What’s up everyone, my name is Ben Gott, but everyone knows me as Benjamin Edgar. I’m a creative entrepreneur, maker, idk, titles are tough.
Take it back to the beginning, when did you first start noticing you had some type of creative talent?
Maybe your parents notice before you do, right? I remember around six years old I was inclined to draw. What’s that quote? “Everyone’s an artist until their teachers tell them not to be”. Something like that.
I would say it all came together around 12 when I started making the transition from legos to software development. I joked that software development is like having unlimited lego pieces. My form of creativity was with computers. It isn’t as much today but it’s still the foundation of what I do.
As we fast forward up to now, your most recent endeavor is Th-oughts. What inspired this journey?
The idea came from thinking about how we could possibly augment traditional education. With Th-oughts, the teacher is being picked by the student. I wanted to create something where people could connect with experts in any field.
You recently said, “I want to put a “ding” in the traditional higher-education system. It’s not some vindication or anything that I’m after either…it’s just a personal interest in tinkering and experimenting and seeing if there is a better way for people to learn about things they are passionate about.” What would be the first thing you’d look to change within the education system?
Well, I don’t know if I’m interested in changing the existing education system. I think there are basics you should learn in life through traditional education, however like I said, I like the idea of students/kids being able to pick their teachers. These 10-12-year-old kids are on social media following people they think are interesting. They’ll follow a shoe designer, a software developer, a makeup artist, etc. If they can learn from them as well as their traditional education, that’s a huge shift. I get inspired by that specific idea.
Over these past 20 years, you’ve been a huge part of Chuck’s life. How happy are you for Chuck for all he’s accomplished through his career?
I’m so happy man. Like how can you not be?
When you look at what he made, honestly, I’ll say this, Chuck created the blueprint I think for a lot of kids. If you remember back on the message boards, people would almost in a way hate on Chuck because he had such a trajectory and continues to. Chuck has always been such a hard worker and he figured out how to hack things (email process) and always did it without an ego. You have to remember, Chuck was doing work for Absolut Vodka before he could even drink. There’s just a brotherly love I have for him. I’m just a huge fan of his work ethic and his taste. He created a genre of design. The lightwork that he does is his genre.
You’ve talked about having a long-term (14+ years) mentor and how it is such an underappreciated luxury. Teach the youth the importance of having a mentor
I’m lucky. I’m not going to lie. The reason why Linda became my mentor is because I was working for her husband’s company. To my understanding, they sent Linda to come get coffee with me because…I was kinda weird. I think I wore flip-flops to the first meeting. I just wasn’t thinking about those things back then, I was 19.
I always joke when I say this, but, you don’t know a person is your mentor until five years after almost. Because you sit back and realize they have been there the whole time.
One of the most important things you should do is hang out with people who are a little bit older than you, hang out with people that have achieved things you’d like to achieve, hang out with people who challenge you. Over time, those people will become your mentors.
It’s not easy to find a mentor and there’s a lot of luck involved, but, if you put yourself out there and really develop a deep relationship with your mentor, it’s going to be incredibly beneficial for you. Linda sees every decision I make beforehand. Business, life, money, moving, girls, everything.
The late great Steve Prefontaine once said, “to give anything less than your best, is to sacrifice the gift.” Over the years, with working on all of your projects, have you ever felt like you haven’t given one of them 100% of your effort/time?
Yes. The first startup that I raised money for was an independent music distribution service. Before independent musicians could just put their music on iTunes via TuneCore, etc, there wasn’t a great way to sell your music digitally. We ended up building one where artists would get 80% of the sale, they could name their price, and so on.
This was when I transitioned from being my own software developer to saying: I’m probably not good enough to do that or even to design it for that matter. I figured I should hire a design agency and a development agency. With that, I felt like I sold myself short. I spent too much of the investor’s money and the quote “design by democracy creates mediocrity” is how I was feeling. The company just started becoming a bunch of different peoples vision. It didn’t work out as a business and that’s fine, but it still pains me to this day that I didn’t get my hands dirtier on that one. I was a programmer, I could’ve done so much of this. I wasn’t the worlds best designer, but I could’ve taken a stab at it. That’s just one example, I’m sure there are other examples.
I’m in a transition phase right now where I’m working on so many different things at once, that one of them at one point may suffer. Although, I look at somebody like Elon, and I then start to believe that it can all be done. But it’s like being at the gym. You have to get good at it. The first time you go to the gym it’s brutal and then over time you get a little bit better and a little bit better. That’s how I feel with working on multiple projects.
A few years back, you said, ‘I always forget business is the “child” of creativity.’ What did you mean by that?
When you create really really great products that you’re happy about and that you think solve a problem, the business is the result of that. It’s not why you started it. I don’t think people start great companies to make a bunch of money. I’m sure some people do, but not the majority. I think Elon once said, the concept of a business is one of the greatest human inventions. It’s just a bunch of people getting together and focusing on the same direction. That direction was usually set by creativity and solving a problem.
Favorite interview on the brilliance?
I have to do two. The Alex Calderwood (Rest In Peace) interview is one of my favorite interviews we did. And that story came about because I used to do a Hotel post and one time I did a piece on the Ace Hotel having original Kaws artwork on their walls. I remember joking in my post saying that I’m going to steal the artwork if I go there. This ad guy ended up emailing us from New York and said, “Hey I read your guy’s blog, I’ve never heard of The Ace and ended up staying there.” Chuck and I took the email and sent it to The Ace Hotel. Alex ended up emailing me back within minutes and was like, “yo here’s my phone number call me, I want to send you guys out to stay at our hotel.” Chuck and I ended up going out to Seattle to meet up with Alex. Alex took us out for two full days in the city. After a couple nights out, we ended up doing an interview the next day. As we continued chatting with Alex, he ended up introducing us to Aaron Bondaroff, who I didn’t know at the time.
Aaron Bondaroff from Supreme, aNYthing, Moran Bondaroff Gallery. That was a special moment. He answered the entire interview on his blackberry because he said he didn’t really use computers or email at the time. Aaron was very nice to us and his interview was crazy. Funny story is, James Jebbia (owner of supreme) answered one of Aaron’s questions. I didn’t know who James Jebbia was at the time. I remember getting the interview back and was like why didn’t Aaron answer all of the questions? Who is James Jebbia? I didn’t realize who he was until well after we posted that interview. I believe we had the first internet interview with him ever.
Those guys gave us so much time and attention and I thank those guys forever for that. Their answers were great. Those guys gave us a chance. We were so lucky that we were able to do that.
Favorite project you’ve worked on
Favorite book you’ve read
Very close. Once again, I have two.
The Elon book has been pretty profound. I think I vacillate between feeling bad that I haven’t done enough while reading the book, but, it’s a pretty unprecedented view of how he did what he did.
The other book would be Social Animal. That book has done a lot for me as a person. Social Animal is about socioeconomic and demographic studies that have been done over the years that are typically really boring. But, the author took all of the studies and created a fake story from birth to death on two people. One comes from lower income and one comes from traditional middle class. The author used the data to create their stories. This book has changed the way that I view people.
“If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.” – Lots of different people
When it’s all said and done how would you like to be remembered?
I suppose I’m less interested in how I’m viewed and more interested in the work that I did to help further society in some way.