Ask Josh Harris: A Fireside Chat on the Future of Media


This week we present a special live event edition of Ask Josh Harris in partnership with General Assembly.

Josh Harris sat forward in his chair, eyeing the circle of young men gathered around him in a tight circle of chairs. It was a little after 7 p.m. and Mr. Harris had just brewed a fresh mug of coffee. “I’m just going to rap at you cats for a while and let you know what I’ve been working on,” he told the group of young entrepreneurs. “Then you can let me know if you see the big picture.”

The talk was part of a series of “fireside chats” hosted by General Assembly, a shared office space and micro-university for New York’s tech community. Mr. Harris, who reached the pinnacle of sudden wealth during the dot-com boom and lost it all in the subsequent crash, was a mix of cautionary tale and mythical figure to those working in a resurgent tech scene. “You need to understand,” he said. “I generated hundreds of millions in wealth for this town, that’s a certifiable fact.”

Over the course of the next hour, Mr. Harris laid out his idea for a massive multi-player game in which users competed for attention. It resembled his turn-of-the-century art project, We Live in Public, where individuals broadcast their daily lives out to the masses who tune in to watch strangers eat, sleep and defecate.

The most popular participants from these video streams would be brought to a special stage, to be constructed on Madison Avenue or in Hollywood. “You’re trying to get to set, to be the one in Captain Kirk’s chair!” Harris cried. “My whole life has been building towards this point, sort of one developing idea: being alive is being online.”

A young participant raised his hand. “It seems like you’re very into this idea of mass media. But what I want to see might be different from what you want to see.”

Harris shook his head. “There needs to be an anchor’s desk, a central figure that commands respect.”

Another hand went up. “I don’t understand how this is possible. Who’s going to build all this?”

“I have a team in place, the whole thing could be up and running in 90 days,” Harris said emphatically.

Well then why hadn’t Harris raised money to bring his vision to life? “Not comfortable with VC money anymore, not a good idea.”

Had he heard of collaborative fundraising platforms like Kickstarter? Harris shook his head. “People would go crazy for this idea,” the youngsters decreed. Quickly duties were delegated and a collective cheer went up. “This will be the fastest-funded project of all time!” Ask Josh Harris: A Fireside Chat on the Future of Media