MegaCynics interview for our Subscribathon!

Uploaded by geekandsundry on May 1, 2012


FELICIA DAY: Steve is one of our donors who's giving money
to Best Friends Society, based on the number of subscribers
we get today.
So thank you so much for helping to support
our charity for us.
STEVE: Oh, my pleasure.
And by the way, I'm in for the full amount, whether you guys
get your targets or not.
FELICIA DAY: Oh, my God!
Thank you so much.
STEVE: You're welcome.
FELICIA DAY: That's crazy.
We're going to save a lot of animals.
Thank you so much for that.
STEVE: No problem.
FELICIA DAY: So, you are such an interesting guy.
And I want to talk to you about-- first of all, your
background is so interesting, because you're an
You have an amazing company that you
started a long time ago.
And I think a lot of people, we all have dreams of having
that amazing start-up company that becomes huge.
Can you talk a little bit about that, especially the
feeling that you had when you were doing it.
Did you know that it was going to be really successful when
you started, or what?
Absolutely not.
FELICIA DAY: So just tell me about the company.
STEVE: I'd always wanted to start a company.
I don't know why.
I think it was just in my blood from a very young age.
And after I graduated from university, I approached my
best friend, Beric Farmer, and said, hey, do you want to
start a company?
And he'd known me since grade nine and he knew
I was kind of crazy.
But I think he also had a certain amount of respect for
me, and said, yeah, I think we can make this work.
We had no girlfriends, wives, families, anything like that.
We were early '20's.
It was a great time to do it.
So this was in 1993.
And the commercial internet was really
young in those days.
It was a lot like the new media sphere is today.
Nobody really knew where it was going, how it was going to
work out, if it was going to work out, was there any money
in it or not.
And the reality was, we started the Currency
Converter, the Universal Currency Converter in 1995,
just to show people you could actually
have dynamic websites.
Because all the websites back in those days were just static
pages of information, which I'm sure you remember.
FELICIA DAY: Yeah, yeah.
And it became really big, really fast.
And probably by '98, '99, we were the big
currency site around.
And by 2000, we were breaking even.
So it took us five solid years.
And again, this is something that really reminds me of the
new media sphere, too.
It took us a long time of being poor
before we had anything.
And then--
FELICIA DAY: Yeah, people think everybody's
an overnight sensation.
STEVE: Absolutely.
FELICIA DAY: --especially when you've been working for 10
years at it.
STEVE: Absolutely, right?
But it takes a long, hard grind to get to the point
where you're even just breaking even, let alone
making money.
The next five years, from 2000 to 2005, were pretty good.
By 2005, we were making--
we were a huge brand online.
We were something around 300 of all websites in the world.
And that does include pornography, which is actually
kind of amazing.
FELICIA DAY: You were up there with pornography.
And it's, right?
STEVE:, the World's Favorite
Foreign Exchange website.
But we weren't really making any money until let's say
2005, 2007.
And then things were really good.
So it took us that long.
It took the industry that long to sort of come to the point
where money could be made, and it took us that long to sort
of figure out how to make it.
Now things are going really well.
And I decided to take a lot of the money that was coming out
of that and put it back into interesting
projects and things.
I'd been sort of coming across things here and there for a
number of years, and sort of going, geez, I wish I could
finance that.
Boy, wouldn't it be nice to finance.
And then one day I said, well, I can, actually.
There's no reason I couldn't.
FELICIA DAY: So let's talk a little bit about that, because
I think that's really interesting.
And then I want to talk about your comic, too, which is a
really cool story.
But you guys, it is a kind of awesome thing to be able to
help people out and make their things happen.
And let me see, I have a list of things that you have funded
that I wrote down.
Well, first of all, Jeff Lewis 5-Minute Comedy Hour.
STEVE: Season 2.
FELICIA DAY: Season 2 is being funded by you.
FELICIA DAY: Teal Share.
STEVE: I Give You Life, a great project.
FELICIA DAY: I Give You Life is being funded by you.
STEVE: Completely.
FELICIA DAY: You are helping finance Cindy
Pareek's new web series.
It's secret.
STEVE: --which is awesome.
Which we're both in.
FELICIA DAY: Yeah, it's very awesome.
We both have an appearance in.
And what are some of the other web video things that you've
supported in the last year?
STEVE: Nuka Break.
Yeah, geez, there's a bunch of them.
Rubidium Wu's Silent City, which I think you're also
backing as well.
FELICIA DAY: I do back that, which I thought was
STEVE: It's really, it's a cool thing.
Geez, actually there's a whole bunch of them.
And quite frankly, they don't all pop to mind right now, and
people are going to kill me for not mentioning them.
But tell me why you seem to be drawn to video as something
you want to support, which is so cool, because I just think
it's awesome.
Because you're supporting independent people, and you're
helping make their creative visions come through.
STEVE: Last night, I was just talking about this, how to
monetize it, right?
Which was a great panel, by the way.
I loved that.
That was great.
FELICIA DAY: Thank you.
STEVE: Actually, so far, so good.
I haven't watched everything, but maybe 75%.
And it's been very enjoyable so far.
FELICIA DAY: The first hour was rough, but the reveal with
a girl who is really hot involved, the other girl.
So it was OK.
We got through.
But now it's actually really cool to be able to have kind
of a virtual convention like this.
STEVE: It is.
But you ask why.
Why am I doing?
Well, one of the main reasons is, as I said before, it
really reminds me of the beginning, almost 20 years
ago, of the commercial internet.
Back in '93.
people are just getting involved, figuring it out.
It's really exciting.
I mean, our business has got to the point where it's kind
of big now.
And we have meetings.
We have meetings about meetings.
It's not quite the same sort of entrepreneurial thing.
So I get vicarious thrill by getting
involved in people's projects.
Plus, there's a lot of passion involved.
People aren't necessarily making a lot of money.
They're doing it because they love it.
And it's neat to be involved for that, as well.
But I also think that it reminds me so much of the
beginning of the commercial internet, I
think the people like--
as much as I can be direct and say it-- you and Sandeep and
the Wayside guys from Nuka Break and stuff like that, and
Gabe and Teal and all the great people, these are going
to be big, big names in 10 years.
In the same way that our little company-- no, I really,
I really believe that.
And I think, in the same way that we were just a couple of
guys starting out in a basement, initially, and
eventually got to the point where we sort of--
nothing really changed much day by day, but then we just
turned around and said, holy cow.
It's come a long way.
FELICIA DAY: Yeah, you keep working really hard and doing
what you love, then hopefully--
it's not guaranteed, but at least if you're doing what you
love, it doesn't feel like work.
We have a lot of people on chat commenting about your
portal gun in the back.
And I'm reminded of the fact that you actually also back a
lot of other kick starters.
You work a lot with Double Fine, and you've
done a lot of games.
What did you do with the latest Double Fine venture?
STEVE: So I financed the Mac port of Psychonauts.
I financed the PC port of Stacking and Costume Quest.
And Tim and I are working on some new projects, which are
kind of cool, as well.
I had sort of peripheral splash damage involvement in
that Markus Persson Psychonauts 2 thing.
Because Tim and I had discussed that before hand,
and the budget was quite high.
And then Tim did a Rock, Paper Shotgun article which sort of
implied whether he made a misquote, or whether Rock,
Paper Shotgun misquoted him, that sort of implied it was
maybe about the third the cost that it would actually cost.
And then Markus Persson got involved and said, hey, maybe
I could get involved.
And so we were talking and, really, really?
But I think again, I think it was a bigger project than he
had anticipated.
It's certainly not scrubbed, guaranteed dead or
anything like that.
But again, I mean, it goes back to the same factors.
It's an expensive game to do.
And there's no guarantee of commercial success.
And no matter how altruistic you are, dropping millions and
millions of dollars on something that isn't
necessarily going to bring your money back is--
it's one thing to do it for a web series where you can do it
for some of the web series I do just sort of for a feel
good thing.
FELICIA DAY: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
It's a better investment to do the technology.
That's what's cool lately about these games being able
to be crowdsourced, in a sense, because the Double Fine
and then Wasteland 2.
STEVE: Yeah.
I'm in both of those things, and they're fabulous.
I Brian said, I think he was coming up on $2 million.
And you know Chris Avellone, I think you worked with him on--
I'm a huge fan.
STEVE: We had dinner the other night, and we were
talking about you.
All good things.
FELICIA DAY: Oh thank you.
STEVE: And he's going to come onto the project, if they can
hit $2.2 million, which looks pretty good.
That's fantastic.
FELICIA DAY: So go and support Wasteland 2, because that
would be a huge creative asset.
A lot of people are thanking you for Stacking on PC and
thanking you for supporting the games they love and making
sure that they're available on all their platforms.
STEVE: You're quite welcome.
And watch for other games and maybe even some of the games
you've already seen maybe hitting some new
platforms or something.
I'm not going to say anything.
FELICIA DAY: That's really interesting, because like a
lot of people complain, hey, I can't see the videos on this
platform, this platform.
Like it's interesting how people are kind of devoted to
where they want to watch their media.
But they expect it to be everywhere.
And we even have a lot of people who say, hey, I want a
Blu-ray of The Guild.
And I'm like, people don't understand that Blu-ray is
proprietary software.
And in order to do that, it's thousands and thousands of
dollars to set up a Blu-ray, much less be able to make it
affordable on the scale that we would sell them, to be able
to be affordable.
So people, it's the kind of economic things that even I
didn't appreciate before I got into the business that kind of
prohibit us from making everybody happy all the time.
Now can we talk a little bit about your comic?
STEVE: Absolutely.
FELICIA DAY: Because you do this comic with your sister,
and this is an amazing story, you guys.
So I was adopted as a child.
And it turns out, I found out later I have two full
biological brothers and a biological sister that I
didn't meet til later in my life.
And my biological sister Ash is almost 20 years
younger than I am.
And we met at a family reunion, I think it was 2007.
And again, my life, especially of late, has
gone very, very well.
And she was in vastly different circumstances.
But I've seen some of the art she was doing, and I saw a
real talent shining through.
Still a little rough around the edges, but
real talent in there.
And I said, you know what, you should do something with that.
So we'd sort of been talking on and off for a while.
And I helped her get set up with some hardware and sent
her to some commercial illustration courses and
things like that, just to see what would happen.
And she really took to it.
So I was at my brother's wedding last February.
And I said to her, we should really start a web comic or
something like that.
Let's do it for a year.
We'll try it out.
If it works, great.
If it doesn't work, you've got a year of commercial portfolio
online, right?
And it's been going really well.
In fact, the one year anniversary of
the comic is today.
We launched it April 1 last year.
FELICIA DAY: And so you're going to keep going, because
you gave it the trial run and you still keep going?
STEVE: I'm loving it.
It's funny.
FELICIA DAY: That's great!
STEVE: We're not really concerned.
It's kind of neat.
Like the web series I find we're not really concerned
about whether it makes money.
I mean, maybe someday.
Right now, we're just concerned about, can we get
some traction, can it get some followers.
Well, actually, a lot like what you're doing now.
Just sort of getting started and seeing where it goes.
FELICIA DAY: It's incremental.
Everything's incremental.
And the fact that your journey from creative start-up in your
basement to really becoming a successful businessman, and at
the same time being able to give that back into community
and help other people, and knowing that it's not going to
be overnight.
I mean, that's just kind of like, people--
STEVE: Exactly.
FELICIA DAY: A lot of people move to LA, and they're like,
I'm going to give it a year.
And I'm like, well, just leave now.
Because probably, unless it's some crazy roll of the die,
it's probably not going to happen.
But that doesn't mean you're a failure.
It means that, it just will take more time.
And it's not you.
It's a lot of luck and a lot of just randomness.
STEVE: I think the same is true--
I think you could pick any industry and you would find
the same thing, that it takes a--
people always see what they feel are those overnight
successes you were talking about earlier.
And they don't see the work behind them.
It really does take, with a few exceptions--
and actually, those exceptions can poison the well, because I
know a few people who have seen their friends get really
big, really fast, and they assume, what am I doing wrong?
Well, nothing really.
That's the exception, the very, very rare exception.
And they do exist, just like lottery winners.
But come on, winning the lottery
isn't really a strategy.
FELICIA DAY: You can't tie yourself to that.
Because a lot of people, they'll be like, well, I'm not
going to bother sing or act or write, because look at that
person who's so much better than me.
And it's the fact that, A, that's the 1% that we see,
0.1% of people ever.
So be realistic about what would make you happy and do
what you love, not thinking about all these external
things in a way that you might not achieve
or you might achieve.
But really, your own personal success should be the measure,
not external success, right?
STEVE: Well,yeah, and just the things that you do, not just
with the resources you have, but just the choices you make.
I mean, there are people that get very successful and spend
it all on giant toys and houses and things like that.
And you know what, OK, that's fine.
But I personally--
and this is actually one of things I was saying to Chris
the other night.
He was saying, well, you're very altruistic.
And I said, I don't really feel that way, because I get
so much enjoyment and satisfaction out of the
things that I do.
I kind of feel like I'm not an altruist at all.
I actually think that I am not a philanthropist at all.
I'm just a guy doing things that he likes.
I think Wil had posted-- was it Wil-- had posted a great
quote on Geek and Sundry about being a geek.
And it's just basically an unashamed I'm doing whatever
the hell I want.
And that's sort of where I am, right?
Why not?
So anyway, so let me plug the comic quickly.
FELICIA DAY: We have two people in the chat, who have
already said, oh my God, it's amazing.
I really enjoy it.
STEVE: Oh, great.
Well, thank you.
And yes, I was saying this to Ken the other night, I do kind
of apologize, because we used you as a prop in the comic,
before I'd met you at Jeff's party.
FELICIA DAY: Oh, that's OK.
A physical prop?
STEVE: What?
You haven't read the comic.
No, a running gag in the comic is we encase people in Lucite.
FELICIA DAY: Yes, yes, yes.
I remember that.
I do remember that.
It's a long day, and it's only going to get longer.
So I love it.
STEVE: Tia rescued you.
FELICIA DAY: Throw me in whatever.
I'm cool with it.
STEVE: We had Tia rescue you.
She sort of came in--
FELICIA DAY: I can't wait for Gibby Live.
We're going to be doing a guest star on that, too.
STEVE: That's great.
FELICIA DAY: So we'll see you on set, right?
STEVE: I think I'm cast as the bartender or
something like that.
At the very least, I'm going to sit around in a chair and
look very important.
FELICIA DAY: Is there anything else you want to say, website,
Everybody look at MegaCynics.
No, I'm really just happy to be supporting Geek and Sundry
and other things.
FELICIA DAY: Thank you so much.
So thank you so much for your donation to Best Friends.
And don't let that disincentivize anybody to
spread word about the subscription drive.
STEVE: All right.
FELICIA DAY: Bye, Steve.
STEVE: All right.
Thanks for your time, Felicia.