If Gregory Galant ― CEO of Sawhorse Media, which includes digital PR and journalism platform Muck Rack as well as the Shorty Awards honoring the best of social media ― ever feels he’s running out of space on his exceptional bio, perhaps he could simply drop his last name.
After all, as @gregory, a charter member of Twitter’s First Name Club, he hasn’t needed it for years.
A Founding Philosophy
Barely a decade out of college, the 32-year-old Galant has been founding companies for over half his life, starting with Halenet, the web development business he hatched at age 14. Yet, his early grounding in disciplines as diverse as philosophy and citizen journalism has given him the uncanny ability to absorb lessons from others, as evidenced by his ten-year stint as founder and host of the radio show, Venture Voice.
CMSWire sat down with Galant recently to talk about entrepreneurship, new media paradigms and why he believes that business courses are highly overrated.
Sobel: Right after graduating from Emory University with a BA in Philosophy, you joined CNN where your focus on citizen journalism led to the creation of iReport. Can you share your early days?
Galant: I’ve been an entrepreneur for most of my life. I started my first business when I was 14, building and managing websites for clients that included a chain of newspapers, a perfume retailer and a detective agency. I started college dead set on majoring in business because I thought it would be useful.
When I actually started taking business courses though, I didn’t find them useful at all. On the other hand, no one was advertising the philosophy department as a practical place to prepare for a career in business but I found it immensely helpful.
Philosophy requires analytical thinking as well as the ability to ask good questions, make logical arguments and communicate clearly. Being able to make sense of a complex world is essential to starting and growing a new business, not to mention the possibility of gaining insight into the meaning of life.
But it wasn’t the meaning of life that led to my lightbulb moment at CNN. I kept getting stuck in Atlanta traffic which became even more intolerable because I hated Atlanta radio. iPods had recently become popular and it occurred to me that CNN could offer audio news downloads to its users. That led me to get into podcasts in the very early days.
Sobel: After leaving CNN, you founded both Venture Voice, “a podcast that explores how entrepreneurs build their businesses and live their lives” and an early podcast advertising company called RadioTail. Can you tell us more?
Galant: I launched Venture Voice in 2005 and in the ten years I’ve hosted it since, I have interviewed an amazing group of entrepreneurs including LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, Yelp founder Jeremy Stoppelman, Vanguard Group founder John Bogle, and MTV founding executive and Frederator founder Fred Seibert.
That same year, I noticed what I thought was a related opportunity to place ads in podcasts so that content creators could make money. That led me to launch RadioTail but the timing of that idea turned out to be literally a decade before its time.
I was so full of piss and vinegar that I underestimated what a slog RadioTail would be ― like rolling a boulder uphill. We won a few great clients and lasted two years but ultimately the podcast audience numbers just weren’t big enough to make the business work. Today, podcasting is finally becoming a good business because smartphones have greatly increased the audience.
Meanwhile, Venture Voice was building a loyal following, including a fellow podcast entrepreneur named Ev Williams. Ev had launched Odeo, a platform aimed at revolutionizing audio creation and consumption, but when that floundered, he turned his attention to a little “side project” called Twitter.
Because of Ev, I signed up for Twitter so early that I grabbed @gregory. Being such an early Twitter user led directly to my success with the Shorty Awards and Muck Rack, so I have no regrets about jumping into one small part of the business too soon.
Sobel: In 2007 you founded Sawhorse Media which you call a “movement to make it easy to find the right people on the social web through products like Muck Rack and the Shorty Awards.” Can you tell us more?
Galant: We launched the Shorty Awards to honor the best content producers on social media, enhanced by the first technology that allowed viewers to vote via tweet. This generated immense media interest, especially on Twitter and highlighted the fact that social media and the Web have fundamentally changed how news is gathered and distributed.
These days, if you want press attention, you need to do PR in a new way. We created Muck Rack to enable companies to find the right journalist to contact for press coverage, monitor the news in real time and build reports that measure the impact of their PR. Muck Rack has also become very popular with journalists as a network that allows them to build portfolios, connect with colleagues and track how popular their stories are.
Sobel: In a recent article entitled “11 Predictions on the Future of Social Media,” you remarked that, "In 2039 we'll be reading a fascinating [story] about the last remaining social media expert.” Can you elaborate?
Galant: Just like all technologies, social media will one day become obsolete. Social media will meet the Netflix to its Blockbuster, the smartphone to its pager or the computer to its typewriter. Just as you can now read a bunch of fascinating profiles of 76-year-old Paul Schweitzer who is still repairing typewriters right here in Manhattan, in a few decades there will be some aging hipster enabling Luddites to continue posting selfies to Snapchat while the rest of the world has moved on to the Singularity.