An Interview About The Future Of Digital with Randall Lane, Editor of Forbes magazine
It’s not every day you get to interview the editor of Forbes magazine. I remember walking past the old Forbes offices on 5th avenue in New York years ago; it’s such a grand, kind-of-intimidating looking building. For the launch of the first European Forbes 30 Under 30 list, hosted at Shoreditch House, I managed to steal a few minutes with Randall Lane, Forbes Editor.
A few minutes in he’d already summed up the ethos of the list by saying: “you have to get out there and do it, you can’t just be a cog in the machine.” I really enjoyed chatting to him, especially about how the digital world is continuing to change rapidly and how exciting that can be for young entrepreneurs.
EG: My first question is, what is the process for selecting the finalists for the Forbes 30 Under 30 list?
RL: We sorted through over 5,000 submissions. We have multiple reporters in each category who are out there looking, talking to people, finding out who’s good, using their sources. Our reporters come up with the semi-finalists and then it goes through the judging process. We have amazing judges, people like Michelle Mone in retail, Kelly Holmes doing the sports part, Kelly Obsorne doing entertainment and Sir Ronald Cohen doing social entrepreneurship – they take it very very seriously. We do it as a group together. We go through it name by name – it’s a legitimate honour to be involved in the process both because of the diligence the reporters do to find the semi-finalists and the diligence in finalising that list.
EG: What made you launch the Europe list, this year?
RL: Over the last five years we’ve realised that entrepreneurship is a global phenomenon – its just as strong in Europe as it is in the States. We’re based in New York but growing increasingly in Europe, we have Forbes Europe magazine. The more we got over here the more we saw the same trends in America happening here, which is, that for the first time in human history, it’s an advantage to be young. The digital natives see problems and solutions that their older peers can’t. It’s not an American thing; it’s a global thing. Entrepreneurs under 30 are reinventing every field. And it’s not just in technology. A 25-year-old tech genius is great but it’s every other field as well that’s being disrupted. And the people really doing that are under 30.
“For the first time in human history, it’s an advantage to be young.”
EG: Do you think the Internet has made it harder or easier to launch your own project? It’s easier in ways, but then again the Internet feels so noisy and saturated with everyone trying to achieve the same thing.
RL: It’s so much easier! It’s the people who grew up with the Internet and are comfortable with whatever the newest technology is. Look at virtual reality now, again the people under 30 are pioneering that. There’s always going to be a new crop of digital creative entrepreneurs. People who are 25 now aren’t going to be as fluent as the people who are 10 years old now – they will grow up with virtual reality – and in 10 years they’re going to be one’s starting the virtual reality companies.
EG: It’s kind of scary.
RL: (Laughs). It is scary. But exciting too. And that’s what fun about this list – it’s scary and it’s exciting, everybody can learn from these incredible entrepreneurs. Each person on this list has a lesson to share.
EG: Some of the people on the list are not very well known. Is this intentional?
RL: We’re constantly trying to find the person who is next. If we just did 30 under 30 Europe and we just had Adele and all the obvious ones, then there wouldn’t be anything that fundamentally interesting about it.
EG: That’s the USP of the list.
RL: Correct. It’s going a little bit deeper and finding people like the Collison brothers who founded Stripe, they are reinventing how people pay. They are going the bank of the world and recently valued at $5 billion. Then you’ve got Alex Klein, in the same tech category, who started Kano which is a computer that you can build yourself that costs you around $100. It’s a kit, not meant for techies, just for any kid who can scrape together $100 can build a computer that works. That’s a very powerful idea. It’s growing too, they’ve raised $16 million. It’s popping now. And we want to surface these people who everyone else will be writing about a year from now – and we’re getting to know these people on the way up.
In this room tonight, is there a future prime minister? Could be. Are there several future billionaires here tonight? Guaranteed.
These folks are establishing a community. That’s what’s also powerful. You’ll see it tonight. These guys network and there’s a cross pollination of different skills.
EG: Sounds dangerous (laughs).
RL: It is quite dangerous (laughs).
“People who are 25 now aren’t going to be as digitally fluent as the people who are 10 years old now.”
EG: I noticed the Blog Lovin’ founders are on the list again this year. What are your thoughts on the future of blogs?
RL: Blogs aren’t going anywhere. It’s just who can reinvent it and keep it fresh. Just like print magazines aren’t going anywhere. And yes, it’s a matured business, but there’s still room for something different and fresh. It’s the people who take something established, putting a spin on it, and getting traction. We’re not wedded to “new just to be new”. We’re looking across the field to see who people are buzzing about and who’s going to be a leader in their field for the next 50 years. That’s what’s cool.
“Blogs aren’t going anywhere. It’s just who can reinvent it and keep it fresh.”
“It’s an amazing thing, to be living in a time and place where if you have an idea and you have the drive, you can actualise it – it wasn’t even that way 20 years ago. Not even really 10 years ago.”
EG: I’ve noticed there’s a lot of people on the list who work for themselves.
RL: Yes. Very few people under 30 aspire to work for a big company. They don’t come out of University saying “I’m going to be get that big job at Barclays.”
EG: And work there for 25 years….
RL: I mean, there’s nothing wrong with that. But that’s not what they’re thinking. They’re thinking how do I live my dream, come up with my idea. That’s the dream. And these guys on the list are living that dream and they are role models for everyone else.
EG: Have you notice a key personality trait in these 30 Under 30 winners?
RL: I’ve noticed two things. 1) Social purpose. They ask themselves: is there a greater purpose to what I’m doing and am I making the world a better place? and 2) It’s the I-Can-Do-Anything-That’s-Possible ethos. The barriers to entry are lower now due to technology. 30 years ago you had to raise millions of dollars to get something off the ground and to make a product. You’d need loads of experience and a factory. Now, you need code or an innovative idea – and you will get funded and you won’t have your age used against you. Now, there’s no stigma to age.
You can read the full Forbes Europe 30 Under 30 list here.
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