This guest post was written by SGN founder and Executive Chairman Shervin Pishevar. Pishevar served as SGN’s CEO until January, when he handed off the role to former EA and LucasArts exec Randy Breen. Prior to founding SGN, Pishevar was the founding president and COO of Webs and cofounder of Hotprints and Hyperoffice. He is also an active angel investor.
I get home after a long day and there’s an email from the founders of Nowmov waiting for me in my inbox. I had recently invested in the angel round in Nowmov along with Ron Conway, Ashton Kutcher and others. Ashton had helped seed the idea of Nowmov and introduced me to the team. Their vision: to use the collective intelligence of the masses to watch the most popular videos and content on the Internet in real-time. When I met the incredible team behind them (YCombinator and former Apple engineers) I wrote the check on the spot. The idea of creating customizable channels programmed by the hearts and souls of humanity moved me. Little did I know, just how moved I would be until that little email was sitting in my inbox waiting for me to click on it.
The email was a link to Posterous where the Nowmov founders had created a forum for the investors to get updated and get feedback. I remember thinking ‘this is really neat.’ I saw a comment from another awesome angel, Andrea Zurek, a good friend and early googler who now is part of XG angels (ex-googlers). I responded right after saying,”I wish all startups communicated this way with their investors and advisors!” Then I clicked on Nowmov to help give further feedback to the founders. Immediately, the NowMov channels highest ranking video popped up showing me what video humanity was most loving that very second.
The video was titled “Paparazzi” and in it is a kid sitting at a grand piano on stage that looks like a school auditorium. My first thought was, ‘heh, he looks a lot like my son, Cyrus, who’s 12. On the piano he is playing the chords to the widely popular song Paparazzi. Behind him on the raised stage is a bunch of teenage girls about the same age of the piano player. They all look kind of bored in the beginning. After about 30 seconds, I am thinking, ‘heh, nice piano playing but I’ve seen better.” The girls in the background look like they are thinking the same thing.
But then at :33 seconds this boy opened his mouth. And out flowed a voice that immediately hits your heart. You can see the ripple effect across the faces of the girls. Theirs eyes widen. They turn to each other in shock and smile. You can see as he continues to flex his vocal skills they continue to be shocked and smile in wonderment. In their faces you see reflected the reactions of the whole world. A superstar is born before our very eyes. This boy has the potential to be his generation’s Elton John or Billy Joel. His name is Greyson Chance. It’s a name we will all know.
I immediately shoot an email to my friend, Guy Oseary, the superstar manager to Madonna and many more top stars. The title of the email said, “You must sign him today!!! He’s a superstar!!” Sixty seconds later my iPhone rings and it’s Guy. “I just met with him!”, Guy said. Guy was already on top of it and meeting with him and his mother all day. Meanwhile, over 40 other competing agents were trying to get to them. But when you could have Guy Oseary as your manager why would go anywhere else? The video quickly to over 4 million views in one day, after Ellen then featured it, and has now crossed 20 million views. The next day he performed on Ellen live! (Note: Guy and Greyson just announced that they have officially joined forces!)
I’ve watching this video many times. It’s playing as I write these words and tears of inspiration flow as I watch the transformation in the audience from boredom to wonderment in 30 seconds. The video captures a moment in time where this boy transforms before our eyes like a butterfly coming out of a cocoon. One minute he was an unknown somewhere in the world practicing in his living room countless hours to an audience of none and the next he is performing for the entire world.
This is the modern mythology of our planet; that anyone can pull out that magic sword and transform himself into King Arthur; The dream that anyone in the world with talent can and should be discoverable. We live in a world where true talent can be discoverable without barriers. Our generation must take it all way & democratize merit for all. In a world like this we don’t even need shows like American Idol. The collective hearts, minds and passions of humanity will discover that talent together and shine a passionate light on them.
The more access the world can have to resources to develop their natural talents the better. At the same time we must develop ever more channels for that talent to shine and be discoverable. Platforms like IndieGoGo and Kickstarter are now helping fund independent talent through crowdsourcing funding. My son Cyrus is about to fund his trip to train at the Shaolin Temple and my daughter Darya is going to raise funding for her iPillow invention using IndieGoGo! They are so excited! The Bake Sales of the past are now digital. And once the talent is developed and trained we have new services like NowMov to discover them and share our discoveries on Facebook and Twitter. As an angel investor, I have learned that investing in people always trumps everything else. So a future where people and talent are ever more discoverable is exciting time to be alive.
There are countless others in so many fields who are waiting to be discovered. He might be coding away in a tiny apartment in Moscow. She might be writing the next great novel in Buenos Aires. He’s composing the next great classical sonata in Karachi. He might be designing the next great wave of architecture in Tehran. She might be painting her way to the next Picasso. He’s discovering a cure for a cancer in Kenya.
The better we can incubate the world’s talent and the better we can broadcast those talents to each other the faster we can progress and inspire each other forward. Or as the lyrics to the Paparazzi song say:
We are the crowd
We’re a co-coming
Ready for those flashing lights
Baby, there’s no other superstar…