Daily Column – 6th February 2022

A year ago, Jeffrey Katzenberg was looking at the stars, but not in the way he was used to seeing them, either. With the sale of the short-form mobile media company he started in 2018, the well-known Hollywood power broker took a big hit to the face. The service was shut down just six months after it was launched, and it didn’t start the video revolution that he and CEO Meg Whitman hoped. Today, its traces can be found in Roku.

What do you do when you’re hit? Get up, of course. Katzenberg reunited with WndrCo, the well-funded investment firm that helped him start Quibi. He then went back to work investing in other businesses and making money. When he was younger, he started a company called Aura. Its founder and CEO is Hari Ravichandran. Morning Brew talked to Katzenberg about his new project and what he learned from Quibi.

Jeffrey, you’re a Hollywood guy. You worked for Walt Disney Studios and DreamWorks Animation when you were in charge of them. Before that, you made a short-lived, short-form mobile media company called “Quibi.” When it comes to cybersecurity, what are you going to do?

When I sold DreamWorks about five years ago, I gave NBCUniversal the movie company. After shaking hands, I thought about what I would be doing if I were 20 years old today. I’d work in digital technology, but I don’t know how. The new ideas, the entrepreneurial activity, and so on I thought it would be 10 times worse than it was.

So I reached out and found great partners, two people who used to be Dropboxers, and started WndrCo. Because they’re two times smarter than me, they’re only half my age. They focused on the wide range of digital and cyber technology that is out there now. So from the start, it has been a place that we have been interested in and invested in. Aura is a good thing for people to buy. It’s a subscription service, and there are a lot of things I know about that I like.

When you say “consumer,” it’s as broad as it can be. What does this mean?

In the next 10 years, there will be no part of our lives that isn’t going to be changed and improved by digital technology in a big way. Food from a menu? When did this happen? Or maybe in the second century, as well. People drive, get to work, communicate, and work together. Neither evolutionary, nor revolutionary, but very different. This is why, when you have a never-ending curiosity, it’s an amazing world.

When we last talked, you were about to launch Quibi. It didn’t work out. What did you learn?

Because of what we built and delivered, I couldn’t be more proud of myself and my team. The big idea of a new kind of film narrative is to tell long stories in short chunks. The content that was made, the people who worked on it, and the studios that made it. They did better than I thought they would.

But I am humbled by the fact that it didn’t work out for me. It was clear that it didn’t have a product–market fit. Is it the product? Is it because we didn’t have the right market at the time we launched? But we do get up every day and bring a little TV with us and have short breaks. The answer is no. I don’t know.

So I’m a little down. It’s important to learn from your mistakes and failures in life, not your successes, because that’s where you learn the most. Most of the time, it doesn’t work to try to follow the same path you took to get where you want to be next. But the lessons you learn from failing are important. We did well, and I am proud of what we did.

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