January 23, 2013

What It’s Like Interviewing with Robert Scoble

Interview with Robert Scoble

It’s difficult to find a more likeable person than Robert Scoble.  If you don’t know who he is, he’s like the Oprah of Tech.

Robert had no reason to interview me. It’s unlikely that he would have found me if it weren’t for a recommendation to Robert from a great customer of ours.  Thanks, Jeff.

I told a friend I was meeting with him figuring he might have met Robert before. I asked him what Robert’s like.

“Really down to earth, really personable, you’d never know he’s the guy everyone wants to talk to”.

I had to take a cab to his house in Half Moon Bay for an interview he was conducting of me about our startup. Along the way, the cab driver asked some women that were walking together if they knew where we could find his address.  Their reaction to the address was, “is it someone with a lot of money?”

I have no idea how much money Robert makes or what “a lot of money” even means so I don’t know why I instinctually nodded yes.  I guess I was thinking that he had to find a way to make money from how much he’s sought out and how far reaching his network is.

Robert lives in a modest home in a beautiful gated community that contains a golf course.  He greeted me at the door with a big smile with his son, Ryan, whom proudly pointed to his sea of toys that covered the living room.  Ryan looked at me to make sure I was looking at them, and just said, “toys.”  After some brief empirical analysis, I agreed with his claim.  It was clear that I had just interrupted some quality time with Robert and Ryan and saw why Robert enjoys working from home so much.

Robert is 6’2”, looks like Philip Seymour Hoffman, and was dressed like he could have been a roadie for Phish.

Screen Shot 2013-01-23 at 7.04.19 AM

When we walked up to his office, he asked me what we were gonna talk about today.

He checked out Ecquire and started using it right away.  He genuinely was impressed and gave us an amazing testimonial. I thought about what would be interesting to talk about but he was already rolling and asked me a series of questions before I could think.  We went over the company and the product in the interview which will go up on Robert’s blog this month.

When the camera stopped, I had some of the most enjoyable 30 minutes I’ve ever had talking with anyone. I couldn’t ask enough questions and we covered a wide range of things.  There’s certain people that you meet where you feel like you’ve been friends since grade school.  That’s Robert’s skill.

There are questions on Quora and wiki entries that try to pin down why and how Robert got to be in his position.  You can’t help but to talk to him like he’s a good friend.  That’s why.

I asked him what was the most common characteristic that he saw in successful entrepreneurs.  As he was maneuvering some cords around so he could charge my computer, he was half grinning and shaking his head like he is still in belief of the chemical makeup of entrepreneurs.

“They’re crazy.  Entrepreneurs are just crazy.  Or some use ‘passion’ as the code word for crazy.  It’s crazy to start a company.”

We started to delve into productivity and he asked me if I had any more productivity hacks myself. I told him I don’t have a Facebook account.  He called me a weirdo.  I showed him an article from Inc. where it references my productivity hack of not having a Facebook account.

I asked him what he thought about Quora.  He mentioned how much he liked it and offered a productivity hack for me with Quora.  Follow topics on Quora.  Not people. “People aren’t one dimensional so there’s a lot of noise in Quora feeds, but Topics are different.”

We went back and forth for awhile on the tradeoffs of Facebook.  I think I garnered a modicum of respect from him for why I don’t like it and won’t use it.  He didn’t need to make an argument for what it does for him, he swiveled in his chair to engage his “command center” which has a 50 inch LCD TV hanging over he reserves for CNBC mounted over three 30 inch monitors on his desk.

The left most monitor is split with Twitter and Quora.  The right most monitor is for Facebook and the middle is for Gmail.  There’s a constant stream of Facebook messages and emails from entrepreneurs to world leaders.  I was seeing first hand why it’s so difficult to get on his calendar.  He was talking with me and giving one line responses to Facebook messages to demonstrate that real business for him happens on Facebook.

While it’s tough to get on his calendar, it’s easy to find his contact info.  He’s known for regularly publishing his email and phone number everywhere.

Given how much he publicly promotes his contact info and how much he uses Facebook for business, I asked him if he posted pictures of his kids on Facebook.

“Fuck yeah.  I’m an open book.”

Robert has 29 people in his close friends group on Facebook and I’m sure that many texted him that day while I was there.  It happened to be his birthday.  I had no idea it was but tried to pass it off like I knew but just forgot to mention it.  It wasn’t the first time someone tried to snow him.

I asked him to put a price tag on his network.  For example, what would it be worth if someone could own your Facebook account?  $100M? I asked.  He looked perplexed at the question. I explained that it’s pretty clear to me that he could make or break any startup company, close any deal for any company with a simple Facebook message, and have the ear of anyone in the world.  He thought about it some more and while he didn’t answer, he made the connection I was trying to illustrate. He started talking about Rackspace and about a million dollar deal that came in from Rackspace on Saturday night. Through a simple question someone had for him on Facebook, he had turned it into a deal for RackSpace.

He went right into Facebook’s social graph and the new search functionality that allows you to get to anyone in the world through a simple Facebook message.  His latest topic of focus has been on contextual information.  We talked about what kind of data mattered and how data should be presented. I think that CRMs should be obsolete if contextual information is done correctly.

Robert is working on a book called “Age of Context”.  I asked him if I could help in any way or contribute in any way and he said there wouldn’t be any citing and that it’s going to be like a guide for helping entrepreneurs who are just getting started.  I think I’ll pick it up.

I reluctantly started packing my things a little after 11AM and he put a call he was getting on hold.  He looked over and said, “I wish I could spend more time with you. You’re like Tim Ferriss, you’re seeing shit no one else is seeing.”

That was a really cool thing to hear for me and a highlight from this startup rollercoaster.

On the train ride back to SF I was trying to figure out if Robert was the actually the most powerful person in tech.  I concluded that he was and that I’m happy that it’s not anybody else.

3 Comments on “What It’s Like Interviewing with Robert Scoble

Scott Ayres
January 25, 2013 at 4:57 pm

Thanks for putting this out there. I think Robert is probably the most misunderstood person online right now. He’s just a normal guy that’s very connected and in today’s social world that equates to power..

Paul DeJoe
January 25, 2013 at 7:01 pm

Thanks, Scott. Yeah, Robert was one of the nicest and most down to Earth people, I’ve ever met. I really enjoyed getting to talk with him and meeting him. I hope what came across was that he’s in a great position and successful from being that kind of person.

Jeff SKI Kinsey
January 25, 2013 at 10:38 pm

Very nice article. Glad it worked it out.


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