Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Casey Neistat Hosted a ‘Reverse Shark Tank’

Joseph Gordon-Levitt participates in a “Reverse Shark Tank” panel Jasmine Ting/ Observer


“Access to high quality, hard-core pornography for all people.” All eyes were glued on Casey Neistat as he told the crowd what he sees as a need in the market.

“I was just seeing if you guys were paying attention.” Neistat was on the 102nd floor of the One World Observatory—surrounded by VIPs, CEOs and young innovators at a tech conference—and here he was making a joke. Everyone laughed.

While the room was filled with members of Kairos Society, industry leaders, entrepreneurs and geniuses in tech, the two people that seemed to stand out the most were charismatic YouTube personality Casey Neistat, as well as everybody’s favorite charmingly boyish actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt. 

But what were these two celebrities doing there? By the sounds of it, it seems they’re on a mission to end narcissistic media.

Not too many people may know, but Gordon-Levitt heads his own small company called HitRecord—a platform for creatives to collaborate and mingle. JGL, who introduced himself simply as “Joe,” told the Observer that he’s always been fascinated by tech and that he grew up with his dad bringing computers into their home. He went with the intent to learn from “all the incredible minds” in the conference. 

Neistat was there representing creatives, contributing to the conversation as someone who uses tech and media for several of his large projects.  

The two were thrown into a “Reverse Shark Tank” in separate panels on Friday at a Kairos Society tech conference, where they challenged young innovators to solve a problem or “market failure” they thought needed fixing. Both found that there was something missing in today’s media platforms.

Young innovators and company executives network and share their stories at the Kairos Society conference Jasmine Ting/ Observer

Gordon-Levitt first said he was excited when YouTube became a thing and when the internet began to get bigger around 10 years ago. He thought media would become more interactive. He thought, “People are going to be less couch potato-ey and people are going to be less celebrity-obsessed. The star system is going to fade away and media is going to become this healthier more conversational force.” Nope.

In the age of social media, practically everyone is media-obsessed. JGL said it all: Facebook, SnapChat, Instagram and Twitter “are not conducive to healthy human relationships or any sort of profound connection with the media you’re consuming.” From the age of TV to the era of Netflix, the barrier that separates audience and creators is still there and not a lot has changed. 

Gordon-Levitt asked the young men and women in the room—dressed in their best coats and blazers—to come up with a more interactive, collaborative space similar to the model that HitRecord is built on. What he wants to achieve, or what he wants others to create, is a platform where people can do more than just say “Hey, world! Look at me and what I made!”

Casey Neistat shares his thoughts on using social media to help solve social issues Jasmine Ting/ Observer

But, as Neistat said, the platforms we have aren’t useless. They definitely have potential and, in the future, audience alienation will probably be a thing of the past. “I think time is going to change that,” he told the Observer. “The minute I shifted [The Neistat Brothers] from HBO to YouTube, which is a more democratic platform, that changed dramatically. To me, that’s illustrative of the opportunities in this space.”

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Casey Neistat Hosted a ‘Reverse Shark Tank’