A good entrepreneur makes a lot of mistakes. He has to try and fail a lot if he wants to succeed over his carrier. Sometimes, people are lucky the first time and their first project becomes a big success. And if they try to make something else after that, it won't be so easy.

Do you think that Vimeo could have been the only good idea of your carreer ? Are you afraid of that ?
The best idea I had was Vimeo and now, it's over ten years ago. Sometimes I think, "Is that all ? Do I peak when I was younger ?" But there is no reason why that it has to be true. It might be true. But if I keep working, eventually, I will have something else more successful. We'll see.

Lodwick

Do you consider yourself more like an artist or a businessman ?
I'm not very good at business. I need a partner who is a good businessperson. I'm terrible at business, bad in relationships, I don't care about money. I just want to create stuff. I do feel like an artist who likes to make companies. I can do a little bit of that by myself. I can have the vision, but in order to build that vision, I need help from a lot of people

What is your vision ? What do you want to do next ?
Right now, I have a company called Keezy. We make easy music software that professional musicians can use and also children can use it, like babies for example. We think that everybody has some music inside them, but they don't express it because the softwares are too complicated. Usually, you have to be pretty good with computers and then, when you are in that mindset, the computer mindset, it could be hard to express yourself emotionally, which is how you make music. So, we think that a lot of people would make music if they had easier softwares.

About your larger question : what's the bigger vision ? It's about creativity. With Vimeo, it was similar. I wanted people to put the videos on the Internet, but they shouldn't have to know how to encode it, how to upload it. They just should be able to drop the video into the browser and then it's on the Internet.

The point is to facilitate creativity and that's such a big goal, but I can't do it all in one company.

Jake Lodwick 3

Do you generally think that Internet should make people's life simpler ?
Yes, absolutely ! I'm not a fan of most of Internet services, like most social media. I don't have a Facebook account. Most of social media, I think, is more distracting than it is useful. Maybe I follow ten people on Instagram and nobody on Tweeter. I use it a tiny bit but it's very addictive and I think the people making the software, they don't care. They just want to be successful.

I live in San Francisco and I met the people who make this things. I don't think they have very good intentions. They want you to be addicted. I get it, it's a business, you have to make money. But you can make a business that isn't addictive. You can make a business that people benefit from. They are happy because they use it and then they are more creative. Maybe it's impossible but it's what I try to do.

You are in the Internet business since its beginning. How did it evolve ?
I don't really like how it's evolved. There are a couple of people who I really respect in the business. One of my favourite is one of the founders of Flickr and he has Slack, Stewart Butterfield (@stewart). Uber is amazing. There is a lot of great internet companies. But some are just so addictive. You pull it up and see how many people followed you, you see if somebody likes something. That kind of thing has very quickly become a waste of time. The people making it think "Well, this is what people want". But they don't necessarily love it. They are just addicted to.

Are you jealous of the success of those companies ?
I would like to be as successful as Google, Facebook, all the big ones. But I have to do it in a way I can still sleep at night.

You think they don't ?
I don't know if they care! (Laughs) I think they are fine with it, but I wouldn't be fine. There is a lot of stuff I could do that I don't want to do, because of this stubborn artist side.

What do you think of the French Internet companies ?
I don't have very much information about it. I hope on this trip to learn a little bit. I'm very curious how it work it. How people approach start-ups. Generally, in the United States, we heard that people are more conservative in Europe and Asia. I think in the USA, people are crazy about work and entrepreneurship. They try anything. They are not afraid to fail. Here, there is more fear of failure. But I'm looking for evidence. I don't know yet.

Jake Lodwick 2

Internet is mostly an American thing. Do you think the balance will change ?
I think people outside the USA are inspired by start-up culture of USA. If they copy it and learn from us, it could become a worldwide thing, just as much. There is nothing magic about the USA as far as I know. You can build a start-up at San Francisco, New York or anywhere at home in the world. It's just an attitude that can be adopted anywhere.

I don't know if the balance will change. It's hard to say. I think America will continue with that culture and I really hope other countries will pick it up, because the world is changing very quickly. The technology is accelerating. It's going to be more and more important for other countries to adopt American start-up's culture.

Internet is already really important on our life today. How can it be more important tomorrow ?
I think more devices are coming online with the Internet of Things. We are still at the very early days of that and there is no good protocol. If you buy any smart applience, even a camera that as Wifi. There is a lot of work to get it, to talk to your computer. We need to develop better protocols and things which will connect to Internet and talk to each others easily. We are going to see Internet everywhere.

Is it a good thing ?
Maybe not. We'll see. A basic problem with technology is that engineers need to collaborate with designers better. If he works alone, he builds something ugly that is hard to use. If a designer works alone, he doesn't make anything. Each other have to respect what the other does.

Will technology be good or bad ?
A big part of that question is 'Would there be good collaboration between engineers and designers ?'. It is really the responsibility of their boss. The entrepreneurs have to make the technology good for the people using it, or else, it will be bad for them.

What was the most incredible thing you ever see or did ?
When I was creating Vimeo, I got so creative that I had a maniac episode. I went crazy with creative excitement. That feeling (rires), that's the high I'm always chasing, like a junkie. I want that creative high you have when you are building something that you think will be very big some day. Without drug. Just the high from your own body. When you are working on during a while and you have a momentum. It's so young and full of potential that you can only imagine the possibilities. That's fine but I can't do that all days, because then I would never really build anything. You have to start stuff. It has to be a feedback loop where you think, and then you make. You look at it, and then you get a new idea, make the new idea. All this tiny changes, and after a few hours, you have something you have never imagined. It's the magic of evolution.

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