In early ’95, while I was working for HTS (the regional sports network that aired games primarily from the Bullets, Capitals and Orioles) as the Advertising Manager, I received a call from a friend who was going to work for a technology company in Tysons Corner called America Online, known as AOL. They were launching a Sports Channel (’95 was the first year that a number of sports internet sites first launched). During my initial interviews with Randy Dean (channel GM) and Anne Levy (business development lead and friend who first contacted me about AOL), we hit it off immediately. And, I’ll never forget the line that Randy told me, “…just like Roone Arledge was an innovator with broadcasting sports on TV, we have the chance to be the innovators of Sports content on the internet.” That was the line that hooked me and I joined the AOL Sports team in Spring ’95 in a business development / account management role.
We had a terrific team in place and along with ESPN.com, we were ranked one of the top two sports sites in the mid to late 90’s. It was the like the Wild West back then, but our team developed and launched a number of innovative concepts. This included the first real-time scoreboard (which had a huge impact on Fantasy Sports and where people went first to access the latest in scores and stats), community tools (now called social media) for their favorite teams and athletes (live chat rooms, message boards, photo downloads), athlete journals (now referred to as blogs), cyber-casts of MLB and NFL games, electronic balloting (NFL Pro Bowl), and so much more.
I vividly recall in June ’95, we were doing our first cyber-cast at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, and after the 2nd inning, Tom Davis of HTS interviewed our AOL President, Ted Leonsis. Ted loved the interview and then turned to me and said, “you left them to joins us? What were you thinking?” I immediately responded, “I believed your hype about the Internet!” Well, it was by far the best career move I ever made. I thought I might work there for a few years when I started but I ended working there for 14 years and left in the Spring ’09.
It’s rare to have the opportunity to work for one of the most innovative companies the world. AOL introduced many people to email, instant messaging, e-commerce, browsing the internet, etc. It was a magical place full of tremendous people. As they say, “people make the place.”In ’13, I had the opportunity to partner with Jeong Kim and Wim Sweldens to launch Kiswe Mobile. At the time, most content owners delivered passive content to interactive audiences. We saw the opportunity to deliver interactive content to interactive audiences — with a focus on mobile devices.
It’s been a grind and the first few years were not easy. I’d never been involved with a start-up before — and our technology was ahead of its time. But, the past couple of years, we’ve really hit our stride. And, our cloud-based, remote production is resonating strongly in the market (especially during this COVID period). We are, in essence, a “production truck in the cloud.” We’ve added 40+ partners this year, including many of the biggest sports leagues and broadcasting companies in the world — in the US, Asia, Europe and South America. Although we’ve been sports-focused, we’re now doing much more work in the music space, including partnering with BTS to create the largest digital music concert in history.
So, I feel extremely fortunate and grateful to have worked for AOL and for working now with Kiswe. Developing world-class innovative technologies and win-win strategic partnerships were two of the keys to the global growth of AOL and its key to the global growth of Kiswe. And, similarly to AOL, it’s the people at Kiswe that make the difference. Our 55 employees are all working remotely from NY, NJ, DC, Korea, Belgium, England and Singapore. We haven’t seen each other since early March — yet, we’re working so well together as a team in a virtual environment.I get messages from time to time asking me what I’m up … so just thought I’d spell it out. My full-time, day job is Kiswe, my part-time, evening job is teaching at Georgetown … and a majority of my free time is focused on mentoring minority and first-generation college students. Life can be about balance and about making a difference — and that’s what I’ll continue to focus on in the coming years.