Corsair Interview: Josh Harris
Remember Josh Harris, the internet entrepeneur/ performance artist? It is not inconceivable that Josh Harris, one of the founders of Jupiter Communications, was very much ahead of the curve. Josh also founded Pseudo, a company -- which he now calls performance art -- that threw the best parties in the 1990s (a significant achievement, to be sure). Pseudo can only be properly construed as a digital equivalent circa the late 90s and turn of the millennium, of Andy Warhol's Factory. In both instances, everything was caught on camera.
In retrospect, Josh's obsession with digital self-chronicling anticipated Webs 2.0 and 3.0. I interviewed Josh, an acquaintance, a while ago via email. As the documentary on him -- by Ondi Timoner -- won a Sundance award, and opens at the IFC Center tomorrow, I thought now was as good a time as any to dust it off. At the time of the interview Josh was head of Operator 11, a Hollywood-based startup. Now, curiously, Josh's most recent venture was running an entertainment company in Sidamo, Ethiopia.
Josh Harris, a Silicon Alley dot-bomb survivor, is quite a character. Literally. In a previous incarnation, he was “Luvvy,” his alter-ego in clown makeup (I am not kidding about this). And previous to that, Josh was CEO of Pseudo Programs, Inc., which, at the time, was the largest producer of original Internet TV content. At the turn of the century Harris was a 38-year old full of hubris seeking to take And Warhol one step further. Josh Harris told CBS News correspondent Bob Simon in an infamous “60 Minutes” telecast on the irrational exuberance of the Alley, “Our business model is to take you guys out of business … I'm in a race to take CBS out of business. That's my focus. That's what my bankers are telling me to do. The race is on. We're in the hunt and we're out to get you guys." Howard Stern – then at Viacom -- and even CBS had shown some initial interest, “Howard and Mel (Karmazin) looked at us,” Josh emailed me. “Howard claimed Pseudo's asking price was too high. Mel did not want to invest in the future. We didn't smell right to two seasoned professionals.” (Ironically, Stern may just end up online after his Sirius-XM contract expires in 2010) And then, all at once, the dotcom flameout engulfed Pseudo and the party was over. Harris took it in stride: “In February 2001 I left New York City. I farmed apples in Livingston, NY until 2004 … Sold the Farm. Lived in various hotel rooms in Madrid for one year. Began development on Operator11 with a Spanish Count (unmonied but a major shareholder in Operator11) and the deflowered Belgian nun he pulled from a convent. “Had the choice of joining the Madrid television mafia or moving to Hollywood.”
Or living in Ethiopia.
We Live in Public, which chronicles Josh's obsession with self-chronicling opens in limited engagement on August 28.