Looking For Direction? Here's How To Find It, Change The World, & Make Hundreds Of Millions - Meet The Father Of Divx

There is no doubt that Jordan Greenhall is a genius. Growing up knowing that you are different isn’t easy, but Jordan Greenhall was able to find his niche and use it to create DivX a company whose product enables high quality video compression which has changed the face of video online since its introduction. Jordan has a unique and highly intelligent outlook on life and through this came up with his world changing company and can offer insights into serendipity, empowering the work force, motivation and creation that most of us cannot even imagine. Jordan concentrates on feelings and his ultimate goal of freedom of expression to keep himself motivated and drive the success of his business.

In This Interview You’ll Learn…

  • 03:50  The world though Jordan’s eyes – growing up
  • 16:30  The idea behind DivX
  • 27:15  Jordan’s ‘why’ and the feeling behind it
  • 32:22  The ‘magic number’ – 784kb/sec
  • 36:30  How DivX began to make money
  • 48:17  How Jordan put his team together
  • 51:25  What kept Jordan motivated through the hard times
  • 1:00:00  What Jordan would do different now
  • 1:03:00  The process of creation and destruction
  • 1:19:40  Dane’s and Jordan’s last words


Show Notes

Podcast transcript:

Starting from Nothing – The Foundation Podcast
Guest Name Interview – Jordan Greenhall
Introduction: Welcome to Starting from Nothing – The Foundation Podcast, the place
where incredible entrepreneur show you how they built their businesses
entirely from scratch before they knew what the heck they were doing.
Dane: For those of you feeling like you’re meant for something more, to make a
massive impact on the world, to put a dent in the universe, this is a message
of hope for you today.
Today, we’re looking inside the genius and brilliant mind of the creator of
DivX, one of the most disruptive video technologies to ever exist on the
internet. You’ll learn how he generated hundreds of millions of dollars in
The true cost of him having genius. The three steps for creating disruptive
ideas that changed the world. How to use your ‘why’ to propel you through
the dark times. Why the founder of DivX now looks back on his creation and
you’ll see what he would do differently.
Finally, if you’d like to be mentored by the founder of DivX, we have a
potential new course available in The Foundation. Listen on to find out.
Everyone, welcome to another edition of Starting from Nothing, I am your
hopeful host, Dane Maxwell. Partner at The Foundation.
In this podcast, we focus on the area of entrepreneurship of the starting
process, especially when there’s really not a lot to start from. The raw magic,
the raw creation, the raw energy of that creative spark. The space that you go
into when you need to make something and create something in the world.
We’re not going to be talking about where -- at least in this podcast, we’re
not going to be talking about how things grow or how things scale. We’re
going to be talking about the magic of getting started. We’re going to be
slowing down that process so we can see and dissect as much as possible. I
am deeply honored today to bring on one of the smartest men I have ever
got the chance to talk to.
I met him just briefly last week and just hanging out with him for even five or
ten minutes hurt my brain in a good way because he just thinks so differently.
Today I’m so pleased to bring Jordan Greenhall on to Starting from Nothing.
Jordan, thank you for being here.
Jordan: You’re welcome. The invocation that you began the interview with, right
before we started filming, was very interesting and it makes me feel very
attracted to being part of this.
Dane: Good, thank you. I feel relaxed hearing that.
I also want to just give some context so you know who Jordan is because this
guy has changed your life and you don’t even know it. And I’m pretty sure I
can say that and here’s why.
Jordan Greenhall is an entrepreneur and angel investor with the focus on the
internet and digital media space. Having received his law degree from
Harvard -- you nerd -- and practicing for all of 93 days, he saw greener
pastures. I’m surprised you even lasted that long.
Becoming an advocate for efficient, collaborative, open models of
information dispersal he co-founded DivX. Formerly DivX Networks, the
digital media giant in 2000 and serve as its Chief Executive Officer and
Executive Chairman through 2007. Previously, he served as Vice-President of
mp3.com where he was responsible for developing and implementing
mp3.com business and content development model.
Jordan is also on the board of trustees for the Santa Fe Institute and is
involved with numerous other institutions and boards.
You know, Jordan, as I’m reading this bio, I just get so excited to be in the
presence of such an amazing mind. The reason that I think your mind is
amazing is because you just see the world differently. And if I have an
intention for this call is to hear your story but through all that, see if we can
get a chance to see what it’s like to see the world through your eyes.
I’m just kind of curious, on a high level, what is it like to see the world
through your eyes?
Jordan: Well, to be perfectly frank, it’s [unclear 00:03:56]. Not a whole lot of people
see the world through my eyes and quite frequently, particularly when I was
younger, I had this sort of weird, bipolar relationship with the world where
on one hand they sort of thought that I was speaking nonsense, and on the
other hand they sort of gave me a pat on the back for being brilliant. This
creates a bizarre relationship to the world, humanity, and to yourself. I think
the fundamental feeling actually is a sense of isolation.
Dane: You speak about it so matter-of-factly but I actually feel sadness in myself as I
resonate that. Is there any sadness for you when you share that?
Jordan: Absolutely. Very much so.
Dane: How does that sadness show up for you? What’s it feel like for you if you
think about sharing this?
Jordan: You mean physically?
Dane: Yeah.
Jordan: It feels like sort of weight on the upper chest and in the area above the heart
that kind of feels a little bit like yearning and feels like -- That feeling you
have when you’re anticipating disappointment. How we’ve actually felt
disappointment which is obviously much more you got but when you’re
anticipating disappointment just in conversation.
Dane: Yeah. What I’m present to is as we did that little meditation before we
started this to connect with the people that we’d be serving on this podcast, I
poked my eyes open and I saw that you had your eyes rolled in the back of
your head and I just saw a white in your eyes and I was like “That is creepy
and awesome.” Is that the technique that you do? I ask that because I realize
how emotionally aware you are after sharing the physical sensation of
Jordan: Well, yes it is, and I didn’t do it deliberately. I didn’t actually realize that I did
that until my daughter actually told me “Please stop doing that, it’s freaky.”
It’s just the way that my -- When I go into a very, very deep space and it
actually gets apparently quite deep compared talking to other people. My
eyes roll back in my head and they start flickering. I’m not sure why that
happens or what it means.
Dane: I also just present how grateful I am that I get to spend this time with you two
“lonely souls” who see the world on their own unique ways could spend
some time together.
Jordan: Yeah, that’s great. Me too, I share that.
Dane: This deep space that you’re in, before we get in to DivX which is phenomenal.
I can’t wait to hear about it. I want to hear more about the man. The way he
lives in order to even begin to even have a remote possibility of creating
something like DivX.
I’m wondering this depth that you live that’s so lonely, how did you come to
realize this like through childhood growing up. When did you start to realize?
Jordan: Probably around 4th Grade which is funny. Actually yesterday I was watching
a YouTube video of an interview with Carl Gustav Jung. Jung at the time was
like 88, 90 or something like that. Very similar questions and it’s fascinating.
It was absolutely fascinating to watch Jung respond into a question like the
one you just asked me. So I would say probably somewhere around 4th Grade
is where there was a sort of a dawning sense.
Largely, just the notion that the kinds of things that ambiently just sort of
intrinsically were interesting to me and were attractive to me, didn’t seem to
be interesting, attractive to other people and vice versa. And that very rapidly
and since there’s a consequence of that, that distance got broader.
So for example, I might have been just maybe intrinsically attracted to a
particular line of -- even just a content in philosophy. I started reading Kant’s
Prolegomena when I was 10 or 11.
Dane: Sorry, you read what?
Jordan: Immanuel Kant Prolegomena to Any Future of Metaphysics. It’s a book of
Dane: Is the first part of that, that’s English you’re speaking?
Jordan: Yes, it is English, although it’s also German. It just means a foundation or a
beginning like “pro” before.
Dane: I’m a big fan of that word, foundation.
Jordan: Yes, it’s a good word. I like the font that you’re using you have on your
Dane: So you’re 10 years old. How do you even find this book? What year is it when
you were 10? Is it like the ‘80s?
Jordan: 1981. Yeah, no internet. Actually just a person who kind of seen like the kind
of person who has interesting things to say happened to mention it and so I
happen to pick it up. Something about the things that it was investigating and
the approach that it took was attractive and so I spent a little bit more time
on it.
It’s not the sort of thing that people read in general. Most adult people don’t
read it and a very, very few children. I didn’t really understand it. It didn’t
matter because the [unclear 00:09:22] active engaging with it then led me to
engage with other things that were also different and just sort of just
immediately led to a path of increasing divergence and increasing to
idiosyncratic interest in capacity.
Dane: What does idiosyncratic mean?
Jordan: Just individual. Different from other people and very much based on its own
internal characteristics.
Dane: So just different from the normal?
Jordan: Yeah, but individually different. Different because of its internal nature.
Dane: Okay, great. Thank you.
You have this person introduce you to this book because he saw the way you
were talking.
Jordan: Probably. I don’t really actually remember.
Dane: Well, I only want to spend another minute on this at the most. What’s
fascinating to me is so you have this little doorway into this book on
metaphysics you said?
Jordan: Mm-hmm.
Dane: And you’re 10 and -- Holy cow! Okay. When did Beethoven start playing
piano? Around like age six.
Jordan: I think it was Mozart but, yeah, about five.
Dane: Five, yeah. That book became a doorway to a bunch of other things.
Jordan: Right.
Dane: What I get really present to and feel sadness around is the people out there
that don’t get the chance to get that first crack at something and the world
they miss out on because of it.
Jordan: Well, I think that’s actually a little bit [unclear 00:10:56] question that
happens but I think it’s actually a little bit more nuance than that. So let me --
do you mind?
Dane: No.
Jordan: Actually it’s a great path to start taking.
A more accessible example of the same thing I’m talking about that
happened in my generation -- kids who are born in the early ‘70s and mid
‘60s -- was the computer. And so there were just certain people -- we’ll call
them nerds -- who, for whatever reason, either circumstantially or
genetically, happen to find themselves exposed to computers during early
So the mid ‘70s is the very first time that any kid is likely to be exposed to
computers. So, most kids didn’t have the chance and most kids who didn’t
have the chance who weren’t interested. So a very small fraction of people,
again, idiosyncratic but their very particular reasons happen to be attracted.
And as you say, once they hit that, that created this weird path.
If you go back and look at the history of many of the tech entrepreneurs who
are successful in the late ‘80s all the way through to the late ‘90s, they have
origin of stories that include something around being exposed to computers
and for some reason being attracted. They’re interested in program, they’re
interested in games, they’re interested in downloading dirty pictures off the
internet. It didn’t really matter what it was that brought them into it. That
they got into it.
Once they got into it, there was a path that happened to be a very fruitful
path because it was different for most of us, the population, and also happen
to be highly fruitful. There’s a lot of possibility and opportunity to have to be
along that emergent path.
Now, in response to your notion of sadness, I think that there’s -- you could
even actually use the concept of serendipity and everybody is always exposed
to that possibility. There’s nobody who’s not exposed. What the challenge is
is in the ability to notice what the possibilities are and the things you’re
exposed to.
And, usually more importantly, the freedom -- I mean the individual,
personal, [unclear 00:13:08], or spiritual, emotional freedom to actually
follow those things where they lead you.
Most of the time, the real sadness is people being shut down. A kid see
something that’s really interesting to them and they begin to process and
being really interested in it and then bam! Something hits them. Either mom
takes away and says “That’s stupid” or dad says “Focus on this instead,” or
their friends make fun of them, or the world just sort of gets in their way and
throws thing at them. They just get overwhelmed they can’t focus on that
little spark. That’s where the stuff really gets off the rails for most people.
Dane: And did you feel lonely in 4th Grade? Did you feel like that’s when you -- Was
there any judgment about, “ than.” Was there any of that going on when you were --
Jordan: Yeah. Actually 4th Grade was very specific because the concept of gifted and
talented, it really just started emerging in the mid ‘70s and it fluctuated back
and forth. So oddly enough in 3rd Grade, I was part of an emergent gifted and
talented program. I think at the time it was called Promise. [unclear 00:14:15]
a pretty beautiful name. And so my entire class was other kids who all kind of
happen to share similar neurocognitive typologies and therefore relatively
compatible interests.
But for reasons of ideology and politics that that program was cut and in 4th
Grade we were all sort of shunted back into the mainstream. And so the
consequences like this stark reminder, the stark sort of realization that
suddenly nobody in this group, in my class, had anything that I’ve been
talking about and wasn’t interested in things that I was talking about.
I think at the time my actually emotional response was really just to turn
inward. The classic “Just get a book and read the book. Get the game, play
the game.” Interact with other kids to the degree which is sort of necessary
or happens to be interesting; usually physically running around on
playground and stuff like that but not really dialogically.
I remember very faintly having a sense of like wanting to connect and not
being able to and feeling bad about that in 4th Grade. I wasn’t really as aware
of it or [unclear 00:15:22] really feeling a sense of like morning about it until
middle school which is when that sort of thing happens.
Dane: Yeah. What’s loudest for me was that you had this potential of this amazing
environment that was taken away from you. What I imagine was the pain of
that and then going internal.
Jordan: Yeah.
Dane: And not really realizing that you wanted to connect but really couldn’t until
Jordan: Yeah, yeah. Absolutely.
Dane: Yeah.
For those listening, if you resonate with this feeling of being alone which I
imagine you do, it’s one of the many reasons why we created The Foundation
was to create this home for people to come and be weird and be celebrated
for that weirdness.
Jordan: Alright man, you got me. I support that wholeheartedly.
Dane: Thank you. This seems to be the price of genius, if you will.
If you actually are listening to this and you’re resonating with it wherever you
are, and you can think of someone in your life who may need to hear the
beginning of this message, will you please share it with them.
With that said, let’s transition into a little bit of pre before DivX and let’s just
jump right in. We’ll kind of bounce around a little bit. What is DivX before we
-- Can you give us actually an impact or give us an idea on the impact that
DivX has had on the internet before we get into how you created it?
Jordan: Absolutely.
Well, the intent and the impact of DivX was to make the internet a
fundamental video media, okay? Before DivX there was video on the
internet. Those of you who are older than sort of 40 remember things like the
Real Player and Microsoft Video and things like that. They were all -- We call
them postage stamp size video. About the size of a, what, maybe 2 inches by
2 inches.
Dane: Oh, yeah, I remember those.
Jordan: Yeah, and early streaming video, right? That was kind of a fun thing to play
with but it wasn’t really a visual medium that would compete with, say for
example television, or film, or more importantly, really change the nature of
how people contemplated video and how people contemplated the internet.
And so the intent of DivX was to change that because obviously, in some
sense, video is a deep fundamental medium and obviously the internet
principle should be capable of interacting with using video in a completely
rich and fluid way and that’s largely what is happening obviously. We’re
having a remote, interactive, visual conversation right now and that is a sort
of direct consequence of the kind of the things that DivX did.
Dane: So kind of speaking more in layman’s terms for folks more on my end of the
spectrum. DivX made video easier, possible, what would you say? Or am I
even butchering it by saying that?
Jordan: DivX made good video. DivX made video good, and DivX made good video
easy, and DivX made internet video compelling.
Dane: I have a few things, a few tangents I want to go on. I want to go down how
you came up with the idea. I also want to go into how you tested DivX by
using the movie The Matrix to figure out like that’s how you arrived at it. But I
actually want to go right into right now as most surprising for me, most
exciting for me is how difficult was it? What was the goal of DivX and how
difficult was it to achieve or how was it to achieve that goal?
Jordan: Well, the goal of DivX was actually really big and still working on it. In fact, for
those of you who are interested, if you go to my Medium blog. My name
Jordan Greenhall at Medium and read the Emergent Culture sub blog, you’ll
get a sense of what the goal really is. And if you connect to what DivX was,
you understand exactly why I just laughed. [unclear 00:19:44] down scope to
go a little bit.
Dane: We’ll put a link to your blog in the show notes.
Jordan: Oh great. Wonderful. Thank you.
So, the goal was to generate or develop a highly decentralized -- and I can
explain what that means if you’d like -- highly interactive, visual medium at
global scale. That was the goal. That was our mission statement. Our intent
was to create.
Dane: And Jordan.
Jordan: That was very hard.
Dane: Just to briefly interrupt, if I may. Did you want to finish --
Jordan: Please.
Dane: Okay.
When you talk like that, does that inspire people? Like you find that people
are able to, like, we want to create a decentralized thing of a medium of a
thing that’s global. That scrambles my brain but I’m wondering when you
speak like that, you seem to have a team that’s really loyal to your mission.
Do you find that people are able to follow you when you speak like that?
Jordan: Some people.
Dane: Some people.
Jordan: Yeah. As it turns out because those people are unique people, they tend to
be very loyal and very passionate themselves.
Dane: Oh, very cool. That makes a lot of sense to me.
Can you explain what decentralized means?
Jordan: Yeah, absolutely.
So you think about like an old-fashioned television network has a single
broadcast antenna, right? It’s literally centralized. And so there’s one point
on the planet from which it emits. Generally speaking, as a consequence,
there’s only a very small number of channels. Back in my day there were
[audio cuts 00:21:27] channels of television. Boom! That’s all there were. And
they were controlled by a very small number [unclear 00:21:32].
When something is decentralized, that means the points are all over the
landscape. Right now you, from your bedroom or your living room, are
currently sending a video into the internet and somebody else in Hong Kong
is doing the same thing. There’s no central location that is deciding what
should be said to whom, how it should be said. It’s being decided without a
center, decentralized.
That has a lot of profound consequences for everything from economics to
politics and art.
Dane: I’m so curious what happens in your mind when you say that as
consequences and politics, economics and art. Are you picturing a
consequence in each of those three areas as you say it?
Jordan: Well, why not.
So what I actually picture looks a lot like a -- imagine a piece of paper, like a
graph paper, XY.
Dane: Yeah.
Jordan: And then take it and bend it and twist it so it has a weird shape to it.
Dane: Yeah, yeah.
Jordan: Kind of like watching the surface of the water fluctuate when the -- not
choppy but smooth like the surfing on the ocean have got wind was like sort
of undulating. And then imagine those undulation changing as a consequence
of the things that you’re doing. That’s actually what I see. And then I translate
that into words that mean something that you might understand.
Dane: Okay, good.
The goal of DivX was to have a decentralized, high-quality video around the
Jordan: Yes.
Dane: Okay. What I was most excited when we spoke earlier was about the specific
goal you had, a specific metric that you had a team that had to meet in order
for DivX to explode.
Jordan: Oh yeah, great.
So given that as an objective, that’s our big picture mission, and we kept
backing out and saying, “Okay, what do we need to accomplish to get there?”
I’m not going to go into the detail because it’s a bit precious but as you recall
in our conversation and when we first met, I had done a lot of information
and then a lot of research on what were the kind of forces at play and the
variables involved in -- What would it take to get video to explode on the
As it turns out, one sweet spot was to be able to take DVD quality digital
video and compress it down to a very specific size which was an average --
let’s call it a bit rate which is the amount of information overtime. The
average bit rate of 784,000 bits per second, 784 kilobits. I don’t want to go
into the detail about why that’s the case but there was a substantial amount
of analytics that demonstrated that was the sweet spot.
So it had to be close to DVD quality and at that compression rate. And those
were sort of the two things that had to happen. The assertion was that if you
could pull that off then you would suddenly have something that would hit.
That people would be very compelled and capable and suddenly video would
start flying across the internet.
Dane: Do you mind if I share a few things about what I think the why is? Only from
the standpoint that people may be able to replicate this?
Jordan: Yeah. Let me just -- a quick aside.
Dane: Okay.
Jordan: I’m very, very comfortable with having people translate.
Dane: Okay.
Jordan: I love that [unclear 00:25:10]. Please, whatever you want to.
Dane: Okay. This is coming from our previous conversation that was off the podcast.
So just stop me at anytime.
So the whole purpose of listening to Jordan, guys, is what we’re doing is
when you listen to people that are as brilliant as Jordan, it’s not as important
that you understand everything he says that’s helpful. What you really want
to get the juice from is the frequency of -- the vibrational state of frequency
that he lives at. If I’m losing you guys, I’m sorry, but this is the most
important thing.
When you travel around to conferences or travel around to see different
speakers or experts, I don’t go for the content. I go to sit, to get the
download of what it’s like -- Their energetic frequency of how they exist in
the world. It is profound how I go to conferences and experience that.
What’s happening guys, as you’re listening to Jordan, as you’re getting it
download, don’t stress if you’re like “I can never do this. I’m not as smart,” or
whatever may be coming up for you. Just relax into Jordan’s presence
because you’ll be able to carry it with you moving forward.
The reason I’m asking about the why, Jordan, is it’s not just about listening to
Jordan, it’s about getting his frequency, getting how he thinks, getting his
perspective, learning about DivX, but also being able to recreate it for
We have as overall objective which was said in fairly sophisticated jargon
which is a decentralized way for video, high-quality video to go big on the
internet and I’m even butchering that. [unclear 00:26:50] objective and then
the specific is DVD quality video at 784 kilobits a second, is that correct?
Jordan: Yeah. You know it’s funny. Let me step back and say two things if you don’t
Dane: Please.
Jordan: So the first of them, I’m trying to actually go back and get the feeling that
really drove the ‘why’.
Dane: Yes, please.
Jordan: Which for me manifested strategically in the words that I just gave you. The
feeling was a feeling of liberation, a feeling of empowerment, and a feeling of
the delight that comes when people are capable of expressing themselves
without constraint. And also, [unclear 00:27:35] specifically very much so, a
feeling of the ugliness and to be done away with-ness of the forces that
control and constrain that expression [audio cuts] I have in me a very deep
desire fight with the forces of constraint. So that’s really, that’s the real
[unclear 00:27:58].
I wanted to give people the power and ability to express themselves
beautifully and freely. I want to take down the forces of [unclear 00:28:12]
and then DivX turn out to be at which one could do that with video. And then
in order to accomplish that, one needed to be able to get really good
compelling video down to the smallest size you could use the internet to do
Dane: You broke up a little during but let me just recap.
The feeling that you had was this feeling of liberation and empowerment of
full expression and then a sort of disdain or fight against the forces that
prevent that.
Jordan: Got it.
Dane: And then so essentially like express -- like freedom of expression.
Jordan: Yes.
Dane: How did DivX video tie in to fulfilling that ‘why’?
Jordan: Because the moment, 1999, was a moment at which video could in fact
happen. There’s a possibility that moment had occur, video could happen on
the internet. Video is a very powerful expressive medium. The tactical
opportunity was, okay, now is the time for video. Can we make video
Dane: Okay.
Jordan: In a particular way, I should mention.
Dane: And so what I love that you did is you went to the feelings. So you have this
overall objective which is decentralizing video and making it high quality and
awesome for everyone around the world. I’m saying it a little differently
every time. And to do that is DVD quality video of 784 kilobits a second. But
what’s more important than that --
So you have the objective and then you have the tangible goal to achieve that
objective but then you have the feeling that’s driving that objective which is
your own personal feeling of liberation and empowerment of the forces that
keep people from full expression.
Jordan: Yeah. There are phrase that I find. There’s certain people -- and I seem to be
among them -- who if they have a problem, they feel compelled to find a way
to solve that problem comprehensively for everyone forever.
Dane: Say that again?
Jordan: There’s a certain kind of people who if they have a problem, if they really feel
deeply themselves, they feel compelled to solve that problem
comprehensively for everyone forever.
Dane: (Laughs) How …
Jordan: It wasn’t enough for me to make it so that everybody could express myself. I
actually had to find a way to make it so that everybody could express
themselves forever.
Dane: How in the world does one grow to think that way?
Jordan: That’s a good question.
Dane: Teach me in one sentence. Give me a button I can push. I’m not [unclear
00:31:04] serious but …
Jordan: I’ll think about it. If it comes up by the end of the interview, I’ll tell you.
Dane: Let me just reiterate what you said. There’s a certain group of people out
there that encounter a problem that want to solve it comprehensibly for
everyone forever.
Jordan: That’s right.
Dane: Not just kind of like haphazardly solve it, not just solve a few points of it but
to go after the whole beast of the problem itself. Solve it comprehensively for
everyone forever.
My gosh, when you approach -- It’s starting to make sense to me how you
could create something as world changing as DivX when you have this huge
objective which is achievable through these two tangible DVD quality video at
784 kilobits a second and the feeling driving it as the liberation and
empowerment of people’s expression and wanting to comprehensively solve
that for everyone forever, it kind of changes how you see the world.
Jordan: Yes, absolutely.
Dane: And now I’m starting to get pretty damn excited.
I want to talk for a second about the ridiculousness of 784 kilobits a second at
that time, right?
Jordan: Yeah.
Dane: So for the average Joe, that might, like, just accept societal norms or like,
“Oh, you know, gas is …” let’s say $10 per gallon. If you were to say gas price
is $10 a gallon and Jordan’s going to come along and be like, “No. I want to
figure out how to get it for 25 cents a gallon.” And people are like, “What?
You’re insane, dude. You’ll never get gas for 25 cents a gallon.”
What’s like an equivalent comparison that you can make so we can actually
wrap our heads around how unobtainable 784 kilobits a second was even to
the smartest developers in the world which you were trying to hire?
Jordan: Yeah. It was pretty much in order of magnitude. So if people were thinking
it’s $10 a gallon, I was trying to get it around $1.50.
Dane: So in other words, 784 kilobits a second was like -- this accepted would have
been like video needs 7 megabits a second or 10 times that size?
Jordan: Yeah. Yeah, pretty much.
Dane: When you set that goal, did your development team -- Did they buck it all?
Did they say they couldn’t do it?
Jordan: I don’t know. Not vigorously. It wasn’t sort of the “Oh my God! that’s
impossible.” Otherwise they would need [unclear 00:33:38], right? We kind
of knew with the ballpark we’re looking for and they felt reasonably
confident that we could get somewhere in the range of about 1.5.
Dane: So double that.
Jordan: 1.8? Yeah.
Dane: So not even half but double that.
Jordan: Yeah. We felt like there was a high possibility we could get double the target.
And then the real challenge is can we get all the way down to the target.
To be fair, there’s a trade up between the visual quality, how good it look,
and the shrink. You can get it down to the size, it just looks like shit. So the
challenge is kind of make it look good enough and get it down to the size.
That was the tactic of the challenge.
As you know, what we did is we actually got this international group of guys.
We had China, Italy, England, France, Russia all represented. It’s different
times. We got them all together. In the beginning we didn’t have an office.
We actually rent a beach house over on PB, Pacific Beach. Set them all up and
then we -- as you mentioned -- we used the film The Matrix as our test base.
And so the challenge was, “Okay guys, work on these scenes from The Matrix
and then we’re going to watch. If it feels like it’s good enough for somebody
who’s got a high standard then we’re good to go.”
Dane: Why The Matrix?
Jordan: I can give you a simple answer which is that at the time The Matrix was very
challenging. It was very much pushing the state of the art visual effects
particularly for video compression because it had a lot of blacks and dark and
so it’s very difficult to -- If you do a poor job, it turns out to be very poor.
It had a lot of flame effects; it had a lot of good richness. The Matrix is the
kind of a show that if you reduce the visual quality, you really took away from
the experience in general.
But another piece was that both we, as a group of individuals inside the
company, and the people who were likely to be early adopters are The
Matrix. The earliest potential customers, I’m sorry, of DivX all had a cultural
affinity with the story of The Matrix. With the thought, the feeling, the ethos
that was part of The Matrix. It kind of has much had a kind of a mythological
appeal as it did a technical appeal.
We use, for example, the image of the red pill and the blue pill as a very early
iconography of what the offer was to people who are beginning to play with
Dane: We use that similar terminology for when you get introduced to The
Foundation. You really can’t go back to life as you know it.
Jordan: Yeah.
Dane: Oh my gosh! This is so cool. Kind of random question but how did you make
money with DivX?
Jordan: Well, this requires a little bit of explaining.
So in the beginning -- and this is, by the way, a good, just moral lesson for
anybody who’s a young entrepreneur who’s getting into the current
economy from -- Well, the current economy in general. [unclear 00:36:44].
So we started DivX in the middle of 1999. For people who are old enough to
remember, that was during the still ramping peak of the dot-com bubble. So
it was a consequence. That question, how do you make money with X, was
not in fact -- don’t need any more question. Nobody asked that question. This
is in fact the time where you could do pets.com and sell ice over the internet.
The question was how you get people to use it. We’ll make money later.
And so for the first year, we really just focused on getting people to use it.
Which, as you can imagine, wasn’t actually that hard. We got a lot of people
to use it.
However, in -- what was it? December of 1999 through August of 2000, the
dot-com bubble pop and there was a massive implosion of the digital
economy and the economy in general. And suddenly the rules changed,
completely. Like 180 degrees overnight and the challenge became, “Okay,
how do you make money with this thing? You better make money fast.”
So this is actually like a very nice study for creativity stick [unclear 00:37:52]
and [unclear 00:37:54]. So we [unclear 00:37:56] of people. We actually had
to cut about half the company, fire half the people in a very open and friendly
way. People volunteered to let go and people volunteered to cut their
salaries to kind of keep the organization running.
And then it was all hands on deck. “Alright guys, we have to completely flush
our old plan. Here’s what we’ve got to work with. This is how much money
we have. [unclear 00:38:19] presentation of how long we have.” We actually
had a time to death clock, just how many days we have until we’re out of
cash. If you’ve got ideas, do it.
Take advantage of the passion and collective intelligence of all the people in
the organization which, by the way, I’ve come to realize is the most powerful
thing you can do. If you have an organization, the more empowered
everyone is in the organization to use what they know and what their
passions are to find out how to [unclear 00:38:44] the organization, the more
powerful it will be. By the way, big organizations get stupid precisely because
they inhibit that sort of thing.
And so we actually had three different directions. One was one of our interns
who said, “Hey, I keep getting inbound email, people asking to license the
technology for all kinds of weird things. I think I can make money by licensing
it; technology licensing approach.” I said, “Go. Go for it. It’s yours. You own it,
The second one was somebody who said, “I think we can find a way to
actually just make money every time somebody downloads this by talking to
various partner. We want to promote what they have inside it and advertise
it [unclear 00:39:24].” I said, “Alright. Great. Build it. Don’t mess up the brand
or the strategy but go.” [unclear 00:39:30] problematic to the entire lifestyle
of the company because we want to build something that was honest but at
the same time we had to make money. This is a channel.
The third was where we made bar the most of our money and it was --
[unclear 00:39:42] a happy accident. One of the guys, “Hey, let’s run a survey.
We have a million people a month coming to this website to grab our tech.
Let’s ask them what they want. Let’s just ask the people who are already
taking the time to come out and grab our technology what kind of things they
would like.”
So we put together a huge survey, like a 10-page survey. It’s nuts. And we
got, like, 50,000 people to fill it out in the first month that we ran it. And as it
turns out, we had this really bizarre discovery that a very large number of
people were willing to pay a substantial amount of money to have our
technology in other kinds of devices than computers. Consumer electronics
devices, at the time things like DVD player.
And so, we then began the extremely arduous process of becoming a
company that could sell our technology to consumer electronics companies.
Not having any expertise in that space at all at the time. Does that make
Dane: Yeah. So who would you sell DivX to, for example?
Jordan: So what end up happening is that we would go out and we would actually sell
three different entities in what’s called an ecosystem, alright? So the supply
chain was chip makers, [audio cuts 00:40:57] to make the chips the power
[unclear 00:40:58]. The device makers, these are largely the Chinese
companies who actually put the devices together. And then what’s called the
OEM, the brand that use a consumer you’re familiar with. I assume we have,
say, Philips Electronics or Sony or Samsung and fill the blank. [unclear
00:41:14] companies who you don’t know. [unclear 00:41:16].
Dane: Hey Jordan, I’m going to pause you for a sec. Do you mind if you -- Let’s
disable video moving forward. We’re having some audio issues. You don’t
mind turning your video off?
Jordan: Absolutely.
Dane: Let’s turn video off and please continue. You were saying Samsung, for
example, or Philips?
Jordan: Samsung or Philips or Sony. Then the device manufacturer who you’re not
going to know plenty of their names, like Foxconn. And then the chip
manufacturers who also you won’t know their names. The challenge was that
the chip makers had to do all of the hard work. It was hard for them to get
DivX into their chip. And then that didn’t really necessarily get me value out
of it and they were willing to pay by far the least.
The OEM is the brands. They’re the one who actually are selling the device to
the end consumer and they’re the ones who could make a profit or make
extra money by including DivX in their device that they had to buy the
product all the way down.
So we had to figure out how to sell all three of these different entities and
then use them to convince the others to conclude DivX in what they did until
finally we could deliver up to the end consumer. So use the consumer would
by a DVD player for $65 that had DivX instead of a DVD player for $60 who
didn’t have DivX. The brand would make an extra $5 and then we would take
$1 of that as our profit.
Dane: Did that work?
Jordan: Yes, it did. We made hundreds of millions of dollars doing that.
Dane: How? That process sounds really a bit complicated.
Jordan: It was brutal. I kid you not.
I think the first and most important thing is that we didn’t have any idea.
Literally, we didn’t even know what the chips look like, who made them, how
they made them, [unclear 00:43:07]. We didn’t know the names of any of the
companies and any of the industries. We started at absolute zero going into
this. The only thing we knew was that we had a market opportunity.
There were people in the order of millions who amazingly enough were
willing to pay a lot more for a device that had DivX in them. I mean an
empowered team of people, employees that the team on [audio cuts] DivX
and took about two years to get meaningful revenue flowing through that
channel and probably about 25 people
Dane: And how many sleepless nights?
Jordan: All of them. That was a tough -- I actually probably average about three hours
a night for about a year.
Dane: When you look back on that, that period of your life, do you look back on it
and what do you say about it? How do you feel about it?
Jordan: Well, to be perfectly frank, I actually look at that kind of reasonably
Dane: Really?
Jordan: It was something that was -- There’s some pride in having actually
successfully done something but the toll was very high. It was quite a
destructive to my physical and psychological being. The upside is that it made
me a lot of money and so it gave me the access to the freedom to do what I
want now. But I’m not sure that -- Well, let’s put it this way. It was definitely
not the path of least resistance.
Dane: Yeah. I noticed some pain in my heart right now as I’m here with you. Is that
present in your heart or is that just over here?
Jordan: Well, it probably is in my heart. I’m probably at this point. I’m still not fully
absorbing it to be honest. It was very challenging.
By the way, I also have kids at exactly at that time. So I was raising small
children while simultaneously powering through building a company in the
headwinds of the biggest economic downturn. We had this dot-com boom
and then we have the financial crisis and DivX sort of live right in between
those two. Not the wisest of choices.
Dane: I want to say how grateful I am for your vulnerability in bringing this to the
call. I think it’s really healing for the world to hear this level of truth. So thank
Jordan: You’re welcome.
Dane: What I want to know is -- There’s so many questions I could ask about this
but, you know, I think -- Okay, I want to ask you about what -- If you could go
back how you would do it differently. Before I get in to that, if you can let
that simultaneously process. So you did a survey, a ten-page survey and
50,000 people filled it out. You found out that people wanted DivX on their
DVD players?
Jordan: That’s exactly right.
Dane: And so you thought they want it on DVD players. So you went to DVD
manufacturers and you’re like, “Yo, you can put this in the DVD players
because people want it and you’ll sell more DVD players”?
Jordan: You’ll see them for more money.
Dane: Sell them for more money. I think I actually remember having a DivX DVD
player and I was really excited about it because I could burn DVDs legally, of
course, onto my player.
Jordan: Yup.
Dane: Okay, that makes sense. But you set to two years but you also have this death
countdown clock that has said “We’re running out of cash at this period of
time.” Was the clock more than two years?
Jordan: No, no. The clock’s actually -- We got down to about three days but
remember we had Chester, the intern, who’s licensing directly and he got in
the order of making maybe $50,000, $60,000 a month. And then we had the
guys who were doing more software based direct businesses and that got us
in the order of couple hundred thousand dollars a month initially and then
we got up to the point of even being a million dollars a month eventually.
So that was enough of a base for us to hold. We couldn’t grow but we could
hold. We stayed pretty much the same size and the same burn rate for about
a year and a half and then the consumer electronics revenue started kicking
in and then we just started growing like crazy after that.
Dane: How do you go about putting DivX onto a chip?
Jordan: Oh God, you don’t even want to go into that. It ain’t easy.
Dane: Okay. Yeah.
Jordan: Although it’s easy now. Back in the time, back in the day, it was really hard.
Nowadays the chips are powerful enough that it’s not that big a deal.
Dane: Yeah. Just another way to remind you that (laughs) [unclear 00:47:49].
I’m just actually present too. Like, “Oh yeah, it’s easy now but back in the day
…” Never mind. I’m relating to you in getting lost in that story.
Jordan: That’s a very good question. What would I do different.
Dane: Yes. I have another question before that.
Jordan: Okay, go for it.
Dane: Unless you really want to answer that.
I want to know how you hired and put this team together. Because it sounds
like the team, they were committed too.
Jordan: Absolutely. So we had two big waves but I actually co-founded the company.
I had several friends who sort of variety of different reasons were willing to
jump in together at the same time. So it’s actually five co-founders who are
either I had gone to college with or I’ve worked with before during the
interim. And then we were able to attract maybe 30 early people who came
in during the early first wave of the company before everything got really,
really hard.
Dane: How did you found those 30 people?
Jordan: We raised money. We raised venture capital at the very beginning; $5 million.
Dane: Why would venture capitals give you money? How do they expect to make
money back?
Jordan: Well, this is, again, back before the dot-com boom. They gave us money
because we had money people who were downloading our software --
millions. We had, like, 10 million, 20 million users within months of the first
Dane: How did you get the word … Go ahead, sorry.
Jordan: We didn’t market at all. I don’t think during the history of the company we
really spent much money marketing. But in the beginning, it was all viral, and
it was really just riding on the wave.
MP3 had established a community of people who had self-empowered --
they were aware of the notion you could get squared to do various things
around content. Napster had really just happened like not a year before we
launched. And so the space, the idea, the [unclear 00:50:00] was very hot and
very alive. So it wasn’t hard for -- Can you hear me?
Dane: Mm-hmm.
Jordan: It wasn’t hard for people to get their head around the notion of, “Okay,
videos. Next, what’s the hot thing?” And DivX presented itself very quickly as
the hot thing. And so you had just a whole cadre of people who are primed
and ready to get this and they were just sharing with each other willy-nilly
because it’s very hot for them. Very exciting.
Dane: Do you have an idea of, like, your impact on the level of how many hours of
entertainment has been watched or anything like that?
Jordan: Wow! No, I don’t. My guess is the number is extremely large but I don’t have
any idea.
Dane: Because, I mean, you made my life very comfortable, like an awesome. I
watch many -- like hundreds of hours of video because -- DivX, like, saved my
life if you will. I was like, “How do I do videos? This is awful.” And then it’s
like, “Oh, DivX. Thank … Gosh! Who is this genius? Oh, it’s free. What is
happening? How is this happening?”
I want to say thank you on behalf of me. And if anybody else would like to say
thank you to Jordan, either post in the comments or we can reach him on his
Medium just to thank him for three-hour sleeplessness nights.
I know it when I get in to the -- what you do differently. And I also got a
bunch of questions written down here. But before we do, why did you not
give up?
Jordan: Well …
Dane: How many times did you think of giving up?
Jordan: Not that many actually. Probably the biggest challenge was -- The biggest
[unclear 00:51:44] from the beginning of 2000 to the middle of 2000. When
the economy had changed completely and we were running out of money, it
was very difficult to raise money. It’s actually impossible to raise money.
What had happened is that I essentially was just more of a state of
acceptance that I was going to try as hard as I could without a huge sense of
attachment to what happen. If it didn’t work out, it didn’t work out. And so
such a big wave that it hit and broken. Everybody else was going bankrupt
around me. All the other companies are going away. Whole venture capital
firms were vaporizing that just being torn down with that same way was just
the way it was. Right now it’s still 27 years old so my ability to feel confident
about going back in was reasonably high.
After we got our B round and we had raised enough money to last, then
there’s a lot more stress because I had, one, had kids. And if you recall -- I
can’t remember who it was. A famous author once said “If you want to
become a famous author, a successful author have kids because now you’ve
got no excuses.” Once you have a baby, you actually do have a real chance of
being successful. You can’t go back to ramen and bikes.
And then I had a whole group of people. The reason why I didn’t quit was
because I had a team of people to work out on. That was it. It was loyalty.
That was my primary driver.
Dane: You have a team of people who are counting on you.
Jordan: Mm-hmm. Yeah, absolutely.
Dane: Tell me about a time that you thought about quitting and, like, what that
conversation would be like.
Jordan: Let’s see. Try Christmas 2003 I believe. We were trying to do a project that
was going to be our first camera. I was actually trying to get DivX into the
creation side, not just the viewing side.
Dane: Wow!
Jordan: We had a Chinese company that had agreed to build DivX into the camera
and we had an Indian company who had agreed to do the work to put DivX
into camera chips and we had to coordinate all of that. As you may know,
people in India, in China don’t celebrate Christmas. For the five days -- Oh,
and they’re in a different time zone.
So for the five days going up to Christmas, I was basically working 24 hours a
day on point having conversations with all the different players and both the
Chinese company and the Indian company were very high stressed. They
were both running a very tight margins, both very experimental, and [unclear
00:54:21] drop of a hat getting ready to just drop the whole project and walk
away. Blaming each other for different failures, blaming us for different
failures; it was a very non-generative conversation.
Whatever it was, two or three days, and we need to get it done for CES which
is in early January. So we’re just pounding trying to get this thing done so we
can get it out there.
I guess maybe Christmas, the day after Christmas. Like literally just like on
Christmas Eve evening being awake, on the phone, talking to these guys in
India trying to get this problem solved. I seriously considered quitting.
Dane: What was the conversation?
Jordan: Actually the conversation was very simple. Conversation was, “Well, it’s late
tonight and you’re tired. So don’t quit tonight. Go to sleep. Have Christmas
with your family tomorrow. And then on Monday, if you want to quit, you
can quit.”
And, of course, by Monday the crisis had passed. I came in to the office.
There were all the smiling faces of all the good people who I work with who
were all working really hard to get this thing done. And the motivation to
kind of double down came back. That was pretty much it.
It was a take one step at a time approach. Every time I felt like I’d hit the wall,
the only answer is, “Okay, step back a little bit. Give yourself a little bit of
space. Don’t commit to anything big, just commit that you’re not going to
make the decision right now and let’s talk about it in the day.” That was it.
Dane: So you have a number of commitments. You have a commitment to the
liberation and empowerment of people and getting rid of the circumstances
that restrict that. Online video is severely restricted to a degree that there’s a
lot of pain and not a lot of freedom. So you have that commitment. Then you
have this commitment to your team that’s not giving up on you.
Jordan: Yeah.
Dane: In The Foundation, with our students, one of the biggest things I see that gets
in the way of them ultimately getting what they want is their commitment is
about 100%. It seems like your commitment was actually 100% signed in
blood, locked cold hard steel away.
Jordan: Yeah, that’s for sure. I can kind of say it with confidence because I know the
difference. Ever since then I’ve been very mindful of that because it’s very
difficult for me when you get in to high risk, [unclear 00:56:53] situation
because I know what it feels like to be committed 100%. Being all the way in
is not -- It’s not easy, right? You’re going to take a lot of pain to get to the
other side of whatever you’re doing.
But yes, the commitment level was -- Yeah, it was existential. In some deep
sense there was never any notion that I would ever actually quit. It was more
of self-racketeering than it was actual reality.
Dane: Right. I just want to presence too just to add to your awareness that what
you said is commitment will bring a lot of pain in the journey. You said that as
kind of absolute. I think you were just meaning to say that’s how it’s been in
your experience. Is that accurate?
Jordan: Yeah, I suppose. I suppose I can’t be categorical about it. But I would be
surprised if it did. That’s just the nature of doing useful things.
Dane: Yeah. I notice that in myself with the commitment. There are days when I
hate everything. There are less and less but when I was starting out I noticed
that there were there. The commitment was the only thing that drove me
through. So I have some questions before we go into what you would do. I
was wondering what you do if you started over how you would do it again.
I was wondering if there was any part of you that was like either hurting, or
wounded, or lower self-esteem, or seeking value or validation, or trying to
prove something of yourself to make this work.
Jordan: Definitely the latter.
Jordan: Got it. There was a huge amount of that. Huge amount of proving something.
Dane: What did you want to prove? To your parents, to yourself, to the world, to
your friends, and what was it?
Jordan: Well, I want to prove to Michael Robertson who was the founder of mp3.com
and who had fired me. And I want to prove to in sort of this abstract entity of
the world. I want to prove to the guys who are considered to be the forces
that I was pushing against that this could be done, that I want to prove it to
Yeah. I think, actually, I did have. It requires a little bit of nuancing but I think
I did have sort of a classic sort of performance loop. So this thing that goes
deep, deep, I guess, grit really [unclear 00:59:12] myself because that
objective for myself and then would sort of beat up on myself if I didn’t hit
the objective. So I was sort of marching to the beat of my own drum. I was
very driven. It was a very driven dynamic who’s not particularly healthy.
Dane: Was there at all any anger propelling you?
Jordan: Yeah, definitely. But it wasn’t as much of a driver as it was something to be
dealt with.
I quite often would have challenges with people who didn’t understand what
I was talking about and challenge either became anger towards them for not
being able to figure it out quickly and easily or anger towards myself for not
being able to communicate it more effectively.
And the amount of effort that it took to deal with that was hot so there was
like pain in dealing with this problem and then anger became the force to
kind of push through it and power through it.
Your diagnosis, I think, is quite astute.
Dane: So tell me, what would you do differently?
Jordan: Very nice segue.
What I would do differently is I would be much more mindful of taking care of
my own shit internally and going through the emotional, psychological, and
spiritual awareness that I now am aware that one can do. Rather than
essentially black boxing that part of myself and making everything an
outward facing exercise.
Dane: I feel a deep relief hearing you say that. I wasn’t sure what you would say.
That’s a very big component in The Foundation is we have emotional
awareness practices, limiting belief practices, and identity shifting practices
so that you can do those things. Because we find that without them, it’s
pretty brutal.
Jordan: I cannot urge that more strongly. This is funny. This is like the second time
I’ve talked to you. I don’t really know that much about The Foundation but if
you were to ask me like what would an ideal entrepreneurship program look
like, that’s part of it. A big part.
Dane: What else would be part of it?
Jordan: Let’s see. I probably have a third, a third, and a third. I have a third on self
and really just being able to do techniques and how to do self-awareness and
self-management and to figure out how to tune in to in fact your best
capacities are and the kinds of things that naturally flow your passions and
feed you and make the way you want to go and what really means to be
fulfilled. As oppose to meeting narratives or external obligations and various
kinds of bullshit that really never actually fill the hole.
I think the second would then be relationships and really, really
understanding how to construct and build honest, high integrity, truthful,
generative relationships. And this is obviously universal. It’s your team and
it’s also your customers and your partners, everything else, and how to do
that sort of thing.
And then the third is kind of the place where I had my specialty which is
understanding the kind of the fundamental dynamics of how this process of
creation and disruption works -- systemics. Those will be the three
components that I put in place. By the way, just FYI, put that in place for five
years olds on up. I wouldn’t actually [unclear 01:02:43] that for
entrepreneurs. I think that’s the way we should be doing application in
Dane: Can you say just a little bit on what creation and disruption looks like or what
that process looks like? Because you did that with DivX.
Jordan: Yeah, sure. I mean how much time do you got?
Dane: We’ve got time.
Jordan: The process of creation disruption. So let’s just work on -- let’s see. Start with
Disruption has to do with understanding how systems work. Say, for
example, in DivX the -- [unclear 01:03:15] right now -- the global financial and
monetary system is a system and it works in a certain way. Understanding
how systems work in general. So the financial monetary system actually
works in a way that’s not that dissimilar from the way that it, say, a spider
web works as a net. I’m saying that very abstract on purpose so you’ll get the
sense that lots of systems kind of behave the same way.
And then there’s the details. There’s the fact that the global monetary system
is founded around the US dollar as the common currency and the US dollar
has very specific characteristics, right? That’s the notion of like how a system
And then once you’ve done that, you can get an idea of how systems go
through natural cycles of vitality and fragility. And when they’re in the space
of fragility, how they tend to collapse and that’s disruption, right?
The disruption of the music industry is a very nice clean example. If you sort
of watch how it did what it did, how it became less and less responsive to
what people actually wanted, became more domineering and extractive. It
became controlled by a small number of people making higher leverage
decisions. And then, obviously at that point, it’s very fragile and it has a lot of
people who want to get it out of the way. At which point disruption becomes
possible and then you just got to figure out specific what that disruption is
going to look like.
Oh okay, MP3 comes along, the internet come along. People can now take
music and share it directly without having to go through a record company,
great. Now the record industry is going to be disrupted. That’s the disruption
side of the equation.
Then the creation side of the equation builds on top of that self-awareness
piece. So creation works like this. You ready?
Dane: Mm-hmm.
Jordan: This is intense. Let’s see.
You can see this, right? This physical object?
Dane: Mm-hmm.
Jordan: Very shareable and very concrete. There exist a increasingly subtle layer of
things that I can perceive and that the more subtle they are, the harder it is
for me to share it with you. I could envision something different than this. Of
course by definition, that’s concrete, it’s imaginary, but I could explain it to
I said, “Okay, what we’re going to do is we’re going to make a thing like this
but it’s going to be round instead of rectangular. It’d be like, “Okay, great.”
That’s a small amount of creation. Just imagine the difference and I conveyed
it to you, okay?
Now let’s go back in time and now we’re Steve Jobs. Back in the day when
phones are getting smaller and smaller and smaller, it didn’t have any
smartphone functionality. He, because of his particularities, was able to
sense and imagine something very far for what was shareable and obvious to
everybody else.
So step one of creation is imagination of how we settle things. The more
subtle, the more intense the creation but also more challenging.
Dane: What do you mean highly subtle things?
Jordan: Things that are -- that you can’t even necessarily put into words. Like almost
like at a gut feeling. You just literally just is almost like it’s creating itself
through you more than you creating it.
If you’re imaging it deliberately, you’re really just kind of repeating a story
I’ve already heard. It’s much more in the process of feeling into something
that is not yet there and you’re kind of feeling the shape of it. I can say this is
real because you can have a conversation with somebody else and realize
you’re talking about the same thing yet neither knows exactly what you’re
talking about. That’s a great example. It happens all the time.
So I’ll be talking about something like, “Yeah, it kind of feels like this and it
kind of works like that,” and I can’t really put into name.” Somebody else will
say, “Yeah man, it sounds a lot like what I’ve been working on. I call it this
and that. I give it these weird names,” I’m like, “Are we talking about the
same thing?” We’ll keep collaborating on it until finally we’ll just like, “Yeah.
Holy shit! Yeah, I get this thing.” That’s the kind of level I [unclear 01:07:30].
That’s really subtle.
It doesn’t have to be that subtle, it could be as simple as [unclear 01:07:34]
touch screen as opposed to a button. Remember Blackberry had buttons.
Dane: Mm-hmm.
Jordan: You could say you could look at it and just imagine, “Wow! Wouldn’t it be
neat if instead of having these buttons I could just like touch it? It was
smooth and it was easy.” And then somebody else might say, “Oh, you mean
like …” they have a different background, different expertise and say, “Oh,
you mean like this?” and they kind of describe it to you. You’d be like, “Yeah,
yeah, like that.”
What happens is this imagination phase is the phase of going way, way from
what’s real, further than you could even understand or conceptualize and
think in words, and then pulling it down until you’re able to put it into words
for yourself or maybe visualize it, depending on how you, like, think and
express, and then sharing it with somebody else in a way that they start to
get it.
And then, of course, they’re going to start figuring out how to concretize it in
the way that they understand it. And the more you share it, the more you
concretize it. That’s the [unclear 01:08:22]. And so finally you get to the point
where it’s literally a very concrete object that can just be shown to somebody
and they get [unclear 01:08:29].
You could do it, let’s say, a practice. Let’s say you want to do the practice of
trying to teach a kid how to meditate. Spin it like in five. So I’ve got this thing.
Think about it, meditation is pretty subtle. It’s hard for me to explain to
somebody who’s never done it before exactly what to do. I need some
practices but those practices, if you hold on to them, you’re going to get it
wrong. It’s not the same thing.
I can kind of tell you what I do. Let’s relax, breathe, be aware of the way that
your mind is working. I can kind of do those things. But the words don’t really
help. They kind of bring you into the space until finally, “Ah! Aha!” You got
that subtle thing. You felt that you did it in the way that you do things and
then you’re in the process of kind of flexing that muscle and learning that skill
and building it yourself and then bam! You’ve got it. Not even buying it, you
put it to a place where you can really do it. Then we’re basically doing the
same thing.
So that’s literally the act [unclear 01:09:27]. I described it one way in the
sense of like the concrete object, in another way [unclear 01:09:31]
embodied practice. They’re both the same. You’re out imagining the thing
that is pre-verbal, not words, feeling of all the different modalities you can
feel; literally your emotions and your feelings and your sensibilities and your
intuitions. It may have a taste or a texture but you kind of feel like you’re
circling around it.
And then you get these flashes we can kind of pull pieces together, draw
sketches, draw arrows; get a sense of what it might look like. Start sharing
with other people until they come back at you with a, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. I
know what you’re talking about. Yeah, I get what you’re saying.” And as they
say it back to you, it gives you a better sense of what the hell you’re talking
about. More pictures, more drawings, more angle. Until finally you get to the
point where it’s something that you can actually begin to really put into
concrete processes that we understand.
Sorry, that may be pretty vague but by definition we’re talking about a pretty
vague thing.
Dane: Okay. Does that encapsulate the process of creation for you?
Jordan: Yeah, abstractly.
Dane: Abstractly.
Jordan: The practice of learning how to do that is what you would teach people. That
is what it is.
Dane: Right. What was loud is for me is like a real specific practical example is I have
a notebook here.
Jordan: Okay.
Dane: [unclear 01:10:51] that’s like wouldn’t it be neat that maybe this pen had a
camera on it? And as I wrote, it would capture every word on my
handwritten journal. And then when I get my pen to the computer, it actually
transmits all of my handwritten pages onto the computer automatically.
Jordan: Yeah, great. And so what you do is you think about this notion of like the
feeling of wouldn’t it be neat. That’s the sweet spot right there. The feeling of
wouldn’t it be neat. Whatever that feeling is in you, the sense of like alert
“Oh, pay attention to this.” It’s a sense of like maybe a tickling or a delight. It
feels good. It’s a sense of attention. “Oh, almost like I’m noticing of
something but not a threat notice, more like a fun notice.” And then “Okay,
wow! What the heck was that? That fleeting thing.” And then you’re going to
have like images.
You may have an image of, like, maybe what it looks like to have a camera.
You may have an image of what it feels like to have record it. That’s the real,
subtle thing I’m talking about. The combination of flashes of the images of
what the experience should try and to get to feels like. And then very
[unclear 01:12:02] ideas of what it might actually take to get there. That is
the feeling of that sense of like, wouldn’t that be neatness? That pulls you in.
As you get better and better at feeling that and kind of getting a sense of
being what it is to be what’s attractive? What’s pulling you? What’s
compelling? What is it that’s neat? Why is that novel or fun or intriguing? And
then you get better of kind of like feeling or empathizing with the feeling of
what that neat this is then you can convey that to the people like you did,
Usually like “Wouldn’t it be neat that …” And then you start sort of describing
it to me in a way that I could understand and maybe give me some examples
and stuff like that until I, “Ah, I get it.” And then once I’ve got it, then I’m
going to come to you with whatever way I can contribute my energy to that
project. Maybe I’m just going to buy it. It’s the simplest version of this, right?
Or maybe the engineer who fucking builds it. It depends on what my
relationship is.
But it’s feeling something that is attractive, getting a sense of how it is that
you go about getting better and better at tuning into your particular way of
sensing those kinds of things which is going to be yours. Like it’s going to be
very specific [unclear 01:13:10] of how you do it, what it feels like you need
to do it, and what kinds of experiences you need to put yourself and be open
to it.
You sit at the coffee shop and just going to journal randomly. Do you go for a
walk? Do you have conversations with people? I mean it can be anything.
Getting really good at that practice is the practice of creation.
Dane: What I’m really present to right now, Jordan, is just how alive you are talking
about this and how much light I see in your eyes and how much passion I
imagine you’re having in this moment. Does that land for you?
Jordan: Absolutely. [unclear 01:13:42]. It feels great. I love it. This is one of my
favorite thing.
Interesting enough, right now I’m hoping that somebody else cares. Although
I don’t really know they -- or think they do. That’s interesting. It’s like a deep
thing for me.
Dane: Yeah. Yeah, I relate to that. I imagine you’ll see when this is published.
We’re so overtime but also in such interesting conversation. There are a
number of things that I just noted down that I just want to let you know that I
was curious about and tracking. Maybe we can go through all of them and
see if there’s anything super alive to kind of complete this.
Before I did, if there was interest from our audience in The Foundation to
have you back -- maybe even actually have you put together a program on
one-third to self and your passions instead of the should you should do in life.
One-third of a generative relationships with teams and consumers and onethird
on how to be creative and also disruptive.
If we had enough interest from students, would you -- would you be
interested in coming back and creating in this manner with us, something
along these lines.
Jordan: Absolutely!
Dane: I feel …
Jordan: It’s amazing just to think about it. The notion that other people might be
interested in hearing what I have to say about those sorts of things, fills me
with a great deal of passion and satisfaction.
Dane: I think you may have found a second home.
Jordan: God damn, must be great.
Dane: Yeah. We’ll see. I feel myself tearing up in just a matter of it.
Guys, if you can, just email me at dane@thefoundation.com. Let me know if
that would be something you’d be interested in. We could put together a
possible program. I’m going through these one-thirds as we are.
While we are at The Foundation really passionate about creating software
companies, we’re really just truly passionate about you becoming free and
you becoming empowered and liberated. It’s not about the software, it’s
about your freedom and liberation.
So, that would be cool. We’ll see if people email about that.
So I also have this note down like, well, how did you solve the problem with
compression with DivX? I don’t know if I really want to go there but I was like,
“You know, there’s this problem you have.”
The way that we think about The Foundation, Jordan, is we don’t really
believe in being the expert at solving the problem all the time. We more
believe in being the expert at finding and defining the problem and putting
experts in place which is kind of like the model you follow at DivX. You found
this problem, video sucks, or you can’t download it. This would be awesome.
You brought experts in place to solve it.
Jordan: Yup. Yeah, exactly. I became sort of a good enough pattern matcher to get an
idea of what the expert would look like and a good enough provoker to be
able to figure out what ways to get the experts to want to come and spend
their time on the problem I want to solve. And then a good enough convener
to get the right experts together in a way that they could actually work
together and be effective and that was it.
Dane: Yeah, that’s all you have to do. (Laughs)
Jordan: (Laughs)
Dane: The other thing that you mentioned was, you know, we talked about how
you hired your team and you kind of found them at different parts of the
world. How did you actually find your team?
Jordan: Very brute force. I just went on the internet and started figuring out what the
words that describe the space and then started looking for forums and blogs
and publish papers that people had. And then found individuals and then
started contacting those individuals directly through, like, IRC chat rooms and
email and then asking them for other people. It’s very much a straight brute
force networking approach.
Dane: Would you go on like forums around video compression or read people at
papers written on video compression kind of thing?
Jordan: Yeah, exactly.
Dane: Great.
The next thing you mentioned was how the most important thing you can do
is to empower your team to add value. When you say, “Here’s our
countdown clock,” and that’s just how you kind of realize this. But since this
podcast is more focused on the creation and the starting process and not
necessarily the team, we won’t go into that. However, I just want to make a
mental note that that is like super critical and there are great places to go
learn how to run teams and I imagine, Jordan, would have awesome stuff to
say there.
The other thing that I had written down was 784 kilobits a second and how
that was your north star and how you knew that if you got that number that
you would have a tipping point.
I just wanted to briefly touch base on what I heard was that you did research
on cable modems, DSL, and you found quantified number that could both be
on a mainstream throughput to all these different networks through your
brilliant calculative mind and you came up with that number.
I just wanted people to know how that number came to be. There’s a lot
more about that. Then I just had to [unclear 01:18:30] about asking if you felt
like you’re approving yourself which I mentioned on. We talked about if you
were starting over and then we’re just here at the end here with just onethird
of yourself, one-third of the generative relationships and one-third of
the creative and disruption.
I’m really hoping that we get quite a few emails of people because, Jordan, I
think this is the process for -- Do I still have you?
Jordan: Yeah, you got me.
Dane: Okay. This is the process not just for, like, replacing your income or building a
business, this one-third, one-third process you have is kind of like waking up
your soul, changing the world, and in the process changing yourself.
Jordan: I couldn’t put it better myself.
Dane: Yeah.
So, Jordan, before we end today, I invite you to just take a deep breath with
me (inhale-exhale) and just check in. Is there anything that you would like to
say to leave people with today? And actually, I’ve got something myself
already. Let me go first so you have the last word.
So you’ve seen today, guys. You’ve seen today what Jordan’s done. You’ve
seen that it came from this high objective to decentralize video and make it
accessible and awesome quality for the world. You saw how we made it
tangible by using the specifics of DVD and the kilobits per second. And then
you heard his ‘why’ which is this deep liberation and empowerment. This has
nothing, those three steps have nothing to do with DivX and everything to do
with how you can be a disruptive leader and make a dent in the world.
And it’s just so great that we just so happen to have some of the most
remarkable entrepreneurs listening to our podcast and that they’re more
interested in pursuing work that brings them alive than being happy all the
They’re more interested in pursuing high impact work than necessarily a
paycheck. Not that they don’t want to have things, not that they don’t want
paycheck but their priorities are in their heart and that’s why I love this
You got to see Jordan’s heart today. You got to see how he disrupts the
world. You got to spend time with one of the greatest thinkers I’ve ever got
to speak with. And so Jordan, what would you like to leave our audience with
Jordan: Well, what I feel is a message that you’re surrounded with a lot of voices and
you’re surrounded with a lot of sensibilities that try to pull you in different
directions. If you happen to have found yourself listening to this particular
message today, I would suggest that whatever happened to get you here is a
good ally. Those are good voices, those are good feelings, and that you might
want to focus on getting better at listening to those. If you do, I’ll probably
run into you somewhere. We’ve got a lot of work to do.
Dane: Jordan, what’s a great place that people can find you online?
Jordan: The place where I’m spending all of my time right now is writing stuff on my
Medium page. Just go to Jordan Greenhall Medium, you’ll find me. There’s
three publications, one’s called Emergent Culture which is more mainstream,
one’s called Deep Code for the real hardcore, and one’s called Practical
Imagination which might be a particular interest to this group. Sort of very
high concept entrepreneurial notions; very disruptive, very big imagination. I
think it’d be a lot of fun.
Of course, if you want to talk to me directly, you can hit me on Facebook or
LinkedIn. I’m pretty promiscuous.
Dane: So, if you guys do have interest in learning from Jordan in a teaching fashion,
I encourage you to reach out to me at dane@thefoundation.com.
In terms of thanking Jordan, please do go find him and thank him but he is
busy and so if we do end up putting together a program, [unclear 01:22:54]
be structured and provide it so we can do it to one too many in a really good
Jordan: [unclear 01:23:00].
Dane: Yeah. You’d be surprised how many times people can just email you
questions. Before you know it, you’re a slave. You can become a slave doing
Jordan: Yeah.
Dane: With that being said, guys, I’m so grateful for you listening to this. If you have
any interest in creating this life of freedom where you can create companies
from scratch in this grounded, empowered place, from this emotionally
centered place. From this place where you’re a creator in unlimited
possibilities as oppose to victim of the world standards where you can kind of
create and set your own rules, we’d love to have you. You can apply for one
of our next programs, thefoundation.com/apply.
Jordan, thank you for being here today.
Jordan: Beautiful. Thank you, too.
Closing: Thank you for joining us. We’ve taken this interview and created a custom
action guide so you know exactly what action steps to take to grow your
business. Just head over to thefoundationpodcast.com to download it for
free. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next week.