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“I keep hearing people around town talking about this young man as a Steve Jobs kind of guy,” Gary Holdren, one of Spartz’s chief investors, told me.“I think his stuff is indicative of where digital media is headed.” At the museum, Spartz waited backstage while Jake Brewer—a manager at Change.org, a platform for petitions—delivered a speech about online organizing.Brewer, who is thirty-four, warned that online activists needed to be more strategic.
When Internet culture developed a fascination with “fails”—news bloopers, errant autocorrects—Spartz created a site where users could post funny mistakes from Facebook (Unfriendable), a site featuring gaffes from television (As Failed On TV), and one about garbled text messages (Smartph OWNED).
When the data indicated that optimism was attracting more visitors than Schadenfreude, Spartz let his “fail” sites languish and focussed on promoting Gives Me Hope, a repository for anonymous, uplifting anecdotes.
Last year, Spartz, Inc., raised eight million dollars in venture-capital funding and made several million more in advertising revenue.
As new-media companies like Buzz Feed and Upworthy become established brands, Spartz hopes to disrupt the disrupters.
He employs three dozen people full time, in addition to several freelancers.