Chris Hughes, respected digital innovator, co-founder of Facebook and editor in chief of The New Republic spoke to a group of approximately 130 CSU East Bay students and community members Tuesday evening to share his success and advice to attendees interested in entrepreneurship.
Tuesday’s event marked the second event for CSUEB’s Associated Students Inc. (ASI) “Between the Lines” speaker events.
The 28-year-old multimillionaire, commonly referred to as “the kid who made Obama president” after he coordinated Barack Obama’s online presidential campaign MyBarackObama.com in 2008, is now editor-in-chief and owner of The New Republic, the almost 100-year-old successful politics and culture magazine.
Hughes appeared humble throughout the event, saying he felt lucky to be given the opportunity to speak to CSUEB students and lead a forty minute seminar on Facebook, journalism, and new media before a twenty minute interactive discussion where attendees asked questions shared projects they’re working on took place.
Hughes kept the predominantly Gen Y audience attentive while making jokes about how his life at Harvard wasn’t as glamorous as portrayed in the award-winning movie “The Social Network” as an icebreaker to discuss his success with Facebook.
“Today, Facebook has over a billion users and a market-cap of over $40 billion dollars,” Hughes said. “Most importantly, we shaped the way we communicate with our families, with our friends, and with our colleagues.”
Hughes said Harvard roommates Mark Zuckerberg and Dustin Moskovitz were once just “similar folks” to the CSUEB students and local residents present before him.
“We didn’t know what Facebook would become,” Hughes said. “A few kids with a small idea couldn’t see it explode into the phenomenon that it is today.”
Hughes further discussed how the impact of social and digital media, used in Facebook and MyBarackObama.com plays the role in his current entrepreneurial success, The New Republic.
Hugh’s says The New Republic is successful because it invests in their brand and technology, creating an environment where people can read insightful information from their mobile phone.
“We believe we can do it (produce high quality journalism) in a way that is accessible, charismatic, and embraces the cutting edge technology,” said Hughes, who says Time Magazine did the same thing years ago in era where digital media did not exist.
Hughes says digital media creates a platform not only for big business such as The New Republic, but for authors too, changing the face of journalism.
“This shift has exploded the world of opinion journalism,” Hughes said. “It’s empowered everyone; whether you’re an expert or not. I believe the more opinions that we have, the healthier our democracy can be.”
Hughes said that while social media is increasingly important for successful online entrepreneurship, brands still matter.
“Even in the age of Facebook and Twitter, major news brands receive significant amounts of attention,” Hughes said, adding he doesn’t believe the current convictions of journalism being dead are true.
“Journalism and non-fiction isn’t just the headlines we read, it’s how we make sense of the world around us and how we know what matters and what we need to care about,” Hughes said. “There is no doubt journalism and the news industry has been rapidly transformed by social media in not always ways that we would expect. But there is also a future for it.”
Although, Hughes says the written article still remains a vibrant way of keeping on top of what is happening in the world, he was clear in expressing that the future is digital.
“The world would have us believe no one cares, and the golden age of journalism has passed.”
CSUEB freshman student and aspiring entrepreneur Janet Zamora, who spoke to Hughes about her current business idea, says she feels hopeful after receiving his advice.
“He told me he liked my idea,” said Zamora, smiling ear to ear.
Hughes, after providing attendees like Zamora with an abundance of information and advice in just over an hour, wrapped up the seminar by advising attendees to never take themselves too seriously in entrepreneurship, like he didn’t when developing Facebook.
“It was a very basic idea, we just wanted to know what our friends were up to in college which sounds so simple that it almost sounds absurd,” Hughes said. “I believe this [success] is possible in the age of social media, I think it’s an essential part of society for our democracy to function.”
This entry was published in The Pioneer Online on Thursday, October 25th, 2012 at 2:37 pm.